GRAND JUNCTION, CO – Tammy Allen has been making waves as a female in the male dominated world of car collecting over the past few years. Now, she is stirring things up again by adding a highly controversial John F. Kennedy artifact to her eclectic vehicle collection.
The 1963 Pontiac Bonneville Navy Ambulance bearing the Navy registration number 94-49196 was purchased in January by Ms. Allen, and will be unveiled to the public at a special event April 15th at 7:00 pm at Allen Unique Autos located at 2285 River Road in Grand Junction. Doors open for the event at 5:00 pm.
There are as many dramatic theories surrounding the ambulance’s history as there are around the assassination of President Kennedy itself. The ambulance is reported to have transported Jackie Kennedy and the body of John F. Kennedy from Air Force One to Bethesda Naval Hospital for the official autopsy. Jacqueline Kennedy requested that a Navy ambulance be used for this transfer, in honor of her husband’s service in the Navy. The request was initially denied, as it was against regulations to use an ambulance as a hearse. The rule was pushed aside by higher officers in light of the circumstances, and a United States Navy 1963 Pontiac Bonneville Superior ambulance was dispatched to meet the plane. Original video of the transfer can be viewed here: (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ULZnq7eAKqY&feature=related). The ambulance then transported JFK’s body to Bethesda for autopsy and embalming, then on to the Capitol building where it lay in state for three days leading up to the funeral. The car was used by the Navy for several more years before it was retired from service, but what happened to it after that has been a point of contention.
In January 2011, the Barrett-Jackson collector car auction listed the ambulance for sale in their Scottsdale, Arizona line up. Before the auction, Barrett-Jackson presented documentation including VIN numbers that they said proved that the ambulance was authentic. Just before the auction occurred, members of the Professional Car Society pointed out a number of features that lead them to believe that the vehicle is a replica built by a former member, and that the car was used in two films: R.F.K. and The Women of Camelot. They contend that the original ambulance was crushed at the request of the Kennedy family in the 1980s.
Barrett-Jackson and the owner of the Ambulance during the auction released the following statement “There is documentation—available for you to review here today—that directly ties the Naval Registration number of the vehicle used to transport President Kennedy’s remains to the physical identification numbers that are stamped in multiple places on the vehicle consigned to our auction.” They continued “What we can tell you today is that Barrett-Jackson’s team has physically examined this particular vehicle in great detail. We have confirmed that the historical documentation provided by the consignor matches the results of our physical inspection. For example, we were able to locate and confirm that the engine block does have an engine serial number matching the VIN. We have examined each location of tags and stampings on the vehicle and have compared our findings to the consignor’s documentation. We even located the “hidden VIN” on the vehicle chassis, and confirmed it matched the documentation as well.”
Until verifiable documentation can be found that links the Pontiac serial number to the Navy registration number, it is impossible to tell whether this is the ambulance that transported the body of President Kennedy, or a carefully crafted re-creation.
The controversy and theories surrounding the events of 1963 will continue for years to come, however folks are welcome to see the vehicle and hear about its history at the official unveiling event Friday, April 15th at Allen Unique Autos. The ambulance will be joining over 80 spectacular vehicles Ms. Allen has carefully selected over the years.
The unveiling is part of Allen unique Autos’ Grand Opening celebration scheduled for April 15th and 16th. Another vehicle to be unveiled that evening is the stunning 1950 Custom Mercury named the Wasabi, which Ms. Allen purchased at Barrett-Jackson for over $300,000. World famous car designer and star of the Speed Channel’s Car Warriors, George Barris, will be on hand during the unveiling and will be giving talks on Saturday. Ms. Allen is also sponsoring a car show on Saturday, April 16th featuring the Grand Valley’s Hottest Cars where local car enthusiasts will be invited to show off their treasures. Saturday’s events will also showcase paint demonstrations and talks by legendary auto body expert Gene Winfield and special guest Johnny Vegas.