Friday, July 2, 2010

The speaker will be a re-enactor, but the limousine will be the real deal when former president Woodrow Wilson makes a rare appearance Monday evening at the Liberty Memorial

The 1919 Pierce-Arrow that was Wilson’s favorite car will be the backdrop for a special outdoor edition of “Meet the Past” as Crosby Kemper III, director of the Kansas City Public Library, interviews Wilson about World War I and other topics.

The limo will also be featured Sunday at the Art of the Car Concours, a vintage auto show at the Kansas City Art Institute.

The limo is fully restored and drivable but normally sits inside the Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Va. The rare road trip is for the car show as well as to strengthen ties with the National World War I Museum at the Liberty Memorial as the centennial of the 1914-18 war draws near.

Wilson was president during the Great War, and the Pierce-Arrow was waiting for him when he returned to New York after the Versailles peace conference in France. Don Wilson, CEO of the Wilson museum but no relation, said the president liked the car’s head room and leg room.

The six-cylinder Pierce-Arrow was the choicest ride at the time and cost $9,600. Wilson’s friends purchased it for him after he left office, and he was driven around Washington in it almost daily.

The car will be among more than 180 other vintage vehicles Sunday at a benefit for scholarships at the art institute.

Admission is $12 and free for children ages 10 and younger. The show is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the institute at 45th and Oak streets. People wishing better light to photograph the vehicles will be admitted starting at 8 a.m. for an additional $5.

Kemper’s interview with Judd Bankert, who will portray Wilson, will be at 6:30 p.m. Monday on the south side of the Liberty Memorial. The event is free, but reservations are encouraged. Visit or call 816-701-3407.

The Pierce-Arrow will also be on display at the memorial from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday.