Presidential state car (United States)

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Presidential Limousine "Beast"
GPA02-09 US SecretService press release 2009 Limousine Page 3 Image.jpg
Manufacturer General Motors
Also called The Beast, Cadillac One
Production 2009
Model years 2008
Designer Cadillac
Body and chassis
Class Limousine
Predecessor 2005 Cadillac DTS Presidential State Car

The Presidential state car is the official state car used by the President of the United States. A variety of vehicles have both officially and unofficially been acknowledged as the presidential vehicle. Since the late 1930s, the Federal government of the United States has specially commissioned vehicles for presidential use, often specifying advanced communications equipment, special convenience features, armor plating, and defense countermeasures. American cars are traditionally chosen for the role. The most recent vehicle to be customized as the presidential car is a Chevrolet Kodiak-based, Cadillac-badged limousine often referred to as Cadillac One and occasionally as Limo One (a reference to the U.S. presidential aircraft, Air Force One).

Current model[edit]

A side view of the 2009 limousine
Presidential State Car from the front, in Madison, Wisconsin (Wisconsin State Capitol in background)
The 2009 limousine makes its debut in the 2009 inaugural parade, guarded by Secret Service agents. Behind it are the two backup 2005 limousines previously used by President George W. Bush.
On both domestic and foreign trips, the limousine is transported in a C-17 Globemaster III.

The current presidential limousine entered service on January 20, 2009. According to the manufacturer, General Motors, the 2009 presidential limousine, based on the Cadillac DTS, is the first not to carry a specific model name.[1][2] The vehicle's outward appearance carries many current Cadillac styling themes, but does not resemble any particular production vehicle. The body itself seems to be a modification of the immediately previous DTS-badged Presidential limousines, but the vehicle's chassis and driveline are sourced from the Chevrolet Kodiak commercial truck.[2][3] Many body components are sourced from a variety of Cadillac vehicles; for example, the car uses Cadillac Escalade headlights, side mirrors and door handles. The tail of the car seems to use the taillights and back up lights from the Cadillac STS sedan.[4] Although a price tag has not been announced, each limousine is assumed to cost around US$1,500,000.[5] The current limousine bears standard District of Columbia number plates, stating 'taxation without representation' in reference to the district's campaign for representation in the legislative branch of the United States.[6]

General specifications[edit]

The Secret Service refers to the heavily armored vehicle as The Beast.[7] Most details of the car are classified for security reasons. A special night vision system is in a secret location. Special loops replace the stock door handles; agents hold on to them when running alongside the car. Goodyear run-flat tires fit into extra-large wheel wells. The car is protective against biochemical attacks.[8] Kept in the trunk is a blood bank of the President's blood type.[9][10] It also has its own oxygen supply.

The car can seat seven people, including the President. The front seats two and includes a console-mounted communications center. A glass partition divides the front from back. Three rear-facing seats are in the back, with cushions that are able to fold over the partition. The two rear seats are reserved for the president and another passenger; these seats have ability to recline individually. There's also a folding desk in between the two rear seats. Storage compartments in the interior panels of the car contain communications equipment which is called the Limousine Control Package and is operated by the White House Communications Agency. This is the voice and data device that links the vehicle to the WHCA Roadrunner at the rear of the motorcade allowing command and control (or "C2") functions to be performed from the limo. The trunk lid has five antennas.[8] The car is driven by a specially trained Secret Service agent who is capable of performing CPR. The President's Chief Protective Agent occasionally sits in the front passenger seat of the limo.

On domestic trips, vehicles carrying the president display the American and Presidential Standard flags, which are illuminated by directional flood lights mounted on the hood. When the President performs a state visit to a foreign country, the Presidential Standard is replaced by the foreign country's flag.[8] The two limousines, halfback, and other vehicles are airlifted for domestic and international use primarily by a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III.[11]

The vehicle fuel efficiency is about 8 miles per US gallon (29 L/100 km; 9.6 mpg-imp).[12]

The United States government also operates similarly designed limousines for the Vice President, VIP guests, visiting heads of government, and heads of state.


