Dealers being a colorful lot, it's not surprising that NADA has had some interesting leaders during its 100 years.
There was Fred W.A. Vesper, a veteran of the dealer trip to Capitol Hill in 1917 that led to the organization's founding. Vesper, known to his friends as F.W.A., became NADA's second president (after George W. Browne) and served two terms (1918-1919).
Vesper traveled the country, signing up members for a $10 annual fee. He returned to head NADA again from 1933 to 1935, amid the Great Depression. Vesper was also a cattle rancher and balanced his auto-related duties with work as a member of the National Dairy Association's executive board.
Billy Hughson was an auto industry veteran by the time he became NADA's 11th president in 1927. But he didn't even know what an automobile was when he met Henry Ford at a bicycle show in 1902.
Still, Hughson, who ran a San Francisco machinery parts company, was intrigued. In the summer of 1903, he paid $5,000 for 12 Model A cars, becoming Ford Motor Co.'s first dealer. Unfortunately for him, he turned down a chance to invest in the fledgling carmaker.
But the Model A's didn't sell in California. After the city's 1906 earthquake, Hughson donated them to the Red Cross for rescue work. Sales took off soon after the disaster as autos became more familiar nationwide. Hughson was known around San Francisco as "Mr. Ford Dealer," and his dealership stayed in business until 1970.