The Kennedys Miniseries - The Epic 8-Part Movie Event - Starring Greg Kinnear, Katie Holmes, Barry Pepper and Tom Wilkinson - Official Homepage

The Picture Cars

To set the tone for a period piece like The Kennedys, which spans decades, producers relied on the expertise of Picture Car Coordinator Brian Harney. Prepping for seven weeks, Harney hand-picked every automobile used in the series and spent many hours researching to make sure every car and truck matched its time period. “These days, with the internet, you can go back in time to watch video and view pictures,” explains Harney. “The Kennedy family was the most watched family in history. So the pressure was on to make everything fit perfectly.”

In addition to making sure the cars were in excellent condition, Harney’s biggest challenge was to convince the owners of these specialized vehicles to part with their prized possessions. “Car collectors are the type of people who only take these cars out on a Sunday and then they tuck them away polished and don’t let them out. So to get them on set is like pulling teeth. Once on set, the owners drive their car to every location that we are shooting.”

Cars Used For The Kennedys

Harney carefully selected the cars to reflect not only the time period but the personalities and preferences of the Kennedy family. A 1957 Cadillac limousine was used in the film to transport Jack Kennedy to and from Hyannis Port – the exact same car Joe Sr. purchased for Jack in 1957 which he used up until his assassination. Joe Sr.’s actual 1937 tailor-made Cadillac series 90, which makes an appearance in the establishing shot of the US London ambassador scene, contains all of its original interior and gives insight into Joe Sr.’s luxurious taste. “The car is unique,” says Harney. “In 1937 it was a luxury to have a radio in your home. On a street where there were 500 houses, you’d be lucky to have three people that had radios. Joe Sr.’s Cadillac had two radios and an intercom system that allowed him to communicate from the back seat to the chauffeur/driver.”

Though the Kennedy family owned several different vehicles, Joe Sr. had a soft spot for the high-end Rolls Royce. Harney used three different Rolls’ to showcase the evolution of Joe Sr.’s career over the years. “In the 1930’s, Joe Sr. had a silver Rolls with blue fenders, a very expensive car,” explains Harney. “Back then that car was valued at 1550$ which could have bought three houses. As the movie progresses, and as Joe Kennedy’s wealth increases, we move him into the grey Rolls. Then, in the 1960’s, when he is at the height of his fame and wealth, we show him in a beautiful gold Rolls, clearly at the top of his game.”

For the Kennedy sons, Harney looked for more family-friendly cars that would accommodate Jack and Bobby’s lifestyles. In addition to the family 1959 four door Lincoln Continental (their version of the mini-van), Bobby was outfitted with a two door, 1958 Chevy Impala convertible. “We decided to use the 1958 Chevy because at that time, Bobby had a lot of kids,” says Harney. “He was not going to be in a two door sports Jag, he would be in an American classic with all of his kids.”

One of the most recognized and now famous Kennedy vehicles is the 1961 four- door, black Lincoln Convertible stretch that Jack and Jackie rode in on the day of Jack’s assassination. In order to customize the automobile, Harney had to rely on visual effects to be able to match the original. “The original assassination vehicle was taken to a customized shop in California. So, for this film, we used a four door Lincoln Continental, but we used the technology of a green screen to work around that and duplicate the original vehicle.”

Another pivotal scene for Harney was the “Ole Miss” race riots in Episode 5 in which cars are destroyed by the mob. Harney used photos from the period to match the scene accordingly. “We rented trucks and cars made in 1960 that were already burned. Then we smashed them a little more for the cameras.”

Car Owners

The stories behind these vintage automobiles are just as impressive as the cars themselves. Jack Kennedy’s 1957 Cadillac has a history all its own explains Harney. “A remarkable story about the ‘57 Caddy is it belonged to Elvis Presley. It was one of the 40 cars he collected in the 1950’s in Memphis. The gentleman who purchased the car at the Presley estate bought it in 1977 and has owned it ever since. He paid just under $7000, four times the amount that Elvis Presley paid when it was new. It is now valued at $ 90,000 to $100,000.”

The 1937 Cadillac, series 90, seen in the US London ambassador scene, was previously owned by Joseph Kennedy Sr. himself and the gold Rolls Royce that appears in the film from 1955 to 1963 is currently owned by a retired personal pilot of Bobby Kennedy.