The Evolution of the Presidential Car
The Official Car of the President
Like all people, the presidents from past and present have had their own personal favorite cars that they drove leisurely, but there is one car that is designed to be the official state car of POTUS. The US presidential car is tasked not only to transport the commander-in-chief, but also to protect him. The current presidential car is nicknamed “The Beast” and has been tasked to transport President Obama from 2009. This year as a new president takes command, “The Beast” will undergo a few updated modifications to better serve the new POTUS. But it always hasn’t been “The Beast” as the head honcho throughout the lifetimes of each president. Since we’re celebrating Presidents’ Day this month, here’s a rundown of the make, model, and functions of some of the most signature presidential cars from the past to the present.
The First Presidential Car
Particularly not like the other vehicles that will be on the list, but must be mentioned due to its history. This was the first car driven by a president. Before William Howard Taft took office, the official transportation for presidents was a horse and carriage. Taft, being a fan of the automobile, replaced the presidential stables with a four-car garage. This garage featured a Baker Motor Vehicle electric car and a 1911 White Motor steam car.
During the early 20th century, presidents were usually transported in standard production vehicles. Entering 1939, this Lincoln “Sunshine Special” was especially built for the Secret Service. The car was loosely based on a Lincoln K-Series chassis with a powerful V-12 engine. The nickname was given due its top being always open. The car was armored, equipped with a 160 in. wheelbase and later installed with a bulletproof glass shield. The vehicle mainly served President Franklin Roosevelt as it was also easily accessible for Roosevelt and his wheelchair. After Roosevelt’s passing in 1945, the vehicle remained in service until 1950.
1961 Lincoln Continental SS-100-X
The modified Lincoln Continental was given the code name X-100 by the Secret Service. The included a heavy duty heater, AC, fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, siren, and radiotelephones. The vehicle was equipped with three sets of removable roofs and a hydraulic lift for the rear cushion, so it could make the president more visible to the public. Unfortunately, this was the vehicle that President John F. Kennedy was riding in on the day of his assassination. After that fateful day, the SS-100-X was rebuilt and armored with a bulletproof hardtop. It was still in service under President Johnson and Nixon’s administration.
This model was built over three years by the Ford Motor Company. This presidential limo got the opportunity to safely protect President Ford and Reagan from assassination attempts. Armored with a 460-cubic inch V8 engine, this model was the last to be equipped with a roof opening.
To balance with the armor and a bulletproof glass, the vehicle had oversized wheels, tires, heavy-duty brakes, and an auto leveling system. This was the first Cadillac given the decree of being the official vehicle for POTUS and the secret service. The Fleetwood was also powered by their own 500 cubic-inch V8.
“The Beast” AKA “Cadillac One” AKA “Limo One”
Now, we’ve come upon the most current model of the presidential car. Debuting for President Obama in 2009, this limo is labeled a Cadillac, but essentially is made up of design and technical elements from Cadillac production vehicles. The chassis, diesel engine, and transmission are more in common with the Chevrolet Kodiak, a rugged commercial vehicle. The armor is believed to be 8 inches thick with bulletproof windows, and doors that weigh as much as aircraft doors. “The Beast” is installed with bus-size Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear tires, capable on being on the road for long distances. The interior and fuel tank is well sealed and guarded in case of a impending attack. Let’s talk about the trunk for a second; the Secret Service has equipped it with firefighting gear, oxygen masks, and a cache of the president’s blood type. Not to mention, shotguns, grenade launchers, and tear gas canisters for emergency only. Last few facts are that the vehicle can hold up to seven passengers and, this is our favorite, that “The Beast” has its own airplane whenever the president is traveling.
As President Trump takes office, “The Beast” will be new and improved and is expected to add new tech communications and adjustable suspension.
New Appreciation for the Presidential Car
As a lover of vehicles and a team that has devoted their lives to the automobile landscape, we are clearly fascinated by the details of these presidential vehicles from past and now. Now maybe when you see the President and his motorcade, you can maybe appreciate the presidential car a little bit more and pay attention to all of its details. Happy Presidents Day everyone and drive safe out there!
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