1970s Lincolns (!?!) featured in Kim Jong Il's funeral

Gregg D. Merksamer

PCS Life Member / PCS Publicity Chairman / PCS Ele
Insomnia, for once, was a useful thing to have at 1 am this morning, since CNN was breaking some truly-surreal Korean Central TV footage (supplied by Reuters) of Kim Jong Il's funeral procession through the snow-swept streets of Pyongyang. While CNN's talking heads focused on the loudly wailing - almost certainly stage-managed - crowds and the North Korean TV narrator's similarly emotional voiceover, the thing that inevitably caught my attention was the high-profile use of 1970s vintage Lincoln Continental stretch limousines as the hearse and two of the primary lead cars. How they ended up serving with a government that the U.S. is still technically at war with is anyone's guess - perhaps they came in by way of their number one trading partner China? - so I'll limit my analysis to those technical details I could actually glean from the TV.

The three Lincoln limos with the biggest role in the cortege were 1975 or 1976models, as established by the full rear fender skirts and the five heavy vertical bars separating the grille into six sections (1977-79 Continentals used a narrower, Mark V-style radiator, while open rear wheels distinguished 1978-up models). As it had no casket compartment, the limo used as the "Dear Leader's" hearse carried his sarcophagus on its roof, where it rested on a two-foot thick bed of white flowers that reminded me of an unswept snow pile thanks to the fuzzy TV footage and blizzard-like conditions. I would estimate this car had a wheelbase stretch of 36 inches or thereabouts, as did the limousine that carried a tremendous portrait of Kim Jong-Il on its roof. The "portrait" limo also sported oval, Mark IV-style opera windows, while a somewhat-shorter 1975-6 Lincoln mini-stretch (perhaps a 12-inch extension) followed behind with a similarly-outsized wreath on its roof.

One of the real kickers was my realization that the Dear Leader's "hearse limo" was definitely armored, as confirmed from the secondary chrome frame surrounding the slightly-open right front window (which fitted to keep the alternating layers of glass and bullet-resistant polycarbonate from delaminating), which was often in plain view at that early point in the proceedings when the "Great Successor" Kim Jong Un was walking beside the right front wheel. Some of the close-ups available at this juncture even show a rectangular coachbuilder's tag right behind him on the passenger side front fender. Though it's only an educated hunch, I would swear this tag had the same proportions as the ones used by Earle Moloney's Illinois-based limousine and armoring concern in the time period when this car was built.

As for other cars of interest in the Pyongyang procession, I also couldn't help but be intrigued a mid-1990s Lincoln Town Car that had been converted into a camera platform, while even the most-casual CNN viewers are certain to be appalled by the sight of several dozen gleaming black, brand-new or nearly-new S-Class and E-Class Mercedes sedans. Only the even-larger contingent of white VW Passat sedans (late-1990s style and possibly Chinese built) that followed the Benzes seemed sincerely proletarian. At least they ALL matched, unlike many U.S. funeral corteges! :drama:
 
Looks like the same Lincoln used for his fathers funeral (Kim Il-Sung) in 1994.

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John Royark JR

PCS Member
At the exact moment I started reading this post, they showed the makeshift hearse on Good Morning America. Very cool. I hope better shots of the coach/limo surface soon. They also mentioned about the people wailing. I thought it was staged too, I heard somewhere some contry actually hires people to do this. Our society is just taught to not display thid kind of grief that when other contries do it it seems over dramatic.
 
70,s Lincoln

Strapped his crusty ol'butt to the top of an old lincoln.......no respect 'the Lincoln deserves much better....
 
I've also been looking for some good images to post of these Lincolns. Looks like 3 were used, the first with Kim Jong Il's large photo on the roof, the second with some sort of ornate decoration, and the third with his casket on the roof...

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Surprising close-up image of the Lincoln with Casket atop...

