The job of President of the United States has a lot of superlatives attached to it: most high-profile, most powerful, most dangerous. The last qualifier is part of what makes presidential limousines so fascinating; no expense is spared when outfitting the Commander in Chief’s car with innovative features, be they for safety or show. From Taft in 1909 to Trump in 2017, each president has had his own vehicular preferences, making for some truly unique automobiles. Gearheads and history buffs alike will be thrilled to learn the secrets behind the most important car in the country: the presidential limousine.
William Howard Taft’s First Fleet
The invention of the automobile in the 1890s was met with much resistance from the White House. It wasn’t until the following century that a sitting president traveled in one: William McKinley took a brief ride in a Stanley steam car in 1901. In 1907, the Secret Service purchased a steam car from White Motor Company, but President Theodore Roosevelt refused to ride in it, preferring the image he projected riding in a horse-drawn buggy. His successor, William Howard Taft, felt the opposite. He wanted to modernize the White House, converting the stables into a garage and purchasing four cars: a White steam car, a Baker electric car, and two Pierce-Arrows. They cost him a total of $12,000 – equivalent to over $300,000 today.