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Popes, royalty and presidents, and the dignified one-off limousines that transported them, are the subject of the special Heads of State class at the 24th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance in Florida.
Among them is the elaborate one-of-a-kind 1941 Cadillac created by General Motors’ styling chief Harley Earl for Edward VIII, who abdicated the throne of England to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson. The car is nicknamed The Duchess in her honor.
Another majestic pre-war limo is the 1938 Cadillac V16 town car commissioned to the Vatican Motor Pool, a Bill Mitchell-designed gargantuan with a Papal throne installed in the back and used as a parade car by Pope Pius XII. The car is part of Nicola Bulgari’s extensive collection of American classics.
Pope John Paul II also had a Cadillac designed especially for him, a 1998 De Ville parade car, which will be at the concours.
Packard provided many VIP transports between the world wars; Franklin Roosevelt rode in a 1932 Packard to the first of his four inaugurations. The Packard Museum in Dayton, Ohio, is sending a 1934 Packard 1104 Touring with a history of use by admirals and generals. It was the VIP limo for Admirals Halsey and Nimitz, and was a favorite of General Dwight Eisenhower, who used it for formal appearances even after WWII ended.
But at the end of his first term as president, Eisenhower switched to a 1956 Cadillac Series 75 that was specially built for presidential duty. That long limo convertible was subsequently used by Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.
An unusual 1960 Cadillac Series 75 was presented to Marshall Tito, the “president for life” of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, by the U.S. State Department for his efforts as a foe of murderous Soviet tyrant Josef Stalin. The Cadillac convertible limousine with custom coachwork by GM’s Fleetwood is equipped with a 345-horsepower V8 with automatic transmission, power windows and center divider, a refrigerator and an electric shaver, all part of what was called the “Tito Décor Group.”
“The Amelia’s Heads of State class is an eclectic group all built for an exotic demographic,” concours founder and chairman Bill Warner said in a news release. “Two ‘Pope-mobiles,’ Cadillac’s no-limits, over-the-top one-off custom for a self-defrocked king, Ike’s 1956 parade Caddy and a four-wheel bribe for a rebellious communist dictator who, like the tyrant he defied, had a strong taste for big, powerful American cars.
“The Heads of State class is at the other end of the celebrity spectrum from this year’s ‘Cars of the Rock Stars’ class.”
The Amelia Island Concours takes place March 10 on the fairways of The Golf Club at the Ritz-Carlton Resort in Florida.
For more information, visit the concours website.