The story behind ‘Surprise Peanut,’ a gift for a former president and first lady

Credit: Original article published by Classic Cars Journal.

1946 Ford Deluxe

It has been widely reported of late that entertainers Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood presented former President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter a 1946 Ford Super Deluxe convertible for their 75th wedding anniversary.

The car was selected because 1946 was the year the Carters were married.

Muffy Bennett finds the Ford

The secret search for the right car, an operation called “Surprise Peanut,” was conducted by collector car veterans Gary and Muffy Bennett through their Arizona-based Bennett Automotive Specialists Inc.

“Now that the event has happened, we are allowed to share it,” Gary Bennett said in an email.”

Muffy Bennett explained in an interview with the ClassicCars.com Journal that she and Gary have a friend and client who is “very high up in the professional sports industry” and also is close friends with Garth Brooks. 

“Mr. Brooks retained us,” she said, noting that he specified the 1946 model year and that the car needed to be a convertible.

Project “Surprise Peanut” began with the Bennetts doing research, she said, on between 50 and 75 vehicles just to decide which ones needed to be seen up close for consideration.

“Nineteen forty-six was not a really popular year for manufacturers,” she said, pointing out that Detroit was making the transition from wartime to civilian production. 

Trying to find a 1946 of the quality the parties expected, “Holy smokes!” Muffy said.

At first, the focus was on resto-mods, primarily because “we wanted to be sure the car was safe and reliable whether driving to the ice cream store or to church, and you want something comfortable,” she added.

A couple of Chrysler woodie convertibles were considered, and there was a sweet ’46 Cadillac convertible that sold before the Bennetts could buy it.

At some point, the focus turned to restored rather than modified vehicles. The Ford Deluxe had been restored about a decade earlier, with a restoration that had held up beautifully, Muffy Bennett said.

So well, in fact, that she was ready to buy the car whether Brooks/Yearwood team wanted to use it as a gift or not.

Obviously, Brooks and Co. did.

According to Country Music Television’s website, the car arrived at the first family’s home in Plains, Georgia, on a Wednesday afternoon and was hustled into hiding by Secret Service agents until it was time for the gift to be presented. 

“Upon receipt of the gift,” the Carters’ family friend Jill Stuckey told People magazine, the Carters had “bright eyes and big smiles” and were “very excited.”