There are three types of people who stand up in the middle of a moving limousine with the wind buffing their faces: drunk hooligans, Preston Waters from “Blank Check,” and the Pope. Out of those three, the Pope is the only one whose body doesn’t have to poke out of the sunroof. Instead, he’s grandly displayed in a custom open-top ride built exactly for this purpose. In 1965, Pope Paul VI used a stretched 1964 Lincoln Continental to wave to a packed crowd in New York City.
- Car: 1964 Lincoln Continental Stretch Limousine
- Photographer: Unknown
- Source: From the Collections of The Henry Ford (2016.49.1/THF172236)
Whereas my own personal project car, the 1970 Opel GT, is years in the making and still without a functioning engine, this custom project was completed in only two weeks. As told in The Henry Ford archives and in the video below, the Vatican knocked on Ford’s door and asked the company to build a car fit for the Pope’s upcoming visit to America on October 4, 1965. To complete the task, Ford turned to George Lehmann and Bob Peterson of Chicago-based Lehmann-Peterson, a shop that had become known for creating top-tier stretched Continentals.
The Continental grew three feet in length, from 18 to 21, and L-P added a removable roof panel. The interior seat orientation was also customized for face-to-face chats, and the roof had an extra windscreen to protect the Pope. The steps on the side of the car were for security personnel as they guarded the vehicle.
This wasn’t a one-time-use vehicle either. Not only was it used to parade around Astronauts from Apollo 8, 11, 13, and 15 in Chicago, it was first used again by the Pope during a visit to Bogota, Colombia, in 1968. To prep the car for Colombia’s high altitude, the 430-cubic-inch V8 was modified to handle the different type of air.
The car was retired after its service as a Chicago parade car and now belongs to The Henry Ford, though it’s not on display to the public. See more images here.
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