The Coolest Cars That Presidents Loved To Drive

American presidential limousines are somewhat legendary, at least the latest models. They are also some of the most instantly recognizable cars in the world. Much has been written about the current presidential ride, known as The Beast, as well as its predecessors. Once presidents are inaugurated, they no longer drive and Secret Service protection extended once they leave office continues to keep them out of the driver's seat. But this does not mean all presidents have an aversion to driving. 

The presidents' lives before being elected are diverse, with previous careers of our leaders including Army general, peanut farmer, actor, and of course, various elected offices. From a few years into the twentieth century, all the presidents owned personal cars before entering office, and the cars are just as diverse as the leaders themselves. There is no single thread that could be passed through these autos, except that they were all American-built save for one on a California ranch. Many of them owned luxury vehicles and some owned sports cars. Several presidents drove rather mundane cars, such as Nixon, who proudly proclaimed he drove an Oldsmobile in an attempt to connect with the regular guy. Since delivering details about boring Oldsmobiles would not make for an interesting read, here are the coolest cars that presidents drove in ascending order of cool.

Dwight David Eisenhower - Cadillac Series 75 Limousine

Before being elected president, Dwight D. Eisenhower is known for driving a Willys Jeep, as he was one of the generals responsible for overseeing victory over the Nazis and ensuring Fascism and tyranny would not reign over Europe. His leadership was responsible for the success of Operation Torch, the allied invasion of North Africa, and he later led Operation Overlord to liberate German-occupied western Europe, according to the Miller Center of UVA. Being a decorated hero and loyal patriot helped him greatly in his run for the presidency in 1952 as he was already a household name and highly revered for his military career. 

A stretch Cadillac limousine seems like an appropriate car for a president, but this one was a personal ride of Eisenhower's, custom-built by Derham Body Company and bought during the election. It is large and comfortable with a plush black and white tuxedo-like interior design, featuring a dual air conditioner system with vents in the roof and floor. The most interesting and unique feature of the car is an onboard water dispenser. Using a pressurized tank, water passed over the air conditioner evaporator and into a hose located in the glove box with a spigot to provide cold, refreshing water on demand (via Mecum Auctions). Luxury cars are often seen as cool cars, especially considering the period, so Eisenhower's non-presidential limousine makes the cut.

Ronald Wilson Reagan - Subaru BRAT

Being one of the oldest men ever inaugurated as president, Ronald Reagan had a long career as an actor before entering politics first as Governor of California and then as POTUS. He would never win the hearts of Americans in the way that Jimmy Stewart, Ava Gardner, or James Cagney would. Film Comment laments that his acting career was never going to be that of one of the greats. Part of his success in gaining the trust of American voters was his acting ability to show him as someone they could relate to, projecting a rugged, cowboy-like persona. This is a big reason that his Japanese-made pint-sized pickup was ticked away and out of sight throughout the campaigns and while he was in Washington.

The Gipper did own a Japanese-built vehicle at a time when Japanese automakers were taking ever-larger shares of the American auto market. He had been tapped by Subaru of America for informal testing of the new tax-avoiding micro-sized truck, the BRAT. According to Jalopnik, Fuji heavy industries, the parent company of Subaru, needed some long-term testing, and a Reagan adviser arranged for a BRAT to be used on the Ranch. Today it resides at his ranch as part of a display to memorialize the former president. The BRAT is cool in an ironic hipster kind of way and is sought after by car collectors everywhere.

Thomas Woodrow Wilson - Rolls Royce 40/50HP Silver Ghost

The end of WWI gave way to a particularly prosperous time for many countries. It was a time of excess in which there were plenty of opportunities to spend lavishly on opulent luxury and there was no better product for this than a luxury automobile. From its beginning, Rolls Royce has been a manufacturer of the finest quality cars meant for customers of considerable means. Rolls Royce sought to break early motoring records and breaking them, in part, due to a constant desire for perfection (via Rolls Royce). The early efforts of the manufacturer led the Rolls to its being hailed as the finest car in the world and, in the 1920s, Rolls Royce ownership was about as cool as it gets.

