Presidential Rides: Automotive Favorites of Your Commander-in-Chiefs
Happy President's Day, Carponent's Style! While most modern presidents these days never get behind the wheel they still do travel in style. Barack Obama’s custom-built Cadillac Limo (known as the Beast) has doors that are said to be eight inches thick and the weight of a cabin door on a Boeing 757 jetliner, and bulletproof glass that measures a full five inches thick, the presidential limousine is able to withstand substantial armament.
Franklin D. Roosevelt: Packard Twelve
Coming from an affluent background, Franklin D. Roosevelt knew the virtues of riding in style. The de rigueur luxury car of his era was a Packard Twelve, which was both graceful and powerful and packed a V12 engine. Coincidentally, this particular model debuted in 1932 at the Hotel Roosevelt in New York City. FDR’s was fitted with bulletproof glass, making it the first presidential armored car.
Harry S. Truman: Ford Super Deluxe
Harry S. Truman was a product of the middle-class Midwest, and his taste in cars reflected this. HST was presented with the first Ford to roll off the assembly line after production resumed following World War II (during which automakers suspended car building to support the war effort). It was a moonbeam gray 1946 Ford Super Deluxe Tudor Sedan, which was the automaker’s most popular model that year.
Lyndon B. Johnson: Amphicar
LBJ wins the coolest presidential car competition, hands down. He was a true car guy, with dozens of cars to his name, but none with more panache than his Amphicar. He loved to drive it around with unsuspecting friends and pretend the brakes were shot and would drive it straight into a lake. Johnson… what a joker.
John F. Kennedy: Ford Thunderbird
John F. Kennedy’s first ride of choice was a 1961 Ford Thunderbird convertible. That was the first year for the T-Bird’s renowned “Bullet Bird” styling that sported a dramatic spear-like silhouette and packed a choice of V8 engines. It was featured prominently in Kennedy’s inaugural parade. Kennedy had requested 12 of them.
Richard Nixon: Oldsmobile 98
Along with his wife’s “respectable Republican cloth coat,” Richard M. Nixon (1969-1974) referred to his trusty 1950 Oldsmobile 98 in the infamous “Checkers” speech, which was made to refute his acceptance of illegal campaign contributions to help obtain the nomination for vice-president in 1952.
Ronald Reagan: U.S. Army Jeep
Ronald Reagan's most prized personal car was said to be a 1952 U.S. Army Jeep. It was given to him as a gift to Reagan by his wife Nancy in the late 1970’s for use at his California ranch.
Bill Clinton: Ford Mustang
Always a cool character, Bill Clinton owned a 1967 Mustang Convertible – ice blue with a white interior – as a collector’s car when he was Governor of Arkansas. It was said to have been the hardest thing to leave behind when Clinton moved into the White House.
William Taft: Baker Electric
Taft was the first president with a car, and not coincidentally, the one who ordered the White House stables replaced by a garage. Granted, at over 340 pounds, he was really just doing the horses a favor but he had quite a few vehicles in his time, most notably a Baker Electric Runabout. So, yeah, he’s also the first president to drive an all-electric vehicle.
Woodrow Wilson: Pierce-Arrow
Woodrow owned a couple of high dollar rides in his post-presidential years, most notably a Rolls-Royce and a Pierce-Arrow, which in its day held a prestige as mighty as Rolls.
Herbert Hoover: Cadillac V-16 Fleetwood
The Cadillac V-16 is one of the coolest cars in American history, let alone in the annals of presidential rides. A) It was a V-16, and B) it was designed by the legendary Harley Earl.
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Chrysler Imperial
Ike had a few cars, but it was the Imperial he favored. It was kinda high-tech when he owned it—the ‘56 Imperial had the first all-transistor radio.