US Presidential Cars : Now And Then

US Presidential Cars-Now And Then

It's been well-documented that Democratic candidate for president Barack Obama drives a Ford Escape Hybrid while his opponent, Republican nominee John McCain cruises in a Cadillac CTS sedan. Joe Biden's been seen in a 1967 Corvette when he's not on the Amtrak and Sarah Palin trudges through the Alaskan winters in a Chevrolet Suburban. But what about their predecessors? With the help of Hagerty Insurance, an insurance agency specializing in collector vehicles, we took a look at some other noteworthy Commander in Chief vehicles -- as well as the "first cars" of the two presidential candidates.

William Howard Taft (1909-1913): Baker Electric

Taft's administration was the first to switch to cars from the horse and buggy. It was also the first to supply vehicles for official presidential use (All prior presidents since Washington used their own carriages.) Ahead of his time, the 27th president included in his fleet an environmentally friendly Baker Electric, like the one shown here. Hagerty says that this electric vehicle was especially popular with women in the era, as it did not require any cranking and was virtually maintenance-free.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921): Pierce-Arrow Limousine

Like Taft, Wilson was a fan of this luxury car. The one shown here, which now resides at the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum in Virginia, was waiting for him when he returned home after negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, and his friends made sure it stayed with him -- they bought it for him after he left office.

According to the Petersen Automotive Museum, Wilson ordered that all the White House vehicles be available to him within three minutes around the clock

Warren G. Harding (1921-1923): Packard Twin Six

Warren Harding was the first president who knew how to drive a car before entering office, according to the Petersen Automotive Museum. He was also the first president to ride to his inauguration via car -- specifically, a Packard Twin Six like the one shown here -- which was supplied by the Republican National Committee

Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929): 1923 Lincoln town car

The aluminum-bodied sedan was bought for then-Vice President Coolidge in May 1923. Although he became president the August following Warren Harding's death, it's unclear whether the car made it to the presidential garage.

The car, which was shown at the Vermont History Expo in 2007, is also not the most eco-friendly in this presidential motorcade -- it gets about eight miles to the gallon.

Herbert Hoover (1929-1933): 1932 Cadillac 452-B V-16 Imperial Limousine

The 31st president bought this Imperial Limousine shortly before losing his reelection fight in 1932. A Fleetwood-bodied car of Style 5175, the car (shown here) left the White House with Hoover and was sold for $87,750 in 2007 by Bonhams & Butterfields at its annual Quail Lodge sale in Carmel.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): 1939 Packard 12

In the 1920s and 30s, Packard produced some of the most beautiful and innovative cars of the era, reports Hagerty Insurance, adding that Packard's V-12 engine was especially smooth and provided exceptional performance in its time.

Roosevelt's Packard, now on display at the Toyota Automobile Museum in Japan, was retrofitted with armor and bullet-proof glass after it was built to make it the first armored car used by a U.S. president.

The first armored car built for a U.S. president is a 1942 Lincoln ordered by FDR after the Pearl Harbor attack. "After Roosevelt died, President Truman continued to use the vehicle and it was updated with 1946 styling," says Chris Brown, the information and marketing manager for the Petersen Museum, which houses the Lincoln.

Harry S Truman (1945-1953): 1945 Ford Super DeLuxe Tudor Sedan

The government halted passenger car production in 1942 so that assembly lines could focus on the war effort. The first civilian vehicle produced after the cessation rolled off the lines on July 3, 1945. It was a moonbeam-gray Super DeLuxe Tudor Sedan, and it was presented to President Harry Truman on August 29, 1945.

Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): 1952/1956 Chrysler Imperial Parade Phaeton

In 1952, Chrysler built three Parade Phaetons on extended Crown Imperial chassis and shipped them off to New York, Los Angeles and the White House so they could be used to chauffeur dignitaries. The car company took them back in 1955 to update them with the 1956 “Forward Look” styling of the Chrysler Imperial.

