The Presidency of the United States is certainly a demanding job. The need for relaxation; to refresh one’s wholeness, is imperative for the tough days that lie ahead. President Johnson’s daily schedule was at the very least, exhausting. From early morning until long after sunset, Vietnam and his Great Society programs consumed his time and energy. On those occasions when he would have some free days he would retreat to his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. This is where he found the peace and serenity that was needed to recharge himself mentally, physically and spiritually. He particularly enjoyed his many vehicles; his presidential toys. Inspecting his ranch in one of his cherished Lincolns; the practical jokes on unsuspecting guests with his Amphicar; hitching up a couple of donkeys to his little wagon and making children smile; ringing the fire bell; yes, these were the types of simple pleasures that re-energized our 36th president. Oh, how he loved his vehicles!
Lincoln Continental Convertibles
These were the cars probably most associated with President Johnson. Here his Special Assistant, Joseph A. Califano, Jr recalls a ride with the President:
In the early afternoon, the President, with me next to him in the front seat, took his white Lincoln convertible, top down, for a drive around the ranch. It was incredibly hot; the dust clouds made it hard to breathe. But there was relief. As we drove around we were followed by a car and a station wagon with Secret Service agents. The President drank Cutty Sark scotch and soda out of a large white plastic foam cup. Periodically, Johnson would slow down and hold his left arm outside the car, shaking the cup and ice. A Secret Service agent would run up to the car, take the cup and go back to the station wagon. There another agent would refill it with ice, scotch, and soda as the first agent trotted behind the wagon. Then the first agent would run the refilled cup up to LBJ’s outstretched and waiting hand, as the President’s car moved slowly along.
1915 Fire Truck
The fire truck is a 1915-type 12 American La France given to the President by the people of Brady, Texas in 1964. When it was new it carried 1200 feet of standard fire hose and could deliver 1000 gallons of water per minute at any pressure desired up to 400 pounds per square inch. It is electrically equipped throughout, having lights near each gauge on the pump and around the motor, as well as an electric starter. The motor is a six cylinder and provides 105 horsepower.
1934 Ford Phaeton
President Johnson used his 1934 Ford Phaeton touring car for hunting. It's equipped with a V8 Lincoln Zepher engine and a steel plate underneath to prevent damage when going over rough terrain. It was a maroon color with tan upholstery until 1962 when it was repainted red. A bar with running water is mounted on back of the front seat. V.I.P.’s to ride in this car include Hubert Humphrey, Dean Rusk, and Robert McNamara. The car is believed to have been given to the President by Wesly West.
Built in Germany from 1961 to 1968, the Amphicar is the only civilian amphibious passenger automobile ever to be mass produced. A total of 3,878 vehicles were produced in four colors: Beach White, Regatta Red, Fjord Green (Aqua), and Lagoon Blue--the color of President Johnson's Amphicar.
President Johnson enjoyed surprising unsuspecting guests when taking them for a ride in his Amphicar.
The President, with Vicky McCammon in the seat alongside him and me in the back,was now driving around in a small blue car with the top down. We reached a steep incline at the edge of the lake and the car started rolling rapidly toward the water. The President shouted, "The brakes don’t work! The brakes won’t hold! We’re going in! We’re going under!" The car splashed into the water. I started to get out. Just then the car leveled and I realized we were in a Amphicar. The President laughed. As we putted along the lake then (and throughout the evening), he teased me. "Vicky, did you see what Joe did? He didn’t give a damn about his President. He just wanted to save his own skin and get out of the car." Then he’d roar.
Jolly 500 Ghia
The Jolly 500 Ghia apparently was a gift to President Johnson from the Fiat Company. It is a very
rare automobile. In fact, during his retirement,and after the establishment of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, the park curator encouraged the President to restore the vehicle to its original condition, but the restoration effort ended when the President was unable to find any replacement parts. The car was often used as transportation between the various outbuildings and was especially enjoyed by the children of those that worked for the President, giving them a chance to practice their driving skills.
Cushman Golf Carts
The Cushman golf carts were used by President Johnson to transport the many friends, dignitaries and political leaders that landed on the LBJ airstrip, to and from the Texas Whitehouse. The airstrip, located behind the hanger, is 6300 feet long and 60 feet wide. Some notable passengers include West Germany’s Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, Mexico’s President Adolfo Lopez-Mateos and West Germany’s new Chancellor Ludwig Erhart. The LBJ Ranch was becoming the Western White House, where foreign leaders were entertained, advisors consulted, affairs of state were conducted, and the Texas Hill Country was opened to the eyes of the world.
The President was given a little green wagon that he enjoyed using at family gatherings. He would hitch up his two donkeys, Soup and Noodles, and give the children and their parents rides around the property. People were very important to President Johnson, especially his staff. He knew on a first name basis all those who worked for him--their families were like his own. He enjoyed making them feel important and happy; he took great pleasure in their smiles. The vehicles were one way that he could share his humor and express his love and affection. President Johnson did love people--all people.
Did You Know?
More National Park Service sites were designated or expanded during the Johnson administration than during any other administration. LBJ traveled to only one--the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island. Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park