2011-12-28T142931Z_74322972_GM1E7CS1QCK01_RTRMADP_3_KOREA-NORTH.JPG
 
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Gregg D. Merksamer

PCS Life Member / PCS Publicity Chairman / PCS Ele
Regarding David Smith's assertion that the stretch Lincoln topped with the funeral bier was the same car used for Kim Il Sung in 1994, the finned-style wheel covers and oval opera windows in the D-pillars actually correlate to the sister car that carried Kim Jong Il's oversize portrait in yesterday's procession. The footage he's posted has usually confirmed that car is armored as well, since it has window frames within the window frames.
 
Regarding David Smith's assertion that the stretch Lincoln topped with the funeral bier was the same car used for Kim Il Sung in 1994, the finned-style wheel covers and oval opera windows in the D-pillars actually correlate to the sister car that carried Kim Jong Il's oversize portrait in yesterday's procession. The footage he's posted has usually confirmed that car is armored as well, since it has window frames within the window frames.

I wouldn't use the word "assertion". I said "looks like". Such as the chromed headlamps covers. The few photos I've seen have all been fairly blurry or poor resolution from video captures.

It does appear that they have a few of these Lincolns. I do agree that they are probably Maloney or maybe even Armbruster Stageway limos.
 

John ED Renstrom

PCS Member - Elected Director 2017-2021
Super Site Supporter
the only good thing I can say is these countries take pride in the quality of the car not how new it is. it is not the exception but the norm to find 40 year old cars looking like new. driving on the streets. our sign of wealth here is to replace old with new. throw away a perfectly good car because it old and we don't want to be perceived as not being able to afford better.

that and what other choice did they, have one of there butt ugly trucks. not a lot of stuff over there big enough to do the job.
 
I wouldn't use the word "assertion". I said "looks like". Such as the chromed headlamps covers. The few photos I've seen have all been fairly blurry or poor resolution from video captures.

It does appear that they have a few of these Lincolns. I do agree that they are probably Maloney or maybe even Armbruster Stageway limos.

David, I also noticed the special chrome headlight visors instead of standard hideaway headlight covers... yet those chrome visors DO retract. Notice in this photo all 4 headlights are completely unobstructed and the visors have retracted:

2011-12-28T120901Z_01_TOK001_RTRIDSP_3_KOREA-NORTH-FUNERAL.jpg


*EDIT* the headlight covers are crested in the center and are chrome, they are closed in this close-up :

2011-12-28T142931Z_74322972_GM1E7CS1QCK01_RTRMADP_3_KOREA-NORTH.JPG
 
I would be scared to death as I was driving that thing that the casket was going to slide off. A imagine whatever was securing it up there was good enough though. Casket also looks to be oversize, owing not so much to the size of the body but for visual effect.
 

Dan Herrick

PCS Life Member - Upstate Chapter President
I would be scared to death as I was driving that thing that the casket was going to slide off. A imagine whatever was securing it up there was good enough though. Casket also looks to be oversize, owing not so much to the size of the body but for visual effect.

I wonder if it is not an oversized casket on top of the car but instead a box that is carrying the casket. Kind of like a turtle top container. It looks to me like it may be that the flowers (or whatever the white stuff is) on top of the car is in part to cover the roof rack that holds the box.
 
Kim Jong Il Lincoln limousines

On watching the funeral on CNN today, I noticed that the Lincoln limousine carrying the coffin (on the roof), had the side mirrors mounted "Japan style" on the front fenders.

Notice that the other cars have their mirrors mounted normally as they would here in the USA. I am however confused as the coffin seems to ride on a car with USA style mirrors, then also on the "Japan" version car. I do not think the CNN car had two sets of mirrors.

Nearly all the Mercedes, Lincoln or other cars have come in to North Korea from China or other countries that North Korea is "friendly with. Due to trade restriction (embargo) they procure cars thru other countries.

The VW's in the procession were most certainly built in China.


In China, it is common to see "Chinese Lincolns" or "Red Flag" cars used as camera cars, etc. The Chinese build a version of the Lincoln Town Car under license from Ford Motor Company. It differs from the USA model in the front end and rear end treatment, and is badged as "Hongi" or "Red Flag". They are used as camera vehicles because of the smooth ride and long wheelbase.