The armored Cadillac DTS has generated media attention for its poor maneuverability, particularly when deployed to countries whose road proportions pre-date the motorcar by decades or even centuries. The US Presidential Car was filmed in 2009 taking an extremely long time trying to park in Downing Street, London, the residence of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.[13] An armored Cadillac DTS, which was claimed by journalists to be the US Presidential Car, became grounded on a ramp leading from the US Embassy in Dublin in the Republic of Ireland in 2011.[14]

Presidential motorcade[edit]

President Obama and Vice President Biden riding inside a presidential limousine during a motorcade.

Since 2001, when the president travels out of town, his motorcade has consisted of about 35 vehicles. While the limousine and halfback itself is maintained by the Secret Service, motorcade support vehicles are maintained by the White House Military Office.[15] At times, the president travels in the presidential Suburban, one of two Chevrolet Suburbans with the presidential seal on the sides.[11]

Previous presidential limousines[edit]

Early vehicles (1910s–1950)[edit]

President Taft's Model M White, 1909

President William McKinley was the first president to ride in an automobile, Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th President of the United States, had a 1907 White steamer, which was one of the early vehicles in the White House. Theodore Roosevelt, allowed the Secret Service to use the car behind his horse-drawn carriage. However, officially it was not until the presidency of William Howard Taft that the first government-owned automobile was used, a white Stanley Steamer.[15] Roosevelt's successor, William Howard Taft purchased a White Motor Company Model M Steamer as his official car, and converted the White House stable into an automobile garage.[16][17] Taft also ordered a pair of Pierce-Arrows to be used for official state occasions. President Woodrow Wilson also favored cars over horse-drawn carriages,[15] and was one of the first chief executives to ride in a Cadillac during a World War I victory parade through the streets of Boston. In 1921, President Warren Harding was the first to ride to his inauguration in a car, a Packard Twin-Six,[15] and a lavish 1928 Cadillac town car was used by his successor, President Calvin Coolidge.

In 1938, two Cadillac convertibles dubbed Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth were delivered to the U.S. government. Named after the great ocean liners of the time, the 21.5 ft (6.6 m), 7,660 lb (3,470 kg) vehicles were equipped with a full ammunition arsenal, two way radios, and heavy duty generators. Durable and reliable, the two "Queens" served Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The first car specially built for presidential use was the 1939 Lincoln V12 convertible called the "Sunshine Special", used by Franklin D. Roosevelt. The limousine was originally equipped with a siren, running lights, a 2-way radio, extra-wide running boards, and grab handles for Secret Service agents. After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Secret Service became more concerned about potential assassination attempts against President Roosevelt. The following day, 8 December 1941, a heavily armored 1928 Cadillac 341A Town Sedan, originally belonging to gangster Al Capone, was pressed into use to transport the president to the Capitol to deliver his "Infamy" speech. The car had been confiscated by the Treasury Department following Capone's arrest and stored in an impound lot until its ironic final duty. Roosevelt used the Capone car until his "Sunshine Special" was modified to be bulletproof, with armor plating for the doors, bullet-proof tires, inch-thick windows and storage compartments for sub-machine guns.[18][19] The Ford Motor Company leased the car to the office of the president for $500 a year.[18] It remained in use until 1948, and is now on permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

The Secret Service would later use custom-bodied 1956, 1976, and 1983 Series 75 Cadillac convertibles as follow-up command cars into the 1990s. By the early 1980s Suburbans replaces these vehicles as follow up command cars.

Age of automobiles (1950–1969)[edit]

The 1961 state car, a Lincoln Continental convertible seen in this photo with the plastic "bubble top", which was not bullet-proof, removed. The limousine was in use when President Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963, in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, Texas.