President Woodrow Wilson is a complicated historical figure. He led the United States to victory in the Great War while he opposed women's suffrage before being forced to reluctantly support it and he also authorized segregation throughout the government He also owned a most elegant Rolls Royce 40/50HP Silver Ghost after leaving office. The car had been bought for him by a group of supporters. The Silver Ghost is an American-built example from the Springfield Rolls Royce factory and is a right-hand-drive model with a four-speed gearbox (via Bonhams). Sadly, Wilson may have never driven this car and hardly had the opportunity to enjoy it as he died in 1924.

Herbert Clark Hoover - Cadillac 452-B V-16

Herbert Hoover may have been our first businessman president, having never held elected office before his election as POTUS. He held many sympathetic political views toward business in America and his hands-off approach may have helped usher in the Great Depression. While it would be hard to argue that Hoover was directly responsible for the Depression, voters sent that message in the 1932 election where he lost all but six states' electoral votes. The Depression was not generally a favorable time for flaunting wealth such as an opulent luxury car, but that did not stop Hoover from buying an elegant Cadillac V-16 for himself months before leaving office.

Hoover's 1932 Cadillac 452-B V-16 Imperial Limousine was much-loved by the former president and driven by him — Secret Service protection was not granted to former presidents until the '60s – but he probably used one of his wive's Fords for regular journeys to avoid a showy display of wealth. It was powered by the silky-smooth 452 cubic inch 16-cylinder engine producing 175 horsepower, a respectable figure for its time. The car's body was coach-built by Fleetwood, as was common practice back then, and was finely appointed with a plush cloth interior, detailed woodwork, and an abundance of chrome plating. The car was most recently sold by Bonhams in 2007 and only had 2,000 miles at the time. It was in original and unrestored condition with some signs of aging but no significant wear (via Bonhams).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt - Ford Phaeton

Winning four elections and serving longer than any other president makes Franklin Roosevelt's administration remarkable and extraordinarily influential. Guiding the country through the Depression followed by a second world war cemented Roosevelt's place in the history of the United States. He was able to see Social Security enacted and the execution of the Works Progress Administration, which undertook massive building projects, such as LaGuardia Airport and Camp David, putting millions of Americans back to work. Most remarkably, FDR accomplished all this despite having lost the use of his legs from polio in 1921, according to the National Archives.

FDR was a wealthy man long before moving to Washington and owned the Hyde Park estate in New York, a sprawling estate with a sizable mansion, stables, and garage. It was here that the president enjoyed driving his 1936 Ford Phaeton. Having lost the use of his legs, he had the car equipped with hand controls ( via Autotrader.)

As incredible as the driving modifications are, the most impressive may be the automatic cigarette dispenser mounted to the steering column, allowing the president to operate the clutch, brakes, accelerator, steering, and shifter while smoking. It delivered a cigarette lit and ready to smoke. FDR was a man of great accomplishments but driving while smoking without the use of his legs may be the either most impressive or just the craziest.

Lyndon Baines Johnson - Lincoln Continental Convertible

President Lyndon B. Johnson was not only a capable and highly-esteemed statesman, but he was also a complicated figure. Well known for not backing away from a fight, Johnson had a way of getting his way with a certain coarseness and gruff character that people either respected or despised. To paint a picture of the man, it was not an uncommon practice of his to yell at aides, shouting orders at them and demanding to continue terse discussions while he used the toilet (via Inside Hook). His abrasiveness is legendary. Despite this, his legislative successes are huge with the passage of civil rights, welfare, and medicare on his watch. He demands respect.

Also demanding respect is his 1964 Lincoln Continentals convertible. The straight-lined and boxy droptop is today one of the most collectible models of any Lincoln automobile. While a stretched 1961 Continental is the model that his predecessor rode in when he was assassinated, the 1964 model was LBJ's personal car for use on his Texas ranch, according to Autoweek. As much of a cool operator as LBJ was, Robb Report notes the continental to be equally cool as it shows regularly in pop culture, such as in the opening credits for the popular HBO show "Entourage."

John Fitzgerald Kennedy - Ford Thunderbird

President John F. Kennedy, unfortunately, holds the distinction of being one of the very few American Presidents to be assassinated while in office. He was also a very popular President whose adoration by Americans continues to this day. At the time of his inauguration, he was the youngest President elected, and he entered the White House with dashing good looks equal to his natural charm and charisma. He brought a picture-perfect family to live in Washington and his wife Jackie graced the cover of all the popular magazines of the day. Sadly, he succumbed to a gunshot wound sustained while riding in the Presidential limousine, an open-top Lincoln, the last time a President would ride in an unprotected car.

