A vehicle that is part of John F. Kennedy’s presidential history joins auto artifacts of Frank Sinatra and John Lennon. This past Saturday, Colorado real-estate developer Stephen Tebo purchased a tragic part of presidential history for $160,000-the 1964 Cadillac Hearse that transported the assassinated President Kennedy from Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas to Air Force One in Love Field. The hearse, auctioned by Barrett-Jackson in Scottsdale, Arizona, was originally owned by funeral home director Vernon O’Neal, who supplied the hearse when the president was fatally shot in Dallas on Friday, November 22, 1963. (Read: “From Camelot to the auction block: President John F. Kennedy’s hearse for sale.”)
Car experts are as certain of the provenance of this hearse as they doubted the authenticity of the Kennedy ambulance Barrett-Jackson sold last year. Interestingly, only $30,000 separates fact from fiction, with $132,000 buying the 1963 Pontiac ambulance that was claimed to have carried President Kennedy from Andrews Air Force Base to Bethesda Naval Hospital. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum produced a 1986 photo of the real ambulance in a junkyard crusher.
Tebo says he bought this hearse because of its historical significance and that he plans to open a car museum in the Boulder area in about 10 years. The hearse will be stored in Colorado with about 400 of Tebo’s other cars, including another infamously-associated vehicle, a 1965 Rolls Royce owned by John Lennon that Yoko Ono sold after her husband’s 1980 murder. JFK’s hearse will also reside with a Jeep connected to one of the president’s acquaintances—a 1944 model that Frank Sinatra drove around his Las Vegas ranch is also in Tebo’s collection. If politics make strange bedfellows, so do collectors. A taxicab from the comedy sitcom “Seinfeld” is also counted among the collection.
The hearse wasn’t the only purchase that Tebo made in Scottsdale this Saturday. He also successfully bid on a 1929 Ford Model A Snow Bird and “a few other cars,” although he wouldn’t say how many.
The John F. Kennedy Library and Museum did not bid on the hearse. A spokesperson from the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation said the Library, as a federal institution and part of the National Archives, does not purchase historical documents, photographs, or artifacts. All of the Library's collections are donated materials.
To view this part of JFK history, plan a trip to Boulder, Colorado, around 2022.