How Safe is the US Presidents Limo?

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The current presidential state car went into service on January 20, 2009 and drove President Obama the 2 miles (3.2 km) down Pennsylvania Avenue from his inauguration to the inaugural parade. A Cadillac, the presidential state car is not based on any single model of car, though it has the “dual-textured grille and the dinner plate-sized Cadillac coat-of-arms badge” that are emblematic of the Cadillac CTS and the Cadillac Escalade. The headlights and taillights are identical to those used on other Cadillac production models. Anton Goodwin of CNET’s ROAD/SHOW blog noted that speculation was that the presidential state car was based on the GMC Topkick platform.


If that’s the case, then Goodwin assumed the car would feature either a gasoline-powered Vortec 8.1-litre (490 cu in) V8 engine or a diesel-powered Duramax 6.6-litre (400 cu in) turbo V8 engine. Autoweek magazine asserts that the car runs on a gasoline-fueled engine. Though unknown, the current presidential state car is speculated to be much heavier than its predecessor as it is equipped with Goodyear Regional RHS tires that are usually reserved for medium- and heavy-duty trucks; speculated weights range from 15,000 pounds (6,800 kg) to 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg). All that weight slows down the car, which can only reach about 60 mph (97 km/h) and only achieves 3.7 to 8 miles per US gallon (64 to 29 L/100 km; 4.4 to 9.6 mpg-imp). The current model of limousine costs between US$300,000 and $1.5 million. The presidential state car is maintained by the United States Secret Service.

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President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden riding in the presidential state car
The doors of the presidential state car have no keyholes; the way to open the passenger doors on the limousine is a secret known only to the Secret Service. It has more 5-inch (130 mm)-thick bulletproof glass than the previous model, run-flat tires, and an interior that’s 100% sealed to protect the occupants in the event of a chemical attack. The current presidential state car boasts rocket-propelled grenades, night vision optics, a tear gas cannon, on-board oxygen tanks, an armored fuel tank filled with foam to prevent explosion, pump-action shotguns, and bottles of the president’s blood type. The current presidential state car can also fire “multi-spectrum infrared smoke grenades as a counter-measure to a rocket-propelled grenade attack or anti-tank missiles.” The car features 8-inch (200 mm)-thick doors. General Motors spokeswoman Joanne K. Krell said of the new presidential state car, “The presidential vehicle is built to precise and special specifications, undergoes extreme testing and development, and also incorporates many of the top aspects of Cadillac’s ‘regular’ cars — such as signature design, hand-cut-and-sewn interiors, etc.”

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CNN interviewed Joe Funk, a former United States Secret Service agent and driver of Bill Clinton’s presidential state car during part of his tenure. Funk described a dichotomy of the car: while the president is wholly cut off from the outside world by the armor and bulletproof glass of the vehicle, he has at his fingertips fantastic communication capabilities including phones, satellite communications, and the Internet.


But President Obama’s Cadillac isn’t really a Cadillac. In fact, about all it shares with the crested wreath sedans you can buy from your local dealership are some styling cues. Still, The Beast is definitely a sight to behold – and there are few times it is better showcased than during an inaugural.

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Not much is actually known about The Beast since it falls under the Secret Service’s classified motor pool, but a few specifications and secrets have leaked out over the last few years. We pieced through what we could to provide you with this breakdown of 10 things worth knowing about Cadillac One, Limo One or… The Beast.


1. It isn’t a Cadillac. Unlike any presidential state car before it, The Beast shares little in common with a standard production car. Its chassis, diesel engine and transmission are based on those used in the Chevrolet Kodiak, a rugged commercial vehicle used as everything from a dump truck to a U-Haul truck.

Some standard trim pieces, like headlamps from an Escalade and tail lights from the now-discontinued STS keep it looking vaguely Cadillac-like.

2. It has its own airplane. The Secret Service makes use of a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to haul The Beast, a second limo and a heavily armored Chevrolet Suburban communications vehicle, any time the President is traveling. The Suburban is nicknamed Roadrunner and it is said to be a rolling communications office directly linked to a military satellite – hence the SATCOM dome festooned to its roof

3. Calling it armored is an understatement. There is probably not a better-armored vehicle with windows on the planet than The Beast. Its armor plating is said to be 8 inches thick and its doors weigh as much as those on a Boeing 757 aircraft. Five-inch thick bulletproof windows contain at least five layers to put a damper on any effort by subversives. And those gigantic, nearly bus-size Goodyear tires are Kevlar-reinforced run-flats capable of keeping The Beast on the road for quite some distance if needed. The interior is sealed off from the outside world to reduce risks of a chemical attack, while a special foam surrounds the fuel tank to insulate it in the event of an impact.

4. It’s exceedingly well-equipped. Pop open The Beast’s trunk and it is said that you’ll find everything from firefighting equipment and oxygen tanks to a cache of the president’s blood type. There are tear gas canisters, shotguns and, supposedly, grenade launchers, integrated into The Beast. The Secret Service has learned a lot since President John F. Kennedy’s open-top Lincoln Continental was fired upon on Elm Street in Dallas.

5. It holds seven passengers. At the very least, The Beast has three passengers aboard – the driver, the president’s lead Secret Service protective agent in the front passenger seat and, of course, the president himself. However, four additional seats in the back are available – three rearward facing spots on a bench and one spot next to the president for a guest. A folding desk separates the president from his guest’s spot.

Somewhat surprisingly, the president’s bench is covered in a dark blue cloth rather than leather (although plenty of hide is on board). Shoulder belts that retract toward the center of the bench and buckle into the outboard corners – the reverse of a normal rear seat – are included.

6. The Beast is not alone. The Secret Service actually has a few Beast-like vehicles. Although it’s not known whether they’re all functionally identical, some look more like a Cadillac DTS than The Beast. The other limousines are used for high-ranking foreign officials and VIP guests when they’re in Washington, D.C. It isn’t known why the Secret Service rotates between presidential vehicles, however.

In addition, the President sometimes travels in a heavily-armored Chevrolet Suburban or a modified Prevost bus known as Ground Force One rather than The Beast.

7. It runs on diesel. The Beast is believed to use a Duramax diesel engine closely related to that featured under the hood of Chevrolet and GMC’s full-size heavy duty pickup trucks. Why diesel? Aside from the durability associated with diesel engines, the fuel has a low volatility that reduces the risk of it exploding – and it can be found everywhere in the world, unlike high quality unleaded fuel.

8. Its pilot is a heck of a driver. Even though The Beast has more in common with a school bus than a sports car, its highly-trained drivers can execute tight J-turns and other police-style evasion techniques in the event of a situation gone south. The Secret Service drivers have undergone extensive training on a secluded site (believed to be a military base) with input from GM engineers and test drivers.

9. Its specs will not impress you. Burdened with lugging a rumored 20,000 lbs. worth of Beast around, the diesel engine isn’t a rocket. Hitting 60 mph from a complete stop takes about 15 seconds, which is more than just about any new car we can think of, and the big car’s top speed is said to max out at 60 mph. In addition, all that weight makes it a guzzler, sipping fuel at a rate of 8 mpg.

After the term

In the late 20th-century, it was customary for the United States Secret Service to participate in the destruction of the presidential state car after it had run its course. The federal agents use bullets and explosive rounds for two purposes. The first is to demonstrate the automobile’s effectiveness against such weaponry, while the second is to shred the vehicle and destroy the secrets of its manufacture, armoring, and defensive abilities.