Betty White and a Cadillac Named ‘Parakeet’

Betty White is known for her timeless charm and quick wit, but when the 88-year-old comedian and veteran of television series like “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “The Golden Girls” mentioned her “beloved parakeet,” I thought the joke was on me.

“Oh, that’s its name,” Ms. White politely explained, referring to the custom Seamist Green 1977 Cadillac Seville that she once owned for 25 years. The car was recently put on display at the Antique Automobile Club of America Museum in Hershey, Pa.

Ms. White said in a telephone interview that she names all of her cars after birds. “I had yellow Cadillac — that was Canary,” she said. “And this one was Parakeet. I have a silver one right now which is Seagull.”

The Cadillac was donated to the museum by its most recent owner, Nicholas Ferrantino of Houston. With less than 18,000 miles on the odometer, the car is in nearly new condition. Accompanying the car is a selection of photographs covering Ms. White’s career, including photos of the Cadillac being used on-air in the series “Mama’s Family.”

The Cadillac was a surprise gift to Ms. White from her late husband, Allen Ludden, who was a television personality and game-show host. As the most expensive Cadillac of its day, every Seville came loaded from the factory with luxury features. This example includes extra touches, like a custom paint job, an AT&T phone and small dash plaque that reads “Betty.”

Yet the most priceless feature of this Seville is the car’s Hollywood provenance, and the stories that come with it.

Ms. White said the car was a “total surprise” when her husband arrived home. “Allen had been on a trip,” she said. “He had gone to New York to do a couple appearances and came back. Rather than try to meet each other at the airport, he would always take a cab and come home.

“So I was thrilled waiting for him. I was upstairs, putting my makeup on, when I hear the car pull up. I looked outside and it wasn’t a taxi, there was this pretty car and all of a sudden Allen got out of it. Of course, I came running down the stairs. Here is this beautiful Seamist Green Cadillac with a white top. I love all the watercolors and that pale green is one of my favorite colors.”

Ms. White said parting with the Seville was not easy. “I just loved that car and kept it as long as I could,” she said. A longtime supporter of animal charities, Ms. White donated the car to the Los Angeles Humane Society in 2002. “The day they came to pick it up, I just couldn’t look,” she said. “I went out into the backyard and I waited until they went away. I just couldn’t bear to see it go.”

Despite her busy work schedule, which includes hosting an upcoming episode of “Saturday Night Live,” Ms. White remains committed to her work with animal charities; she said she has worked with the Morris Animal Foundation for 45 years. “My life is divided into absolute halves: half show business and half animal welfare work. They’re the two things I love the most, so you can’t do better than that.”

I asked if pets were allowed in the 1977 Seville or any of her cars. “Oh, they’re not ruled out of anything in my life,” said Ms. White. “I know, the leather seats and all that…but it never did any harm. They’re all welcome,” she said. She concluded the interview by sending her love to my own dog, Merlin, and best wishes to her “beloved Parakeet.”