Two custom built 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan limousines were delivered to the White House in 1950 for use by President Truman. At the suggestion of President Eisenhower one was fitted with a glass roof and was dubbed the "Bubble Top". It was later used by John F. Kennedy[15] and once by Lyndon B. Johnson. It was retired in 1965 and is now on permanent display at the Henry Ford Museum. President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was known for being fond of automobiles, rode in one of the first Cadillac Eldorados during the 1953 Inauguration Day parade.

President John F. Kennedy's limousine, in which he was assassinated, was a midnight blue 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible, which also came with a Plexiglas bubble top in the event of inclement weather. The vehicle was custom built by Hess and Eisenhart of Cincinnati, and was known as the SS-100-X. The car was retrofitted with armor plating, a permanent sedan roof, a new interior, an improved air-conditioning system, electronic communications equipment, and bulletproof glass. It was repainted black and had cosmetic alterations to remove damage incurred during the assassination, among other changes. The car is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.[20]

The Johnson administration used three 1965 Lincoln Continental Executive limousines; two were for presidential use and one for Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (a former president of the Ford Motor Company.) A 1968 stretch Lincoln was used in Washington, D.C. and Austin, Texas, Johnson's hometown. This vehicle is on display at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum. The SS-100-X was modified again in 1967. Later, under President Richard Nixon, the large one-piece glass roof was replaced with a smaller glass area and a hinged roof panel. It remained in service until 1977 and resides in its final configuration at the Henry Ford Museum.

A symbol of the presidency (1969–present)[edit]

President Richard Nixon and First Lady Pat Nixon in 1972 seen riding in the state car made by Lincoln and acquired in 1969.

The White House ordered a Lincoln Continental limousine through Lehman-Peterson of Chicago, which was delivered in 1969 model year trim. This vehicle also had an added sunroof so that Nixon could stand upright when appearing before parade-goers if desired. It was equipped with several features, such as retractable hand grips and running boards, that were later copied by Hess and Eisenhart. This car is now located at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in Yorba Linda, California. President Nixon's administration ordered two 1972 (but delivered with 1973 front and rear bumpers) Chrysler Imperial LeBaron based armored limos (the last to date Chrysler based White House limos) constructed by Hess and Eisenhart and also ordered a 1972 Lincoln Continental model that was stretched to 22 ft (7 m), outfitted with armor plating, bullet resistant glass and powered by a 460 cubic inch (7.5 liter) V8 engine mated to a C-6 3-speed automatic transmission. This model was also altered a number of times during its history, including replacement of the front fenders and grille, in addition to modification of the rear taillight and reflector assembly to match the updated 1977-1979 models. The Lincoln was used by Presidents Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan; it was the limousine that Reagan was about to enter at the time of his assassination attempt in 1981.[citation needed] Ironically, the vehicle's armor proved a crucial factor in causing Reagan's gunshot wound - the president was not directly hit, but was instead struck by a bullet that ricocheted off the armored side of the vehicle. The car is on display at the Henry Ford Museum.

In 1983, the Reagan administration received a Cadillac Fleetwood limousine. This limousine was first used in February 1983 for President Ronald Reagan's birthday parade in Dixon, Illinois. This was the last GM car equipped with the Turbo Hydra-Matic 400 3-speed automatic transmission. It resides at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. President George H. W. Bush used a 1989 modified Lincoln Town Car. It had a 460 Cu. in. (7.5 L) EFI V-8 out of a Ford F-250 Heavy Duty pickup truck and an E4OD 4 speed automatic transmission. One model is on display at the George Bush Presidential Library in College Station, Texas.

