Presidential Rides

While the job of “most powerful man in the world” certainly has its perks, driving isn’t one of them. Former President Bill Clinton once said it was one of the things he missed most after taking office. Love him or hate him, Clinton had pretty good taste when it came to classic cars. Check out his favorite along with this shortlist of other famous “personal” presidential cars.

Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921)

The William Taft administration was the first to switch from horse and buggy to automobile. But it was Taft’s successor, Woodrow Wilson, who was the first American president to actually have a great car of his own. Following his return from France after negotiating the Treaty of Versailles in 1919, a new Pierce-Arrow Series 51 limousine awaited Wilson at the dock in New York to take him back to Washington. According to The Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library & Museum, Wilson favored this government-owned automobile so much that when he left office his friends purchased it for him. In addition to the classic presidential seal, the vehicle also sported the AAA symbol on the front valence after Wilson became the first president to join the association in 1917.

Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945)

Despite contracting polio in his youth, FDR was a president who loved to drive. The 32nd president of the United States had a reputation for ditching the Secret Service and driving fast on the country roads surrounding the “Little White House” in Warm Springs, Georgia. The car he liked most was an open-top Plymouth PA Phaeton outfitted with special hand controls for the brake, accelerator and clutch.

Harry S. Truman (1945-1953)

President Truman owned a string of automobiles during the course of his life. His first was a 1911 Stafford. His last, a 1972 Chrysler Newport, was bought just six months before he died. Truman’s most famous car was not the Chrysler New Yorker he bought in 1953, but maybe it should have been. Five months after leaving the White House and without any security in tow, he and his wife, Bess, took the vehicle on a 2,500 mile cross-country trip. After trading the car for a newer model in 1955, the car was believed lost until 2011 when author Matthew Algeo discovered the vehicle in a Kansas barn.

John F. Kennedy (1961-1963)

In 1961, President Kennedy was so smitten by the “Bullet Bird” styling of the new, third-generation Thunderbird that he bought a convertible version of his own. Kennedy’s personal T-Bird was one of 50 in the procession that accompanied the new president to the White House after his inauguration. The “Kennedy Thunderbird” sported a soft top and featured power steering, power brakes, power windows, power locks, and even a swing-away steering wheel that made it easier to get in and out of the car.

Richard M. Nixon 1969-1974

In 1952, after being accused of improprieties relating to a fund established by his backers to reimburse him for his political expenses, Nixon made a half-hour televised plea to help save his candidacy for the vice-presidency. During the course of making a case for his honesty in the now notorious “Checkers” speech, then-Senator Nixon detailed his family’s assets, in which he included a 1950 Oldsmobile 98.

Bill Clinton (1993-2001)

While he was governor of Arkansas, Bill Clinton registered his ice-blue 1967 Mustang convertible as a collector car. He held onto the car throughout his two terms even though the Secret Service only allowed him to drive it once, for 250 yards, at a 1994 Mustang 30th Anniversary celebration at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The Mustang is now on display at The Museum of Automobiles in Morrilton, Arkansas.