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Lyndon B. Johnson Loved Pranking People With His Amphicar

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author photo by Will Kinton March 2018

Lyndon B. Johnson was a pretty big gearhead, with a pretty great car collection at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas. Whenever Johnson made it out to the ranch, he used the opportunity to drive his fleet around on the private grounds. He would often drive around in his Lincoln Continental convertibles to relax, or go on hunting parties in his 1934 Ford Phaeton touring car, which was modified for off-road driving. He also had a fire truck and a rare Fiat 500 Jolly given to him by the company itself.

But the car that probably had the best story associated with it is Johnson's Amphicar. Johnson frequently used his Amphicar to prank his guests at the ranch. Johnson's top aide, Joseph A. Califano, Jr, described being on the receiving end of the prank quite well:

"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."

Once they realized they weren't going to go down with the car, the President would engage the car's propellers and his guests would putt around the lake, enjoying their time on the water like they would in a motorboat. Basically, it's exactly the kind of prank you'd pull if you owned an amphibious car. It's entirely possible that Johnson bought the car specifically for this sort of thing, but that's purely speculation on my part.

For context, the Amphicar was the first and only mass-produced amphibious car. It didn't look particularly different from a standard car of the time, and they weren't exactly common, as only 3,878 were ever made -- so you could forgive someone for not suspecting that it was fully amphibious and could be driven directly into the water.

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Lyndon B. Johnson Loved Pranking People With His Amphicar - Autotrader