A Presidential Series Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham was delivered to the Clinton Administration in 1993. No sunroof or running boards were installed in order to minimize external threats. It included a 454 cubic inch (7.4 liter) Chevrolet V-8 Engine mated to a 4L80E 4 speed automatic transmission, the same used in the 1993 Chevrolet C2500 heavy duty pickup truck. The car is located at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Arkansas. As of 2009, the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood at the Clinton Presidential Center is the final presidential vehicle to be placed on public display. Plans call for the Secret Service to use future vehicles for security testing that may result in their destruction.[21]

A 2001 Cadillac DeVille limousine was delivered to the Bush administration and was replaced in 2005 by a Cadillac DTS (DeVille Touring Sedan). The 2005 Cadillac DTS limousine is a hand-crafted, custom built, armored version of the stretch Cadillac DTS built on a GM four-wheel drive platform.[22] The vehicle was custom built by Centigon (formerly O'Gara, Hess & Eisenhardt).[22][23] It was first used on January 20, 2005 during the second inauguration parade of George W. Bush. It now serves as an alternative presidential limousine that is frequently used in the Obama administration.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ David Shepardson (2009-01-06). "Obama to ride in style in GM limo, "The Beast"!". Detroit News. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  2. ^ a b Ahlers, Mike M.; Eric Marrapodi (January 6, 2009). "Obama's wheels: Secret Service to unveil new presidential limo". CNN. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  3. ^ Antuan Goodwin (14 January 2009). "Cadillac One: Obama's new wheels". The Car Tech blog (CNET). Retrieved 28 February 2011. 
  4. ^ John Pearley Huffman (20 January 2009). "The Secret Seven: The Top Presidential Limousines of All Time". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 25 February 2011. 
  5. ^ Harris, Paul (2009-03-29). "Prospect of Barack Obama show causes UK to clear its decks". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  6. ^ Becky Brittain (January 15th, 2013). "The "Beast" gets new license plates". CNN. Retrieved 24 January 2016.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  7. ^ Sheryl Gay Stolberg (June 11, 2007). "Bush in Europe was a man on the run". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Merksamer, Gregg D (June 2001). "Take A Look Inside The President's New Cadillac One Limo". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 26 February 2011. 
  9. ^ "Obama In UK With Limo Dubbed 'The Beast'". Sky News. March 2009. Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  10. ^ Bracken, Ali (22 May 2011). "Bullet-proof Barack-ade: Bond-style security protects President for visit to Ireland". Daily Mail (London). Retrieved 7 July 2013. 
  11. ^ a b Ambassador Donald Ensenat (18 January 2007). "Ask the White House". The White House. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 
  12. ^ Churchill, Allison; Johnson, Robert (December 4, 2012). "Obama's Cadillac Is Basically A Tank". Business Insider. Retrieved 11 November 2013. 
  13. ^ "Parking 'The Beast' at Downing Street". BBC News. 1 April 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  14. ^ "Obama's Beast 'did not get stuck' on Dublin ramp". BBC News. 23 May 2011. Retrieved 13 July 2013. 
  15. ^ a b c d e "The President's Motorcade". The White House (Clinton Administration archived version). Fall 1998. Retrieved 2008-04-19. 
  16. ^ Michael L. Bromley, William Howard Taft and the First Motoring Presidency, 1909-1913, New York: McFarland & Co. 2007
  17. ^ The Washington Post, Mar 14 1909
  18. ^ a b President Roosevelt Used to Ride Around in Al Capone’s Limousine
  19. ^ Wright, Mike (1998). What They Didn't Teach You About World War II. Presidio Press. ISBN 0-89141-723-0 p.145
  20. ^ "Presidential Limousine: Kennedy". Henry Ford Museum at The Henry Ford. Retrieved 2010-05-15. 
  21. ^ Merksamer, Gregg D. (2008-11-06). "Cadillac testing new Obama limo". The Boston Globe. 
  22. ^ a b McDonald, Neil (24 August 2007). "By George, a Caddie that's bulletproof". The Daily Telegraph (Australia). 
  23. ^ The Associated Press (May 8, 2007). "British company agrees to buy Armor Holdings". The Enquirer. Retrieved 2007-05-22. 

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