Being the President of the United States I’m sure has its difficulties, but it has to be super cool just because of the cars. Nowadays, the presidential motorcade includes a car that makes James Bond’s Aston Martin look like amateur hour. Nicknamed “The Beast” or “Cadillac One” or “First Car,” the official car of the president has many secrets we could never know about; however, there are some things we do know about it.
- It owns a private jet. Not kidding.
- It’s super-armored. Plating around the car is rumored to be 8 inches thick with 5-inch thick bulletproof windows and Goodyear Kevlar run-flat tires to handle the extra weight (which is as much as an airplane by the way).
- Not necessarily a Cadillac. The diesel engine and transmission are based on a dump truck-like Chevy Kodiak.
As the leader of our country, it’s easy to understand why the president gets the best of the best. And that’s been the case for all the presidents, including those that didn’t even ride in cars!
Have a look at our list of the most fascinating modes of executive transportation.
Horse and Carriage
George Washington was a huge horse and carriage guy. Not that he had much choice. He made his way around in a carriage that was typical for the wealthy at that time. Cream colored and pulled by six white horses, #1 was #1 in style when he made his presidential stately appearances.
After GW, the horse and carriage dominated presidential travel from John Adams to William McKinley; that’s over 100 years! Think of the horseshoes they went through!
Not So Fast, Mr. President
Ulysses S. Grant was a driving enthusiast that would have been great in the Fast and Furious movies had he been around for them. Doesn’t surprise me that he was a risk taker after going through the Civil War. Early on in his presidency, Grant — who preferred to drive himself around town — was cited for reckless and dangerous driving and had to pay the hefty $5 fine. He was used to going fast and had even challenged others to races and also ran over a young boy’s foot at one point! Despite his need for speed, Grant also had a custom carriage that had a secret compartment for munchies under the driver’s seat. This guy would have loved tailgating.
First Car Ride
It wasn’t until #26, Theodore Roosevelt, that a sitting president took a public car ride. Although he preferred horses and described cars as a “distinct addition to the discomfort of living,” he also believed automobiles would eventually become vital to transportation.
William H. Taft – When President Taft took office, he rode in a 1909 White Model M Steam Car. Taft brought this vehicle to the White House with the intention of making an impression regarding the beginning of the automotive era. There was an explosion of interest because of Taft’s affinity for utilizing cars to get from A to B, and the automotive industry nearly doubled in production…in just one year. It’s said that had he rode a horse that day, the automotive industry wouldn’t be where it is today. So thank you, Mr. Taft, for keeping me employed!
’61 Lincoln Continental
Taking four years to complete, John F. Kennedy’s Continental convertible was engineered to fit the president. Not that his actual physical stature needed special accommodations, just his presidential stature. The car was lengthened to include a middle section seat to give it an elegant limousine feel. The height of the retractable roof was raised as well adding a unique transmission. The car itself was decked out with luxury rather than security features.
So sadly, one change to presidential cars and motorcades were a direct result of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, which occurred in 1963. Since then, no president has appeared in public in an open-top car. The Continental did have a bubble top, but only protected passengers from weather; it was not bulletproof, nor was it bullet resistant. The security and safety of the president was obviously changed since that day. Presidents are no longer free to roam around the capital even due to the obvious security concerns.
Quick backstory: In 1996, Bill Clinton was in the Philippines attending the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum. During his visit, his motorcade was on its way to visit a local politician. Just prior to crossing a notable bridge, secret service officers received messages that warned of an assassination attempt on Bill Clinton and the motorcade was re-routed. This threat spawned the creation of the electronics-countermeasures vehicle, which now performs functions that include jamming remotely controlled explosives and detecting incoming missiles. So although this technically isn’t the president’s vehicle, in the age of communicating cars, the electronics-countermeasures vehicle is vital to the safety of the presidential limo.
The first Cadillac to be used for the president was the 1916 Series 53. Woodrow Wilson smiled comfortably in his Caddy for the World War I victory parade up and down the streets of Boston (they sure have had their share of victory parades.). Cadillac engines were used during the war effort, so Wilson got a taste of the upgraded custom work that was being used overseas.
Franklin D. Roosevelt needed the utmost security just as any other president had during their time in office. So Al Capone, after getting arrested for not paying his taxes (that’s still so unbelievable to me), had to give up his beautiful, green 1928 Cadillac V8 Town Sedan. The only thing is that it was heavily armored, featuring bulletproof glass and steel plating in the doors, this vehicle was perfect for a president (or a high-profile gangster). At any rate, it is said that FDR used this car to ride to give his speech following Pearl Harbor and basically…just kept using it. It’s not like Capone was going to need it where he was. The problem with this scenario is that it has yet to be proven, nor has it necessarily been disproven. Therefore, ipso facto, vis-à-vis, story like that’s gotta be true!
Ground Force One
It’s hard to ignore perhaps the most intimidating bus of all time with its ginormous structure painted jet black and looks as smooth as you like. There is a decoy bus for obvious reasons and both vehicles cost about a million smackers. Much like The Beast mentioned above, Ground Force One has safety features including a fire-suppression system, oxygen tanks to counter a chemical attack, and extra blood (his own, of course.) for the president in the case there’s an emergency. As you can already imagine, it’s armor plated with reinforced bulletproof glass and what do ya know…run-flat tires!