What you drive supposedly says a lot about your values, personality and priorities. From Lyndon B. Johnson to “Average” Joe Biden, we take a look at personal vehicles owned by some of America’s most influential and headline-grabbing politicians over the last 50 years.
So much for the old automotive stereotype that says Democrats prefer cars that are small and utilitarian while Republicans lean toward large and luxurious. During the peak of the 1979 oil crisis, former Texas Congressman (then a Republican) and ex-presidential candidate Ron Paul famously chauffeured himself around town in a green 1979 Chevrolet Chevette—including a trip to the Capitol, packed with six people to go watch the inauguration of Ronald Reagan. With only 69,000 miles on the odometer, the “green pea” was auctioned in 2013 for a $15,000 donation to the Ron Paul Institute For Peace And Prosperity.
Ronald Reagan kept a garage full of utilitarian vehicles on his 688-acre Santa Barbra ranch back in the ‘80s, including a red 1962 Willys Jeep CJ6 and the 1981 blue Jeep Scrambler CJ-8 given to him as birthday present in 1983. Certainly the most uncharacteristic car in the lot, however, has to be the 1978 Subaru BRAT given to him by Fuji Heavy Industries at a time when it was very un-American to be seen driving a Japanese car. The vehicle was reportedly registered under an employee’s name and kept tucked away from the probing eyes of the press pool. But Reagan reportedly loved the car and drove it often on his presidential respites back home. The vehicle can still be seen today at Reagan’s presidential ranch and museum.
April Fools! Joe Bidden has always had a reputation for being a fun loving, working-class politician prone to fits of “gaffe-tastic” behavior when the cameras are rolling. Maybe that’s why so many failed to question the authenticity of this photo published by the satirical online newspaper, The Onion in 2009. In response, “Average Joe” told Car and Driver that—while he very much loved the Trans Am and had in the past been known to sun his guns in a bathing suit while washing his favorite car—the photo was a fake. It’s well documented that that the VP actually owns a “un-Democrat-like,” 327ci, 350hp Goodwin green, ’67 Sting Ray that the Secret Service won’t let him drive.
Mitt Romney was recently in the news again for deciding to not go forward on a third presidential bid in 2016. Back in 2008, during his first run for the Oval Office, Romney revealed his car-guy roots by more than occasionally mentioning his first car—a 1963 Rambler Classic, one of the vehicles his father helped develop as CEO for American Motors Corporation. Romney was such a fan that his son presented him with a convertible 1962 Rambler American on his 60th birthday.
One of the most eccentric and controversial presidents in American history, Lyndon Johnson also had eclectic tastes when it came to cars. At his Stonewall, Texas, ranch where he often went to unwind, Johnson kept a number of collectibles and novelty cars, including a Jolly 500 Ghia and a 1934 Ford Phaeton. But the oddest car in the bunch had to be the Amphicar, which he supposedly used more than once to punk political pals and visiting dignitaries. After inviting guests on a leisurely joyride to see the ranch, Johnson would speed down a hill overlooking a lake and suddenly exclaim the brakes had gone out. Presidential yuks and hilarity would ensue as panicked guests, unaware that the car floated, prepared to abandon ship. The Amphicar along with Johnson’s other unique classics can still be seen today at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.