Automotive History Outtake: FDR’s 1938 Ford Convertible – Hiding In Plain Sight


Though his paralytic illness is widely known today, FDR invested significant effort into minimizing its visibility during public appearances.  To that end, pictures of his 1938 Ford V8 Convertible, submitted to us by CC reader Hatman, reflect the measures taken in ensuring that his image would remain uncompromised in the view of his constituents, who might not have appreciated the way he, and many other Americans, ensured their mobility.  So take a moment to glance at the simple, ingenious modifications made to the car, hidden from the country’s view during his years in office.


The handle on the left controlled the clutch, then the brake pedal, while an attached lever retarded the hand throttle when the clutch was disengaged.  The flathead V8 likely was kept in second gear for much of the time in casual driving.


The pictures of this convertible, taken from a visit to Roosevelt’s Warm Springs Little White House vacation cabin show that, even before automatic transmissions, power steering or power brakes, FDR fully expected to drive on his own.  He really enjoyed solo drives the the nearby mountains, and visiting with the locals, sans Secret Service detail.  No flash was allowed at the museum, which is decidedly modest, but The Little White House is a must see for anyone wanting to learn more about one of the country’s most well-known, yet secretive, presidents.