Nancy Reagan once persuaded President Reagan to hide on the floor of the backseat of her car to elude reporters and view a prospective California residence in privacy.

The first lady wanted Reagan to see the house before a group of friends and supporters went ahead with plans to purchase the residence for the Reagans' use after they leave the White House, Mrs. Reagan's spokeswoman, Elaine Crispen, said Thursday."I put him on the floor of the back seat of the car," Crispen quoted the first lady as saying.

The couple was accompanied by a Secret Service agent, the spokeswoman said, but she added that she did not know if other agents accompanied them in other vehicles.

White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater said the incident occurred when the couple was in California staying at a Los Angeles hotel, sometime prior to his becoming Reagan's chief spokesman in February 1987.

Normally, the president travels in an armored limousine, accompanied by a motorcade consisting of more than a dozen vehicles, including a van containing Secret Service agents armed with submachine guns.

Several years ago, the couple left the White House to celebrate Mrs. Reagan's birthday at a Washington restaurant with only a small Secret Service escort, and without the usual press "pool."

Crispen defended the first lady's action, saying it allowed the couple "to make a decision in private."

The Reagans agreed last March to lease, rather than buy, the $2.5 million estate they drove to see.