Did you know there’s a White House Garage? Since there’s no reality show starring some tattooed guy who wrenches with his crotchety dad as they recount their wacky experiences with bulletproof limos, chances are you may not. But if reality TV existed in the early 1900s, trust us, you’d have set your DVR for a show like that, if DVRs existed in the early 1900s. The White House Garage was birthed by Congress during the William Howard Taft years. You could say Taft was First Gearhead: In 1909, he had a garage added to the White House in a section of the quartermaster stables, making him kind of a ballsy, pro-auto president for taking the leap from four-leg horsepower to four-wheel horsepower.
Eventually, the White House Garage became a military unit, and in 1963 was renamed U.S. Army Transportation Agency, before going by its current name, the White House Transportation Agency. No matter which side you’re on during this presidential season, it’s hard to deny that many of the presidents have personally owned or had access to some fairly cool cars. The bummer is that once the president is in office, getting to drive is but a fond memory, as Secret Service takes the helm.
Here’s a look at a few noteworthy presidential rides.
Bill Clinton’s ’67 Mustang: This was his personal car before becoming president, and he remains the only president ever to be allowed to drive his car in a public setting: 250 yards down the pit lane at Charlotte Motor Speedway during the Mustang’s 30th anniversary. His Mustang had the 200ci inline-six, three-speed auto, and Color Code W Clearwater Aqua paint (which we mention because its actual color has apparently been a source of controversy).
Herbert Hoover’s Panhard: Hoover bought the ’02 French Panhard for a 1903 trip to Australia to do desert mining work. In his memoirs, he noted it “often caught a disease called ‘sand-in-the-carburetor.’”
Gerald Ford’s Ford: He bought his first car in 1930 (his high school years) and, appropriately, it was a Ford–a ’24 coupe. Later, he had a late-’60s or early-’70s Chrysler New Yorker as well as two ’68 Mustangs that his sons drove.
Lyndon Johnson’s Amphicar: The ’62 car-boat was made in Germany and was light-blue with white-leather upholstery. LBJ also had a ’10 Model T that Henry Ford gave him in 1969.
Woodrow Wilson’s Pierce-Arrow: The first ride Wilson took in the ’19 Pierce-Arrow limo was when he came back from France, where he was knee-deep in the Treaty of Versailles after World War I. He adored the vehicle so much that his pals bought it for him when he got out of office.
Harry Truman’s Dodges: There were many Dodges owned by Truman, including ’17 and ’19 Model 30s, a ’38 four-door sedan, a ’53 Coronet, ’55 and ’57 Royal Lancers, a ’58 Coronet, and a ’60 Polara. Curiously, his White House fleet was Dodge-free.
Ronald Reagan’s Jeep: This ’81 Scrambler was part of the group of service vehicles Ron and Nancy had at their ranch, Rancho del Cielo. They also had a Jeep CJ-6 that seemed to be the true workhorse of the two. The CJ-8 was said to be a gift from Nancy, and it featured a 4.2L six-cylinder and four-speed manual trans.
Dwight Eisenhower’s Pullman Roadster: This was his first car, which he bought used around 1916 or 1917 (most likely a ’12 model); his wife Mamie’s father-in-law lent a hand with the purchase. When the Eisenhowers went to Panama in 1922, they took along a Model T. Interestingly, Mamie was quite the Chrysler fan, but Dwight preferred his Lincolns, especially the ’50 Cosmopolitan “bubbletop” convertible.
John F. Kennedy’s Lincoln Continental: November 22, 1963–that was the date a certain X-100 Lincoln Continental became the most famous limo in the world. The ’61 model was taken into evidence after Kennedy’s assassination, but shockingly remained in service–albeit with some overhauling–until 1977. Other presidents used it in that time, including Nixon and Carter.
William Howard Taft’s Steamer: A tip of the hat has to be given to the earliest official White House car: a white, 40hp, ’09 Model M White Steamer that seated seven. Taft’s fleet also included two ’08 Pierce-Arrow Vandelettes and an ’08 Baker electric. Bonus: two motorcycles for Secret Service.
More Presidential Car Stuff
When requesting an Executive Fleet car in the old days, the code was “with carpet” because that was about the only feature of luxo vehicles at the time. It didn’t take long before the president’s car was officially called “Carpet Vehicle” and those behind the wheel “Carpet Drivers.” Even now, the White House Transportation Agency is referred to as simply CARPET.
Major/Captain Archibald Willingham Butt is said to be the guy who made the first White House car happen. How that story ends: Major Butt was on the Titanic.
Lyndon Johnson got a Jeep in the mid-’70s from Air Force surplus, which his military personnel drove on his ranch. Later, as it could not be verified that LBJ had used it, it was again disposed of as surplus.
When Hoover was pres, civilians did the driving during the week, while military personnel in the War Department Motor Pool handled the weekends. Eisenhower’s admin dumped the idea of civilians behind the wheel, although it retained three civilian car washers.
The post Hail to the Chief… Or Maybe Just His Cars – Cars of the US Presidents appeared first on Hot Rod Network.