Did you know that the forty-second president of the United States of America once owned a Ford Mustang? Indeed, William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton drove a ’67 convertible in the ’80s and until his inauguration in the White House in January 1993.
The year was 1972. The country was ruled by Richard Nixon, and Bill was still a young man studying at Yale Law School, freshly returned from two years overseas at Oxford University in the United Kingdom. His family lived in Hot Springs, Arkansas and his mother, Virginia Clinton Kelley, had married Jeff Dwire — as a third marriage — three years earlier. On the occasion of Bill’s younger brother Roger’s sixteenth birthday, his stepfather offered him a used 1967 Ford Mustang convertible.
The car is powered by a 200ci (T) six-cylinder engine with 120 horsepower and an automatic transmission. The convertible is covered with Clearwater Acqua (W) paint while the interior features white seats.
In January 1977, Clinton was elected Attorney General of Arkansas and then Governor of the state in 1979. During his first five terms as governor, he bought the Mustang from his brother that their father-in-law had offered him. It was the early 1980s and William Jefferson Clinton decided to have the car restored. The interior and exterior were completely repaired.
Clinton resided at the Arkansas Governor’s Mansion at 1800 Center Street in Little Rock. He used it frequently, especially for his commute to work, but especially with his family, for Sunday outings. He is often seen on Route 70, with his hair blowing in the wind, between Little Rock and Hot Springs.
In 1992, the politician ran for president. Throughout the campaign, he was seen driving his Ford Mustang on a regular basis. For the anecdote, on August 19, 1992, friends of his organized a birthday party on the theme of the 50s and 60s in his honor. Hillary, his wife, and Chelsea, his 12-year-old daughter, arrived with the candidate in the Mustang.
On November 3, 1992, the forty-six-year-old candidate defeated George H. W. Bush (370 electoral votes to 168) in the presidential election. He thus became the forty-second president of the United States of America.
Once he takes office in the White House, for obvious security reasons, the politician is no longer allowed to drive a car on his own. Instead, he must be content to sit in the back of an armored limousine. The convertible remained mostly stock, aside from a new Clarion stereo system and a JVC speaker. Clinton then decided to loan his “classic” Ford to the Morrilton Automobile Museum in Arkansas where it will be displayed for many years, until July 2010. The car has a black Arkansas “antique car” license plate with the number 14802.
In 1993, the president declared (with humor) about his Mustang:
“It was the thing that I most regretted leaving behind. The other people who drove on the roads in my home state, however, were immensely relieved.”Bill Clinton (1993)
On October 17, 1994, on the occasion of the thirtieth anniversary of the Mustang, Bill Clinton was invited to Charlotte Motor Speedway by the Mustang Club of America (MCA) and Ford. Hundreds of enthusiasts who had driven thousands of miles in their wild pony had converged in North Carolina. Wearing a red windbreaker with the MCA logo, the President of the United States left the armored limousine to find his own Mustang – which he hadn’t used in two years. Brought back from Arkansas by truck, the car was repaired by Ford mechanics so that the president, who was exceptionally allowed to drive, could do a few laps around his Ford. The outside handle to open the driver’s side door was broken, however, so Clinton stepped over the convertible to sit behind the wheel and drove the 250 yards to the grandstand. He took great pleasure in parading around in the car that used to take him everywhere. On the platform, he is introduced as a “rabid mustanger like the rest of us” by Bill Dillard, the MCA president. Clinton then takes the stage.
Undeniably, the welcome here is warmer than in Darlington, South Carolina, the last time Clinton drove on a speedway. That was on September 6, 1992, when the presidential campaign was at its peak. Clinton had sought to use the “Southern 500” held there as a media prop, but the voices of a few thousand attendees rose to shout “George Bush! George Bush!“
After his speech, Bill Clinton took the time to sign the fender of a Mustang and sat in the driver’s seat of a convertible of the same year as his in the color “Playboy Pink” owned by Rochelle McNeal from Pensacola, Florida.
Later, in a letter to Mustang owners, the president wrote: “As a proud Mustang owner, I know what an important milestone this is,” Clinton wrote in a letter to other Mustang owners. “For many Americans, the Mustang remains a vibrant symbol of the excitement and optimism of the 1960s, when it was first conceived.” (Los Angeles Times, 18th of April, 1994)
In July 2010, Bill Clinton’s Ford Mustang was recovered from the Automobile Museum and sent to a workshop where it underwent a new restoration. It is then shipped to California where it was offered to Tyler Clinton, the nephew of the former president who was celebrating his… sixteenth birthday!
Museum of Automobiles, Morrilton, Arizona (InfoMedia)
A Mustang And a Boy Named Bill (New York Times, Douglas Jehl, April 18, 1994)
In a ‘67 Ragtop, Clinton Joins “Rabid Mustangers”… (Los Angeles Times, John M. Broder, April 18, 1994)
Bill Clinton (Wikipedia)
Bill Clinton’s 1967 Ford Mustang picture (Flickr, Jimmy Smith)
President Bill Clinton’s Mustang Moment (Youtube, King Rose Archives)