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Memorable events through the 20th century involved cars. What happened to President Kennedy’s limo, Archduke Ferdinand’s Graf & Stift or Menzie’s Bentley?
President Kennedy was in his official Lincoln Continental convertible, which the Secret Service leased from the Ford Motor Company, when he was assassinated in November 1963. The car was repaired, further modified and returned to service, continuing to be used intermittently by Presidents Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter before being retired in 1977. It is now on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.
Archduke’s Graf & Stift
It was another assassination involving a motorcade that triggered the Great War. On 28 June 1914, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie were fatally wounded while being driven through the streets of Sarajevo in an open Graf & Stift double phaeton.
Shortly after the events in Sarajevo (now part of Bosnia), the car was shipped back to Vienna. Emperor Franz Josef had it placed in the Museum of Military History where it has remained ever since, notwithstanding a legal dispute about its ownership.
Calwell’s official car
In Mosman, Sydney in 1966, federal opposition leader Arthur Calwell was sitting in his Commonwealth car when a would-be assassin approached. Calwell began to wind down the window to welcome the person he thought was a well-wisher, who instead fired a gun. The bullet was deflected by the window and Calwell received only minor scratches.
The fate of the car that saved his life is unknown.
Sir Robert Menzies used a 1963 Bentley as his last prime ministerial car and took it with him into retirement. After he suffered a stroke, a platform was built at Princes Park in Melbourne to enable the avid Carlton fan to watch the footy from the car. The Bentley S3 has since been restored and is kept at the National Museum of Australia.
The first Holden
Among the most enduring symbols of Australian industrial development are photographs of Prime Minister Ben Chifley launching the Holden at Fishermans Bend, Melbourne, on 29 November 1948.
Ten “pilot” cars had been completed the previous month. The car in most of the photographs is purportedly one of them. It is now owned by Holden and forms part of its prized vehicle collection.
Some time before Chifley’s launch event, the first pilot car had been backed onto the assembly line and ceremonially driven off by Holden MD Harold Bettle. Later it was extensively damaged, and whether it was repaired, rebodied or scrapped is a mystery.
Written by Tony Lupton, Photos: Getty Images, NewsPix; Henry Ford Museum; National Museum of Australia; Museum of Military History, Vienna. March 02, 2016