In Korea, as in China, government vehicles are maintained regardless of expense. Supposedly Kim Jong Il, liked his Mercedes 600 limousines so much, that when the originals became tired, he had "copies" of the cars commissioned. They look like Mercedes 600's, but are clever copies using Lexus or Nissan engines and drivetrains.
 

Jonathan Murphy

PCS Member
Am I the only one who finds it ironic that the North Koreans don't miss an opportunity to bash the United States, but when it comes time to bury their "Dear Leader", they perch him atop a Motown Masterpiece and parade him through town?

And another thing - I wonder how fast the driver of the "hearse" would be in the goulag if the made a corner too fast and sent the "Dear Leader" hurtling through space like Clark Griswald did grandma? :pat:
 

Jeremy D. Ledford

PCS Volunteer Chapter President
I sure would have not have wanted to be one of the people driving those limos in procession with "all that over my head"! Bet they have fun importing parts for repairs in for those beast too!
 
There was also a photo of the Lincoln on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Amazing that these communist anti-capitalists want an American car for their leader.
 

Wayne Krakowski

PCS Member
for a country that detests the USA they sure do not mind their beloved leader riding on the roof of a classic car,and boo to CNN for calling it a hearse,staged show like you have never seen.They have millions starving and they think we buy their lies, God bless us one and all...
 

Gregg D. Merksamer

PCS Life Member / PCS Publicity Chairman / PCS Ele
The first person to phone me the morning after Kim Jong-il's funeral footage started airing on CNN and elsewhere was James Cobb, THE NEW YORK TIMES Automotive Editor who hired me to write the paper's 2008 stories on the new White House Cadillac. His colleagues on the international desk were eager for what intel I could offer on the North Korean Lincolns, and quotes from a subsequent e-mail I sent Cobb on this topic - as well as a mention of this discussion on the Professional Car Society's website - figured prominently in several paragraphs of a J. David Goodman-authored story that was published on page A-5 of the December 29th (Thursday) issue; the online version of this article, viewed at http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/20...im-jong-il-u-s-made-limos-stand-out/?ref=asia, actually contains a link to this very thread.

As THE TIMES is seen by ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE, this coverage has to be worth a hundred mentions of the PCS in funeral trade or EMS publications! It even earned me a congratulatory phone call from my elementary school music teacher, who owned a lovely white Lincoln Mark III at the time he was teaching me the French Horn but has moved on to Corvettes in his retirement.

Now that we've started to see proper photos of the funeral procession as opposed to fuzzier images shot off the TV footage, I too noticed that the limo used as Kim Jong-il's hearse - but not the "portrait limo" (whose D-pillar opera windows and finned wheel covers confirm it was used as Kim il-Sung's hearse in 1994) or the short-stretch "wreath car" - has an extra set of rear view mirrors topping the middle of each front fender, which were regulatory necessities in Japan when these Continentals were new and would have added to at least some of the cars "passing through." To me, this is the best lead we have of the Lincolns' most-likely export trajectory from the U.S. to North Korea, though an expert on mid-1970s Japanese-North Korean trade restrictions might still need to weigh in on this theory.

Though the deal would likely not have been in place early enough to contruct the 1970s Continentals seen in the Kim il-Sung and Kim Jong-il funerals, one of the earlier posters to this thread brought up that the Hong-Qi (Red Flag) works in China has been building Lincoln Town Cars under license since the 1990s. After the 1998 PCS International concluded in Burr Ridge, Illinois, I snared myself an invitation to tour the Elgin, Illinois factory of a Moloney Armoring spin-off called International Armor & Limousine. One of the vehicles they had in progress on the day my wife Lisa and I visited was an armored 1998 Lincoln Town Car limousine with a two-foot center stretch and an opening sunroof for parades, which we were told was being constructed for the Chinese government. I will happily post images of this vehicle if the webmaster or someone else can instruct me how to do so.
 

Neal Parish

PCS Life Member
Gregg -- It was great to see your name, and the name of the PCS, featured prominently in the NY Times article. Excellent PR!

-- Neal
 
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