- Former presidential candidate Ron Paul is auctioning off his 1979 Chevrolet Chevette to benefit his Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE).
- Proceeds will go to the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
- The highest pledge will win the car as well as the Congressional license plate used by Paul during his time in office.
CLUTE, Texas — Ron Paul, political gadfly and former presidential candidate, is auctioning off his 1979 Chevrolet Chevette to benefit his Foundation for Rational Economics and Education (FREE).
The highest tax-deductible pledge to the nonprofit foundation by October 15, 2013, will win the lime-green four-door compact, which Paul bought during his first term in Congress. Proceeds will go to the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, whose mission, says its Web site is to promote "public advocacy for a peaceful foreign policy and the protection of civil liberties at home."
In addition to the car, the winner will enjoy a turnover ceremony at the FREE office in Texas, complete with photo op and presentation of the car's original Congressional license plate by Ron Paul himself.
Although it's more than 30 years old, the Chevette has a mere 69,000 miles on the odometer. After its time in the Congressional parking lot, it took Paul's youngest daughter to college and has spent the last 10 years stored in a garage. Paul says the car "starts and runs, and is as cute as when Tip wanted to bomb it."
That comment recalls a controversy that erupted when a photo of the little Chevette parked next to House Speaker Tip O'Neill's full-sized Lincoln began making the rounds. At the time, O'Neill was promoting gas rationing as a means of conserving oil, so the juxtaposition of Paul's modest Chevy with the gas-guzzler made great fodder for the evening news.
The speaker was not happy. In a statement, Paul said: "Tip even levied the ultimate punishment: he blocked pork-barrel funds for me, which I was not seeking anyway."
Ron Paul, a physician and former congressman from south Texas, established a reputation as an iconoclast nipping at the heels of politicians on both the right and left. A hard-line constitutionalist, his refusal to compromise often left him the lone voice advocating or opposing various issues during his time in Congress.
He launched a campaign for the 1988 presidential election as a Libertarian candidate, coming in third behind Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis and the winner, then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. In that and subsequent presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012, Paul called attention to what he saw as the abandonment of the Constitution by Congress and presidents. And although he lost, he effectively used the public forum to spread his message and offer voters an alternative to the two major parties.
The Chevette was undoubtedly one more way for Paul to distinguish himself from his Congressional colleagues. It was Chevy's smallest and most economical vehicle at that time, EPA rated at 25 mpg in the city and 36 mpg on the highway when equipped with the base 1.6-liter inline four-cylinder engine and manual transmission.
Even though it was the best-selling small car in America in 1979, it's unlikely that many other political leaders would be found driving one. The target market was budget-conscious buyers and, with the addition of the four-door variant in 1978, young families.
Introduced in 1976 as an import-fighting replacement for the Vega, the Chevette was known for its simplicity and value. The base price in 1976 was $2,899, and that never rose much past $5,000 by its demise in 1987. Economical for the time it may have been, but Congressional, not so much.
Edmunds says: Depending on political persuasion, winning Ron Paul's Chevette could be considered luck or lemon.