The only thing better than a historic car is an historic jeep—especially if that jeep is Ronald Reagan’s Willys CJ-6.
As part of the second “Cars at the Capital” collection, Ronald Reagan’s iconic jeep is on display at the National Mall in Washington, DC. The Willys, which was given to Reagan by his wife, Nancy, for Christmas in 1963, is an icon from Reagan’s life and was frequently pictured whenever President Reagan returned to Rancho del Cielo, his ranch near Santa Barbara. In fact, pictures of Reagan clearing brush with the Willys and driving the jeep accompanied by his dogs are some of the most iconic images from his presidency.
“He loved driving it,” said retired Secret Service agent John R. Barletta. “He did a lot with this jeep. I never remember it breaking down.”
Originally, this iconic jeep was a utility green color, but the California National Guard painted it red with white pinstripes as a going-away present before the end of Reagan’s two-term-long run as the state’s governor.
It’s well known that the Willys brand kick-started many American’s love for rough and tumble trucks, eventually morphing in the Jeep brand as we know it today.
Joining Ronald Reagan’s jeep in the “Cars at the Capital” display is William Howard Taft’s White Steam Car, one of our four cars that the president used to transition the White House into the automotive era. While there were cars before Taft became president, it was he who officially converted the White House stables into a garage, filling it with four cars.
The White Steam Car is an open-topped Model M that could hit 60 miles per hour. Taft, a massive supporter of the automotive industry, used to encourage his driver to hit 60 miles per hour to get away from the public and the Secret Service, or to intimidate/impress members of Congress.