While President Kennedy traveled in a stretch Continental while in office, he liked Ford Thunderbirds, owning two of them before his untimely death. He had a 1961 convertible that was once driven as the pace car for the Indianapolis 500 race as well as a 1963 Hardtop, per The News Wheel. These cars represented the move to a personal luxury car from more sports car-like first gen T-birds. They were well equipped with such features as a swing-away steering column, vacuum-assisted door locks, air conditioning, and more. Kennedy's affinity for the T-bird was evident and, coincidentally, that affinity may have been passed down as, according to Autoguide, JFK Jr. once owned a Thunderbird Turbo Coupe from the '80s.

George Walker Bush - Triumph TR4

George W. Bush cultivated a rugged cowboy persona on the campaign much in the style of Reagan. While he hailed from Texas, his family roots are in the wealthy conclaves of New Haven and Kennebunkport, where the family owns sprawling estates. He was also the first President to enjoy the safety and security of the purpose-built Cadillac-styled limousine dubbed The Beast. Bush continued his hard-nosed fighting attitude as he jumped into political fights attempting to advance his agenda and taking the country into two highly consequential wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As a young man, Bush enjoyed the life of wealth afforded the child of an oil man who would later be the director of the CIA. During this time, he would also enjoy motoring of a kind his most fervent supporters might not equate to that of a string fighting type, a Triumph TR4. Not much information is available about this car but Tire Buyer claims it was a gift given to him by his father, President George H.W. Bush, during their time living in Houston.

Triumph exported small, fun-to-drive sports cars from England after WWII, taking advantage of a gap in the market as no American companies built lightweight sports cars at the time. They were cool, little cars that offered fun and carfree open-top driving with go-kart-like handling and spry performance. Triumph found great success in the U.S., selling cars up through the early '80s until parent company British Leyland imploded.

Willam Jefferson Clinton - Ford Mustang

Governor Bill Clinton established his cool bona fides on the campaign trail when showing off his musical talent by playing saxophone on the Arsenio Hall show in 1992. He also brought to the campaign youthful energy and charisma lacking in the incumbent which likely contributed significantly to his win. He then went on to preside over a period that saw economic growth as well as the rapid expansion of technology, including the proliferation of the internet in daily life. The Clinton administration launched the first website for the White House. However, all of the accomplishments of the 42nd president would ultimately be overshadowed by a cigar and a dress.

All presidential improprieties aside, Clinton's cool bona fides are still further enhanced by his earlier choice of vehicle, a convertible Ford Mustang. According to the New York Times, Clinton once owned a baby blue 1967 Mustang convertible in ice blue and thought of it as his most prized possession. His Mustang was a basic 6-cylinder version he bought from his brother in the '70s. He lamented in 1996 before driving it around the Charlotte Motor Speedway, "Nobody lets me drive anymore." During the time he ascended to the presidency, he stated the thing he most regretted leaving behind is the opportunity to drive his car, although that means some Arkansas drivers back home may be relieved.

Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. - Chevrolet Corvette

President Joe Biden displays a keen sense of style, regularly donning his signature aviator sunglasses and tailored Ralph Lauren suits. While Biden may have been the oldest person ever elected President, he was the youngest to join the Senate in 1973. Having spent 36 years in the senate followed by eight as VP, Biden is the most experienced politician to ever reside at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He knows how Washington works and has long demonstrated an ability to cross the aisle and get things done. The son of a car salesman, he also has a deep appreciation for the American auto industry (via The Miller Center).

Biden's personal car is a 1967 Chevrolet Corvette roadster with a 327 V8 and 4-speed manual transmission. He is proud to say he is the original owner, having received it as a wedding gift from his father who ran a large automobile dealership at the time. Over the years he has taken great care of the car, treating it as though it was part of his family. While he was unable to drive for the duration of the Obama administration, a segment on Jay Leno's Garage afforded him the opportunity to take it around a Secret Service training track with Jay, commenting about how much of a gearhead he is and that he really enjoys speed. Speaking in automotive terms, it is hard to top a Corvette roadster, especially from 1967, before the malaise era.