“It’s such a good feeling to know you’re alive. It’s such a happy feeling you’re growing” and driving a 1928 Ford Model A Sport Coupe. Wait, what? That’s correct, King Friday. Mister Rogers, the beloved children’s television host from the innocence of our childhood, owned a 1928 Ford Model A Sport Coupe classic car. Hop on board the Sport Coupe and take a childhood ride in the classic car to Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Fred Rogers’ mother and father gave him a 1928 Ford Model A Sport Coupe
The navy blue 1928 Ford Model A Sport Coupe was handed down to Fred Rogers by his mother and father, as detailed by The Drive. While the famously non-materialistic Mister Rogers wasn’t a gearhead, he quietly maintained the classic Model A over the years. Growing up in Pennsylvania, the Model A was Fred Rogers’ family’s car. His father restored it, and with ties to his family, the antique car had sentimental value for Mister Rogers. Also, Fred Rogers was born in 1928, so the year of the Model A may have further added to its sentimental value.
The Model A Sport Coupe made several appearances in Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, the PBS educational children’s television show. The first time was during a 1973 episode when Mister Rogers stood next to the classic car and beamed, “I’ve taken care of it ever since my mother and dad gave it to me.”
Ford Model A: The ‘Official Car’ of ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’
In the same episode, Mister Rogers demonstrated the features of the Model A, such as the horn and lights. He also talked about the rumble seat in the antique car and later took his neighborhood friends for a ride in it. In other episodes, the Model A had a sign on the door that read, “Official Car — Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The sign was likely there due to the use of the car at promotional events and parades.
In a 1975 episode, the safety-conscious Mister Rogers discussed the addition of aftermarket seat belts to the Model A. Later, Mr. McFeely, the neighborhood “Speedy Delivery” mailman, used the rumble seat to carry some packages. The Model A made appearances again on episodes of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in the 1980s.
Also, footage of the Model A was shot for Old Friends, New Friends, a short-lived television series that Fred Rogers created for adults. However, the footage was never used. Additionally, there was a miniature toy version of a Model A that was once parked outside of the miniature house of Mister Rogers on the television show.
What cars did Fred Rogers own and drive?
In addition to the 1928 Ford Model A Sport Coupe, Fred Rogers owned and drove several other cars. This includes various Hondas, a Chevrolet Vega, a Ford Country Squire, and a large Oldsmobile sedan, which had a red velour interior. Fred Rogers kept the Oldsmobile for many years. He and his friends affectionately called it “the Bishop’s Bus.”
The only car that deviated from Fred Rogers’ non-materialistic ways was a BMW that he drove in the mid-1970s. However, his co-workers indicated that it was a “small and temperamental” car. Also, David Newell, who played Mr. McFeely on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and for a time was in charge of the props on the show, once bought a miniature Jaguar E-Type. When seeing the miniature luxury sports car, Mister Rogers jokingly said, “Don’t park it in front of my house!” In another episode, Mr. McFeely took an early blue-green Ford Explorer through a car wash.
Fred Rogers showed compassion to highlight car issues
Mister Rogers also utilized his always compassionate nature to highlight issues with cars. He once visited a company that sold a mid-90s Ford E-series wheelchair van, highlighting the importance of caring about people with special needs.
Also, Fred Rogers showed great concern about car safety for children. In a 1982 episode that featured a Chevrolet Chevette that picked up a missing kitten, Mister Rogers focussed on the child safety seat in the rear of the car. Directly addressing the viewers, he said, “It’s mighty important to have something to protect you when you’re moving.” Mister Rogers also talked about the importance of seat belts.
Of course, we can’t forget the iconic red trolley on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was by far the most visible form of transportation on the show. With the neighborhood trolley, Mister Rogers was an early supporter of public transportation.
Mister Rogers visited an EV car company
Electric vehicles are perceived as new technology. However, on an episode of the show in 1981, Mister Rogers showed amazing foresight when he visited a company in Boston that produced electric trucks and vans. It’s unknown what happened to the company, but it was clearly an early adopter of EV technology. Mister Rogers asked many questions about the boxy electric vehicles, including the electric range, which was 50 miles.
Thieves stole Mister Rogers’ Oldsmobile but returned it with an apology note
When doing a Google search of “Mister Rogers car,” one of the most frequent results is the rumor that his Oldsmobile was stolen when visiting his grandchildren. When looking through the car, thieves discovered that the car belonged to Mister Rogers. After this, they returned the car with an apology note.
At first glance, this story may seem like an urban myth about Mister Rogers, such as the debunked one in which he was a Marine sniper, or another false one about how he wore his cardigan sweaters to cover up tattoos.
However, according to David Newell, the story is true. Thieves did, in fact, steal Mister Rogers’ Oldsmobile and return it with a note apologizing for their actions, stating, “If we knew this was yours, we wouldn’t have stolen it.” The ever-humble Fred Rogers, while amused by the note, expressed concern that if he didn’t own the car, the thieves likely would not have returned it to him.
‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’: Cars are a way to care for others and bring people together
Mister Rogers touched the lives of many people. He was a reassuring and comforting voice during our childhood. Growing up as a kid, I was a big Mister Rogers fan. Once for Christmas, my parents gave me a Mister Rogers-style cardigan sweater. Several years ago, my parents bought me another cardigan sweater for Christmas as a nod to my childhood and love of Mister Rogers.
Another time, my father, pretending to be Mister Rogers, sent me a heartfelt message on a postcard with a picture of Mister Rogers and the red neighborhood trolley. I was extremely fired up to get it. Later, I proudly brought the postcard to sleepover at a friend’s house. The mother of my friend, after viewing the postcard, remarked, “There isn’t a postmark on this postcard. Mister Rogers didn’t actually send it to you. Your parents probably did.” That was the death of my childhood innocence. However, my love of Mister Rogers remains.
One of the core messages of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood is that we are all part of the same neighborhood — so we should care for each other, despite our differences and unique personalities. In Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Fred Rogers utilized cars as a “vehicle” to show the importance of caring for others, as well as a means of bringing people together. This includes caring for his family’s classic 1928 Ford Model A Sport Coupe, caring for people with special needs, and caring about car safety.
With cars, Mister Rogers once again teaches us an important life lesson. We should care about all of the people in our neighborhood.
This article was updated on 7/16/2022.