SEA 25th Annual Convention

October 13th, 1956

SEA 25th Annual Convention

~ Banquet – October 13, 1956 – Masonic Building – Reno, Nevada

Menu entitled “Outline Specifications”, cobalt blue ink on silver colored card stock.  John Webster Brown / Swede Mathison

2013.03.20 – 22:02.

1956 Presidential limousine

October 1st, 1956

1956 Presidential limousine

~ The Queen Mary (II) was a 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 convertible.

The custom regarding presidential limousines is that the cost of the car is borne by the automobile manufacturer and then the car is rented to the White House for $500 per year.  Evidence suggests that this protocol applied to the United States Secret Service (USSS) regarding limousines that were obtained primarily for the fulfillment of the task of protecting the President pursuant to the Presidential Protective Division (U.S. Code 82-79).

Two identical presidential Cadillac limousines were built by GM using the 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 convertible which were then modified and customized for GM and at GM’s expense by Hess and Eisenhardt of Cincinnati (Rossmoyne), Ohio.  The chassis numbers for these vehicles is unknown.

Each of the 1956 Cadillac presidential parade cars were 21 feet long and weighed 7,000 pounds.  They had a Series 56-86 commercial chassis characterized by a 158 inch wheelbase and a 365 cubic inch, 305 horsepower V-8 engine.  The cars reportedly could reach speeds of up to 115 miles an hour.

These presidential convertibles were equipped with a large externally mounted siren, side running boards, oscillating grill mounted red lights, a built-in gun rack, pistol holders and “run flat” tires as well as special communications equipment.

October 1, 1956

Apparently through the traditional $500 per year rent process the General Motors Corporation (GMC) provided two Cadillac limousine convertibles to the White House on or about October 1, 1956, during the Eisenhower presidency.  These two presidential limousines were primarily for use in the protection of the President of the United States, President Dwight David Eisenhower, where increased protective ground motor transportation was expedient or necessary.

Shown here is a reproduction of the October 1, 1956 District of Columbia automobile title form showing that the owner of the 1956 Cadillac 8600 model car is the General Motor Corporation.

GM had built two Cadillac presidential limousines in 1938 for use by President Franklin Roosevelt.  Although these two cars were different from one another, they were similar enough to need separate designations, hence one was dubbed the “Queen Mary” and the other the “Queen Elizabeth” after two of the largest ships of the day – “boats” that were large, conspicuous, difficult to turn around and that carried a lot of passengers.

In 1956 the two new identical Cadillacs were referred to as “Queen Mary II” and “Queen Elizabeth II” to further the tradition.  The “Queen Mary II” was the Secret Service vehicle 679-X that was the “presidential follow-up car” in the Kennedy motorcade that went through Dallas on November 22, 1963.  The “Queen Mary II” (679-X) was also the presidential limousine that was used in the Warren Commission reenactment of the Kennedy Assassination.

October 17, 1957

On October 17, 1957 Queen Elizabeth (II) (the “real person” Queen Elizabeth II) arrived in Washington D.C. and rode in a presidential motorcade parade up Pennsylvania Avenue on her way to the White House.  In the following two photographs of the 1957 Queen Elizabeth Washington Parade the two 1956 Cadillac limousine convertibles can easily be seen.  This is the first time that the “Queen Elizabeth II” (the car) and Queen Elizabeth II (the person) ever came together.  The Queen Elizabeth II (the ship) had not yet been built.

In the picture above you can see the two 1956 Cadillac limousine convertibles with four secret service men riding on the sideboards as they follow President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth in the 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan bubble top open air Presidential limousine (See photograph below).  The distinctive tower of the Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C. can be clearly seen (through the arch) in the background.

Even the most determined conspiracy theorist could never have imagined a picture such as this.  A temporary arch in the shape of a pyramid was built over Pennsylvania Avenue to “Welcome Queen Elizabeth II”.  The Apex of the pyramid nicely frames the capitol, as this photograph clearly shows.  It is assumed that the banner was to bring attention to “the person” and not the capitol or “the car” (the 1956 Cadillac) seen directly below (the sign).   In 1957 the press moved ahead of (and with) the President in open trucks, in 1963 (in Dallas) the press followed in cars and buses.

November 22, 1963

Six years later we see the leading edge of the 1956 Cadillac limousine “Queen Mary” following a newer Presidential Lincoln limousine in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.  This time it is a Lincoln Continental bubble top, with the back “bubble” removed.  The press (and all their cameras) are moving in cars and buses considerably behind.

Note the very conspicuous bus in this picture, allowed to park in the parade route for both Kennedy’s (and the public) to clearly see, “Welcome to Big ‘D’ (meaning Dallas)” the sign says, “National Headquarters – Dr. Pepper Company”.  Within 30 minutes of the time this picture was taken a Dr. Pepper bottle will be “found” on the Sixth Floor of the Texas School Book Depository building within a few feet of from where President Kennedy was said to be shot.  I hope someone got the intended message.

In a photograph taken about two minutes later the 1956 Cadillac limousine Secret Service car 679-X “Queen Mary” is photographed in this frame at the stroke of 12:30, just moments before the sound of the first shot (or “back fire“) in the Kennedy assassination.  The red arrow points to the head of Secret Service agent Hickey who is riding on the rear support platform on the left side of the Secret Service car.  He and two other agents (on the car) clearly find something interesting near the dark doorway to the Texas School Book Depository located right behind the tree clearly pictured.

