Presidents And The Cars They Drove — Part I

By Greg Treadway / Posted on January 16, 2017

William Howard Taft (1909-1913) • Baker Electric
Taft’s presidential administration was the first to switch to cars from the old horse and buggy. It was also the first to supply vehicles for official presidential use. Ahead of his time, the 27th president included in his fleet an environmentally friendly Baker Electric, the actual car shown here which is housed in the Petersen Automotive Museum in California. Using a $12,000 appropriation, the first White House chauffeur was given the job of identifying the most appropriate vehicles. Seeking the “best deals”, he purchased a White Steamer, two Pierce-Arrows, and this Baker Electric.

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.

Franklin D. Roosevelt 1933-1945 • Packard Twelve
Coming from a some what affluent background, FDR was no stranger to riding in style. The finest of luxury car of his era was a Packard Twelve, which was both graceful and powerful and packed a large, strong V12 engine. This very stylish, and huge car, was fitted with bulletproof glass making it the first presidential armored car.

Harry S. Truman 1945-1953 • 1946 Ford Super DeLuxe Tudor Sedan
Truman was a product of the middle-class Midwest, and his taste in cars reflected this. Truman was presented with the first Ford to roll off the assembly line after production resumed following World War II (automakers suspended car building to support the war effort). It was a moonbeam gray 1946 Ford Super DeLuxe Tudor Sedan, which was the automaker’s most popular model that year.

Dwight D. Eisenhower 1953-1961 • 1956 Chrysler Imperial
Dwight enjoyed the 1956 Chrysler Imperial luxury sedan that featured the manufacturer’s “forward look” styling, which featured aircraft-inspired tailfins at the rear. Both an Eisenhower and car enthusiast’s favorite, it packed the new HEMI V8 engine and came to be known as “the Detroit car.”

John F. Kennedy 1961-1963 • 1961 Ford Thunderbird
JFK obviously knew a classic when he saw one in the stylings of the 1961 Ford Thunderbird convertible. That was the first year for the T-Bird’s heavily styled “Bullet Bird.” It was featured prominently in Kennedy’s inaugural parade. Some say this choice was encouraged by then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who was a former Ford executive.