US Presidential Cars
By: Good2GoPublished: June 15, 2016
There truly is no time like election season in America. Social media becomes a political battleground to test the limits of friendships. The latest presidential debate is typically the hottest topic of conversation at any gathering. Needless to say, the months leading up to a Presidential election are not a spectacle you’ll want to miss. Even though America is often divided during election season, one front we can unite on is the safety of all our leaders.
Although the Secret Service rarely divulges the specific plans they use to protect the President of the United States, the Presidential state car is always held to a very specific set of standards. It hasn’t always been that way, though. The President typically traveled in a horse-drawn carriage until Francis and Freelan Stanley, two twins from Massachusetts, began manufacturing a steam-powered car known as the Stanley Steamer in 1897. Two years later, in an effort to popularize their invention, the Stanley brothers visited the White House and invited President William McKinley to take a ride in the Stanley Steamer. President McKinley, who would later be proven wrong, said that the automobile would never replace a horse-drawn carriage as a more efficient mode of transportation.
The First Presidential Cars
William Howard Taft eventually ditched carriages all together and ordered the purchase of the first official presidential limousine, known as the presidential state car. The White Motor Company Model M Steamer was 40-horsepower and had 7 seats, which is probably a good thing since Taft was 6’4” tall and weighed over 300lbs – making him our largest president in history. Although Taft did not know how to drive a car, he owned four and was frequently driven around in them, closely followed by his Secret Service Agents.
It wasn’t until 1919, when President Wilson led a World War One victory parade in a Cadillac convertible, that the state car was first used for an official purpose. Up until that point, the state car was primarily used at the president’s leisure. While Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, a tragedy struck that would permanently change the President’s mode of transportation. Roosevelt and former Chicago Mayor Anton Cermak were in the back of an open car when a gunman fired five shots at them, which missed Roosevelt but injured four bystanders and killed Mayor Cermak. The Secret Service knew there had to be several layers of security added.
Increased Safety Features
Enter the “Sunshine Special,” a 1939 Lincoln K-Series Convertible with a twelve-cylinder engine, which became the official Presidential limousine for President Roosevelt. While bulletproof glass was being added to the Sunshine Special, Roosevelt’s Secret Service needed an equally safe option for the president to use. There is some speculation that Roosevelt used a 1928 Cadillac Town Sedan – the same driven by well-known gangster Al Capone. Although the truth is relatively unknown, the legend is that Roosevelt drove Al Capone’s bulletproof car to deliver his “Day of Infamy” speech to declare war on the Japanese after their attack on Pearl Harbor.
It wasn’t uncommon for the president to ride in the back of a convertible during public events. In 1950, a glass bubble was added to the top to be used during motorcades for additional security. A year after being elected President, John F. Kennedy received a custom-built 1960 Lincoln Continental Model 74 limousine. Although the President’s new ride had plenty of advanced features, it was missing one key component – air conditioning. Since the bubble-top would often make the car too hot, Kennedy frequently rode without it. In November 1963, Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas while riding in a motorcade. Additional armor and a fixed hard roof were added until the car was replaced by Lyndon Johnson with two 1965 Lincoln Continental Executive limousines.
The Presidential limousine has undergone many swaps, additions, and changes in an effort to maximize security. Popular models have included the 1989 Lincoln Town Car used by George H.W. Bush, a specially designed Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and currently, President Barack Obama’s special-built 2009 Cadillac also known as “The Beast.” Obama’s limousine has been designed to protect him against gunshots and explosions, and is equipped with tires that will still work when they are flat. The car itself carries its own air supply and is sealed against chemical and biological weapons.
There have been several versions of “The Beast” since 9-11, but the exact amount is unknown to the public. However, there are always two exact versions of the same car in each motorcade so no one ever truly knows which vehicle the President might be riding.
It’s no secret that the safety of our President is one of the nation’s top priorities, just like it’s Good2Go’s main focus to keep you protected while you’re on the road. Good2Go Auto Insurance offers a variety of coverage plans, so it’s easy to find one that fits your needs. Get started on your plan today by visiting us at www.good2go.com.