Thursday, November 26, 2015         

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SUV with 'OBAMA' plates up for auction

By Steven Mark


Honolulu resident Kathy Custer is a baby sitter by profession, but she can take a presidential ride whenever she wants to.

All she has to do is climb into her silver-blue Chevy Silverado Suburban with the "Obama" license plate, registered right here in the president's official birthplace.

It's the ultimate power trip when she rides around in the four-wheel-drive SUV, getting salutes from passers-by, being asked for photos of the car or being called "Mrs. President," which is how an attendant at a Waikiki parking lot addresses her whenever she pulls up.

"I really think a few times I've deserved a ticket and the police officer didn't give me one, and I can only think it must have been the Obama license plate," she said. "They don't even stop me."

Now you too can enjoy the same privileges: Custer is auctioning off the car on eBay, with bidding opening today. She plans to donate profits from the sale to the college fund of her boyfriend's sister's children.

Custer got the vehicle, license plate and all, from a friend, attorney William Biegenwald, who recognized the president's potential early on. "The very first speech he heard Obama give, he knew that that man was going to be president someday," Custer said.

Biegenwald ordered vanity plates and installed them with special bolts to deter would-be thieves. But three years ago Biegenwald was leaving for a job in the Middle East and gave the car to Custer.

"We would go on all these fun adventures around the island," Custer said, referring to kayaking and dive trips they took together. "And it was always in this Suburban. … I definitely appreciated his vehicle, and I would go, ‘Wow, this is so great!'

"I guess he just sat down and thought of all his friends — who he thought would appreciate it the most — and I was so fortunate that he picked me. So when he told me he wanted to gift it to me, I was speechless. … I insisted he not give it to me, but he did."

Custer usually rides a motorcycle, using the Obama car for camping trips and grocery runs. Mostly, it's been parked in front of her home. Although it has 150,000 miles on it, she said "it's in really good condition, considering it's 18 years old."

She is trying to raise money to help two young people, Katie and Logan Garring of California, pursue their dream careers — Katie in business and Logan in engineering. They are two of four children being raised by a single mother who is struggling to make ends meet.

"I thought with the election this is a good time to just sell it and see how much we get for it," Custer said.

She hopes the license plate has enough cachet to get far more than what the vehicle alone would net. Other states allow license plates to be sold, and the website lists Obama-related license plates at as much as $1.1 million. Hawaii does not allow license plates to be sold separately from vehicles.

"I would be really happy with $20,000," she said. "I know the Kelley Blue Book value is about $2,000, pretty low. … But I think $20,000 would be such a great number to give toward education, and then $50,000 just means they get to go to university instead of community college."

She doesn't care whether a Republican or Demo­crat buys it.

"A Republican might want to take this thing and burn it, or it's going to be a Demo­crat who's going to cherish it. I just think I won't ask."

The auction opens today and will close on election day, Nov. 6.

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