Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton speaks to the National Automobile Dealers Association meeting in New Orleans. (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
New Orleans —Hillary Rodham Clinton’s history with cars is nearly as colorful as her political background.
The former secretary of state, first lady and U.S. senator revealed Monday in a speech at the National Automobile Dealers Association conference that her first car was an Oldsmobile Cutlass, she has not driven since 1996 — and that husband Bill Clinton’s 1970 Opel was “one of the ugliest cars ever built.”
Clinton said she paid $220 for a 1963 Olds Cutlass to get around at Yale law school. But the car quickly developed problems.
“I concluded it was cold and the battery would get cold, and that’s why it wouldn’t start. So I began taking the battery out of the car, putting it in one of those canvas bags and taking it in my dorm room so it could be warm before I put it back in.”
Her second car was a yellow Fiat. Her ownership ended after someone stole it and crashed it in a high-speed chase.
“My first reaction was, I could not get that car to go very fast,” she said. “I couldn’t understand how the robbers had managed to pull that off, so I was a little proud the car performed right before it died.”
Clinton hasn’t had to worry about car troubles for the better part of two decades. “One of the regrets I have about my public life is that I can’t drive anymore,” she said, noting the last time she drove a car was 1996. “I remember it very well. Unfortunately, so does the Secret Service, which is why I haven’t driven since then.”
Clinton took a couple of playful jabs at cars formerly owned by her huband. She said in 1974, Bill — not yet her husband then — drove a 1970 burnt-orange Opel station wagon. “With all due respect, one of the ugliest cars ever built,” she said.
He then bought a Chevrolet El Camino, and carpeted the truck bed with Astroturf, which he “absolutely loved.”
Clinton recalled the vehicles her late father, Hugh Rodham, drove when she was a child. She described her father as “a reliable buyer for those old Lincoln Continentals and the big Cadillacs from the ’40s and the ’50s.”
They “truly were like a barge,” she said, but critical for long family trips between suburban Chicago, where she grew up, and northeast Pennsylvania, where her father was born and raised.
“He wanted a car big enough so that we wouldn’t have to stop so that he didn’t have to pay for a hotel. And we never did. We would just get in that car and drive all the way to Scranton, Pa., sometimes pulling into a nature reserve or a supermarket parking lot to get a few hours of sleep.”