Since the federal government had a policy of not taking gifts, this car became known as "The Detroit Car" because of where it was housed when it wasn't in use by President Eisenhower or others on his staff. The striking white convertible is the only one of the trio that is now privately owned.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963): 1961 Ford Thunderbird Convertible

This was the first year of the Thunderbird's much sleeker “Bullet Bird” styling.. It held the dual honors that year -- it was the Indianapolis 500 pace car and 50 of the '61 T-Birds were driven in JFK's inaugural parade

Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Lincoln Continental Convertible -- and a few others

Possibly the car most associated with LBJ, the long, white convertible often carried visitors for a tour of his Stonewall, Texas ranch. The ranch, now part of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, houses the 37th president's blue Amphicar -- one of only 3,878 and the only "civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass produced," reports the National Park Service -- and his Jolly 500 Ghia, a gift from the Fiat Company.

Richard Nixon (1969-1974): 1950 Oldsmobile 98

Then-Sen. Nixon mentioned his four-door sedan, similar to this one, in his “Checkers” speech at the 1952 Republican convention. "I own a 1950 Oldsmobile car," Nixon said in the speech rebuffing attacks that he accepted illegal campaign contributions to help secure his nomination as Eisenhower's running mate. "We have our furniture. We have no stocks and bonds of any type. We have no interest of any kind, direct or indirect, in any business."

Let's also not forget the Edsel convertible Nixon rode in on a trip to Peru when he was Vice President. That car's impact wasn't as positive -- he was pelted with eggs and tomatoes from demonstrators. "They were throwing eggs at the car, not me," Nixon said of the short-lived Ford Motor Co. nameplate.

Gerald Ford (1974-1977): Lincoln Continentals

"President Ford briefly used the 1961 Lincoln Continental in which JFK was shot" (pictured), Nancy Mirshah, an archive specialist at Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library and Museum, said in an email. "It was also used by LBJ and Richard Nixon. But the bulk of Ford's presidential travel was in a 1968-1969 Lincoln Continental."

Ford bought his first car in 1930 while he was in high school. Fittingly, it was a Ford: a 1924 coupe with a rumble seat

Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): 1952 Army Jeep, Model M-38A

Jo Snyder of the Worldwide Auctioneers Group, which sold this car last spring, explains that the M38 A1 was an evolution of the Korean War's M38 military jeep and the "first manifestation of the round-fender jeep that would ultimately become available to consumers as the CJ-5." This one was used on Reagan's California ranch and still had a title reading “Reagan Protective Division. US Secret Service" when it sold for $33,000

George H.W. Bush (1989-1993): Lincoln Town Car

The first President Bush used a 22-foot modified Lincoln Town Car. The limousine, now housed at the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Texas, has a D-pillar roof with a "President Edition" ornament.

Bill Clinton (1993-2001): 1967 Ford Mustang Convertible

Clinton's Mustang was actually ice-blue with a white interior, reports The New York Times, and was originally a gift intended for his younger brother, Roger. His convertible stayed in Arkansas when Clinton headed to the White House, but the 42nd president has been quoted as saying that this car was one of the hardest thing for him to leave behind.

George W. Bush (2001 --): 2006 Cadillac DTS limousine

President Bush got to his second swearing-in via this sleek black ride, which resembled the 2006 Cadillac DTS production model. Fitted out with the latest in armor and security, it isn't a surprise that the Secret Service reportedly nicknames this car "the beast." Before this, Bush had a 2001 Cadillac DeVille limousine.

Barack Obama's first car: Ford Granada

The Illinois Senator and Democratic candidate learned to drive in his grandfather's Ford Granada, which would have looked like this one. It may not have been his ideal learning tool. He told an Indianapolis radio station that "it may be the worst car that Detroit ever built … This thing was a tin can. "

John McCain's first car: 1958 Corvette

The Republican candidate's first ride -- similar to the one shown here -- is now a highly coveted collector car, reports Hagerty Insurance. This was the first year for the dual front headlights. Some may say this gave the car a much more aggressive look, but Harlan Charles, Chevrolet Corvette Marketing Manager, thinks the 1958 was a more upscale chrome laden luxury take on the Corvette than the 1957.


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