May 24, 1964

On May 24, 1964 the Warren Commission used the car 679-X “Queen Mary II” to “reenact” the November 22, 1963 assassination of President Kennedy at Dealy Plaza in Dallas, Texas.  Why they used a 1956 Cadillac when they might have used a 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible like JFK was really riding in is anyone’s guess.  Maybe they could have used the 1964 Lincoln Continental convertible that Lyndon Baines Johnson was riding in, the year would be wrong, but a Lincoln would have been closer to the mark, or the idea, or something.

The idea of the reenactment was not to recreate anything, it was to attempt to prove that the LHO lone gunman theory could have happened.   For film footage of this event that makes the Zapruder film look good see here.  But our 1956 “star car” is still the center of attraction.

Don’t you just love “living” color?   Here is our old friend the “Queen Mary” or really the Queen Mary II all dressed up in her 9P 406 plates, meaning license plates that is.  Someone should use the plate number to find a registration, maybe even a chassis number and a bill of sale or a certificate of ownership, SOMETHING.

While on the topic of color; do you remember back when Hollywood was “colorizing” all those old black and white pictures and film because they “looked better”, “more life-like”, not just “art” – that sort of thing.  Just wondering “why” haven’t these good people gone back and colorized all the JFK assassination photographs and film so that we could get a really good idea of what color shirt people were really wearing.  Oh yeah, I forgot, science just isn’t there yet.

September 24, 1964

On September 24, 1964 the report by the Warren Commission was released (Warren Commission Report).  In their haste to get the report published and released before the 1964 elections a few mistakes were made.  Things as basic as the model year of a car (an important car) were misreported.  The 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 Presidential limousine was reported as being, “a 1955 Cadillac eight-passenger convertible”.  There were only five passengers on board that day in Dallas, two Presidential aides and three Secret Service agents, one of which (George Hickey) had obviously left his seat by the time he got toHouston and Elm Street.

Warren Commission Report – Page 45 – paragraph 4:
Presidential follow-up car.–This vehicle, a 1955 Cadillac eight-passenger convertible especially outfitted for the Secret Service, followed closely behind the President’s automobile. 

Not to worry, the Warren Commission didn’t even bother to point out that the (LBJ) Vice President’s Lincoln Continental convertible was a brand new 1964 model car, three years newer than the car in which the President of the United States was riding in.   (See: same page as above, last paragraph.)

Modern Times

As you can guess, time passes and old cars can be restored even when old nations can’t be.  Below you see the 1956 Cadillac Fleetwood 75 (modified) by adding a modified siren / red light combination unit that never appeared in any of the pictures shown previously.  Maybe this is the “1955” car that the Warren Commission was referring to, if only in their dreams.


These pictures seem to be taken at the “Auto Collections” at the Imperial Palace casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.   A current visit to their website indicates that they no longer have this car in their collection.  Cars in this collection seem to be available for purchase, making the Imperial Palace location more of a used car showroom than an automobile museum of the kind that Bill Harrah used to have in the 1960’s in Reno, Nevada.

The question is, “where is the Queen Mary II now?”  And while we are at it, “where is the “sister ship”, the Queen Elizabeth II?”  Like facts in the Kennedy Assassination, things keep moving around.

October 17, 1957

As promised above, a photograph of the 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan bubble top Presidential Limousine:

This photograph was taken as President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth (II) were leaving Andrews Air Force Base for Washington.  The airplane in the background is the Columbine II, the Presidential plane, a Lockheed Aircraft Constellation.  It had recently arrived (at the time of this picture) from Williamsburg, Virginia where the Queen had come in to from Canada to observe the 350th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown (in 1607).

The Rockefeller project of Williamsburg and Jamestown was obviously more important than the capital of Washington D.C. and the United States President.  The Brits had burned the capital and the White House in 1812 and weren’t sure that the city had really recovered.  Nevertheless, bye gones were left to be bye gones and unlike with Kennedy in Dallas all really did seem forgiven.

Like all good Fords this 1950 Presidential Lincoln Cosmolitan ends up in the Henry Ford Museum, “heaven” for all cars that “serve” and don’t just “wait”.  If you’re not born a Ford, there may not be a Ford Museum in your future which I guess is why the U.S. taxpayers had to bail GM out – no sense of history so everything was lost (or at least perhaps should have been).

Authors note:
I lived in Washington D.C. in 1957 and saw the Queen Elizabeth parade mentioned herein, and saw the cars named after the ships.  I have stayed several times aboard the HMS Queen Mary (after it became a Hotel) in California.  I believe that one of the two 1956 Cadillacs discussed was on board the C-130 transport that accompanied Eisenhower (MATS Airforce 1) when he visited Afghanistan in January of 1959.  My father flew in this plane when it left Kabul.  I visited Dallas several times in the 1980’s.  I was in Jamestown in 1957 and have stayed in Williamsburg.  I worked for Bill Harrah, prepared food for use on his planes, and knew people that worked in his auto collection, the finest automobile collection in the world at the time (except for that perhaps of Henry Ford).

The opinions expressed are mine, but the world and the famous people in it are looking a bit different now and I do wonder if I might have been happier just staying in Carson City and raising chickens.

Original post:  2012.03.10 – 02:13.

This revision:  2012.03.11 – 01:35.