Oppie’s wheels: Manhattan-era limo restored

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By Roger Snodgrass

The 1941 stretch limousine that carried Robert Oppenheimer to the Trinity Test site during the era of the Manhattan Project will be one of the feature attractions at the new National Museum of Nuclear Science and History when it opens in Albuquerque in April.


Jim Walther, museum director, said this week the museum has tracked the vehicle back far enough to be satisfied it is authentic.


“We have photos of the car at Trinity and a first person recollection of the car in Los Alamos,” he said. The museum staff knows when it was sold as part of a government surplus sale in the 1950s to a family with a junkyard in Gallup and the car was seen by witnesses there.


The Packard Company was founded in 1899, according to an Atomic Heritage Foundation article on the car, and 16,600 of the 1941 Packard Clippers were produced. About 100 of them were lengthened and customized into limousines by the Fitzjohn Coach Company of Chicago. The Los Alamos Packard is one of only three such vehicles known to exist.


During a commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the first atomic explosion in 1975, the museum invited antique car collectors to display automobiles from the period.


That was when the museum staff heard about the limo that probably carried Los Alamos scientists from the train station in Lamy up to the Hill and around the area.


“It was donated by a  prominent military vehicle collector,” said Werther. “It was free.”


It took a while to get it off the lot and it has taken awhile longer to put back in shape.


An article by Iris Aboytes in the Sandia Lab News on Jan. 30, related the story of the restoration.


“Once the car was acquired, the job of restoration began. Special Effects Restoration of Albuquerque has been restoring