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Friday Feature: Franklin Roosevelt Not Riding a Tiger

Franklin Roosevelt is seen riding in a convertible on two occasions: once in the open air, once surrounded by bulletproof glass.

Photo courtesy The Forgotten History Blog

After the Pearl Harbor attacks of December 7, 1941, the Secret Service set about with special urgency to provide President Franklin Roosevelt with a bulletproof vehicle that would keep the President safe. But there was a problem: Roosevelt needed to make a public address the very next day to respond to the attacks.

(Listen to the speech, "Address to Congress Requesting a Declaration of War," from the Miller Center's speech archive.)

How did they solve the problem? President Roosevelt reportedly borrowed a heavily armored Cadillac formerly owned by notorious ganger Al Capone. The car had been sitting in a Treasury Department parking lot since it was seized years earlier, and it was heavily armored and had specially installed siren and flashing lights hidden behind the grill (a style still seen today on the Presidential motorcade).

President Roosevelt only used Capone's Cadillac for a short time—the Secret Service worked with Ford Motors to armor a 1939 Lincoln V12 (the "Sunshine Special," picture here) shortly thereafter.

Roosevelt is seen here riding in the Lincoln convertible before (top) and after (bottom) its armor was installed.

Stay tuned! Every Friday we'll highlight a whimsical item from presidential history.

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