Throughout the saga of the 1963 Pontiac ambulance that purportedly carried the body of President John F. Kennedy, the Barrett-Jackson auction house touted a metal plate attached to its dash as possible proof of authenticity. Trouble is, it's fake, too.
The brass plate labeled "Navy Department" screwed into the dash of the ambulance — and later flashed at the auction by Barrett-Jackson executives — is stamped with the vehicle's serial number, the Navy ID number of "49-94196" and the correct manufacturer information of Superior Coach Corp. in Kosciusko, Miss., the company that assembled the ambulance bodies in 1963.
In the run-up to the auction last week, Barrett-Jackson had the plate examined by an outside expert. "Our inspection clearly shows that the plate is what is appears to be," Steve Davis, Barrett-Jackson president, told Jalopnik. "There's no evidence of tampering or restamping."
The plate, along with two letters Barrett-Jackson relied on that purport to be Navy documents but were signed by an admiral who was retired and no longer in the service when mailed, formed the backbone of Barrett-Jackson's refusal to pull the vehicle from its auction, as it has done with other collectible cars whose provenance came into question.
Yet the brass plate has been under scrutiny by the members of the Professional Car Society, the service vehicle buffs who first pulled together the proof that the JFK ambulance deserved no such title. They noted it was screwed in, meaning it could be easily removed or easy to fabricate. But without a plate from a similar vehicle, it was impossible to tell whether the Navy might have made such a tag; and the actual JFK ambulance crushed in a Boston junkyard in 1986 appeared to have no tag at all.
Today, PCS member Steve Lichtman found photos of tags from two other 1963 Pontiac ambulances used by the Navy. There were only a handful — perhaps just 14 — such vehicles built. What do their tags look like?
They don't resemble the Barrett-Jackson ambulance at all. Instead of brass, the tags appear to be aluminum or steel. Instead of "Navy Department," the tags feature Superior's name and address. And the tags carry far less information than what the Barrett-Jackson ambulance held.
The tag in the Barrett-Jackson ambulance does bear a striking resemblance to this blank, which can be bought on eBay and is advertised as a reproduction Navy vehicle tag.
Sometimes there's room for doubt, and as the sale of the ambulance for $120,000 showed last week, some people will always want to believe that a relic of American history survived attempts to destroy it. No one can foreclose the possibility that for some reason in a production run of less than 20 vehicles, Superior used more than one kind of ID plate with completely different layouts. But the story of the real JFK ambulance ended in 1986. The story of the fake one should end right about here. (H/T to Matt!) [Professional Car Society]