JFK assassination memorabilia goes up for bids

By Lisa Charnoff, Greenwich Times - 11/14/2003
WESTPORT -- John Reznikoff was only 3 years old when President Kennedy was fatally shot while riding in a motorcade in Dallas -- too young to remember today where he was when he heard the news, but old enough to sense the sadness that marked the event.

"I remember my family being upset," said Reznikoff, a Westport antique and autograph dealer.

Forty years later, Reznikoff has come to see Nov. 22, 1963, as a turning point in American history, and an end of innocence for the country in many ways.

So in 1998, when Reznikoff stumbled upon an auction of the 1963 Lincoln Continental that took Kennedy from a Fort Worth hotel to a flight bound for Dallas on the day of the shooting, he knew it was worth more than the $17,500 price tag suggested. Reznikoff is now selling the car on eBay for a firm $1 million, after spending "in the six figures" to restore it.

"I look at it as the car that represented the end of Camelot," Reznikoff said, "because it's the last car he got out of alive."

The Lincoln is not to be confused with the blue limousine Kennedy was riding in when he was shot, which is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich.

Reznikoff purchased the car at a liquidation auction when the Tragedy in U.S. History Museum closed in St. Augustine, Fla. He heard about the auction while visiting his mother there and hired a private investigator to track down the paperwork to make sure the car was authentic.

Reznikoff said the owner had no idea what the car was worth.

"It basically sold for . . . what an ordinary 1963 Lincoln convertible would sell for if it wasn't a famous car," he said.

Whoever buys the vehicle will also receive a signed letter from Fort Worth car dealer Bill Golightly, stating the convertible was borrowed for a presidential motorcade through the Texas city on the morning of Kennedy's assassination.

In the letter, Golightly wrote that he sold the car in 1964 to David Pelham of Dallas. Later, Pelham reportedly traded it to the museum for $5,000 and a 1964 Cadillac.

After buying the car, Reznikoff shipped it to Baker's Automotive Restorations in Putnam, which specializes in Lincoln Continentals. It took about three years to restore, Reznikoff said. The engine was replaced and some paint and body work was also done, but most of the interior, including the red leather upholstery, was left alone to preserve the historical value.

"Everyone likes to say that I'm sitting in the seat that JFK and Jackie were in the picture," said Steven Ouellette, owner of Baker's, referring to a photo of the Fort Worth motorcade showing Jackie in her hallmark pink pillbox hat.

Since eBay listed the sale, which ends today, the page has received more than 21,000 hits. But Reznikoff said he doesn't expect to sell the car online, and mainly placed it on the auction site to generate excitement.

"You don't really expect a million-dollar item to sell on eBay," Reznikoff said. "What we're doing is just letting it (be) known that we have the car. . . . It reaches the largest audience and the timing, with the 40-year anniversary, it's appropriate." 

Copyright © 2003, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc. (Kerry Sherck/Staff photo)