Friday, December 16, 2011

The JFK ambulance is back. How many of these are there anyway?

Barrett-Jackson to Auction Off JFK's Cadillac Hearse

At last year’s Scottsdale auction, Barrett-Jackson offered a 1963 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance that the seller claimed had transported the president’s remains from Andrews Air Force base to Bethesda Naval Medical Center for autopsy. Except it may not have.

Per Naval records, the actual 1963 Pontiac Bonneville ambulance used to transport Kennedy’s body was donated to the Kennedy presidential library and crushed sometime after 1980. The car offered for sale by Barrett-Jackson was revealed to likely be a fake, although Barrett-Jackson continues to refer to these claims as “unproven.”

Nonetheless, the 1963 Pontiac ambulance sold for $120,000, which is a fraction of the price it would have hammered at had it been verified authentic.  When we received word that the auction house would sell another JFK hearse at this year’s Scottsdale auction, we’ll admit that our first reaction was, “not again.”

As it turns out, this one is the real deal (as far as we can tell, anyway). The car in question is a Miller-Meteor Cadillac hearse, purchased by the O’Neal Funeral Home in Dallas, Texas, at the conclusion of the National Funeral Home Directors Association in October, 1963.

On November 22, 1963, the O’Neal Funeral Home was called to transport Kennedy’s body from Parkland Memorial Hospital to a waiting Air Force One at Dallas’ Love Field. The car used is the very same Miller-Meteor Cadillac being offered by Barrett-Jackson at the company’s 2012 Scottsdale auction.

While anything of this value can be faked, the car seems to have a short and traceable history. It was used by the O’Neal Funeral Home until the late 1960s, at which time it was sold to Arrdeen Vaughan.

Vaughan, himself a collector and hearse distributor, owned the car for more than 40 years before selling it to its current owner, who is now offering it up for sale.

It’s not the first time the car has been offered, as it was seen on eBay last January with a “Buy It Now” price of $1.5 million. Unless controversy suddenly descends on this JFK hearse as well, expect the bidding to approach stratospheric levels.

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