10 Incredible Features In The President's Cadillac Limo

Presidential transportation is a thing that has been around as long as...well, presidents. There was a time when transporting the President was not much of a concern since everyone rode by horse or carriage and sniper rifles did not yet exist. While the Secret Service was created during Lincoln's presidency, the first protection of a president was not a full-time duty, and not until the assassination of President McKinley did the agency provide full-time protection of the president, according to the Secret Service website.

The duties of the Secret Service have evolved over time and have been updated with technology as the country grew. This has included the President's transportation, which involved special train cars at one time and then automobiles as they became part of mainstream American life. 1941 marked the first year the Presidential Limousine was armored, and all cars after Kennedy's assassination would be enclosed. Cars became increasingly armored and protective up until the modern-day.

The current vehicle. Introduced in 2018, is custom built by General Motors and takes the look of contemporary Cadillac models. The Secret Service keeps details about the Presidential Limousine secret, including former models. Everything that is known about the car comes from eagle-eyed reporting and a bit of speculation. The current vehicle, affectionately referred to as The Beast, is packed full of high-tech features, many of which we will never know. However, of those known to the public, here are ten incredible features of The Beast.

There are many

The Secret Service moniker for the presidential limo, The Beast, is something of a misnomer, as there are 12 of them, according to Autoweek. Reuters reported at the time the current vehicle was introduced by the Secret Service that General Motors won contracts worth $15.8 million to develop the limo running from 2014 to 2017. No details about how the funds were allocated, but, if it were divided among 12 vehicles, that would amount to more than a million dollars each.

The Secret Service operates several limos for a few reasons. They are often used for foreign visits and need transportation stateside and overseas ready to go at the same time. They also use more than one limo in the motorcade to transport members of the President's entourage. Furthermore, additional vehicles are kept as backups should problems arise with the primary cars in use. Every vehicle is fitted to the same standards such that no matter which one the President is riding in, nobody will be any wiser, possibly including the President.

Unique custom build

While the limousines of past Presidents have been modified versions of production models, the current vehicle is a custom build from the ground up. Car and Driver reports that the chassis is a GMC TopKick, a heavy-duty truck chassis, and the body panels are created to look similar to a production Cadillac limousine but are wholly unique to The Beast. From afar it looks much like a familiar Cadillac, but up close it becomes obvious it is a large vehicle, and that is apparent in pictures with people standing next to it, usually Secret Service agents.

The windows are especially tall to give a clear view of the President. The pillars and door frames are noticeably thicker and larger than most any other car on the road. The doors are also eight inches thick and said to weigh as much as the cabin door of a Boeing 747. There is good reason it is called The Beast.

Hermetically sealed windows for extra protection

One of the easiest-to-spot differences between The Beast and a regular production car is the windows. They are unusually tall and more than unusually thick. The windows are tall to allow spectators to catch a glimpse of their leader being whisked away by his security team, and they are thick for protection. Bulletproof glass is a product that has been available for years and is often offered on modified limousines bought by high-profile corporate executives and leaders of foreign countries or oligarchs of others. The windows of The Beast are unique, however, in that the manner of their production along with any other specifications are classified. Autoweek tells us the glass is five inches thick. It is safe to assume that the glass offers a level of protection not found in any other car on Earth, making it all but impossible to shatter or break into.

Kevlar tires

Run-flat tires are a product that has been around in the consumer market for decades now. They have been adopted in consumer vehicles and the military alike. The advantages of such a tire are obvious.

The need for tires on such a high-security vehicle as a Presidential Limo is a bit different. The ability to continue driving after experiencing a puncture if traveling in a foreign country would give the Secret Service the ability to continue traveling until it is possible to ensure POTUS can transfer to accommodations or to another form of travel without delay. Not only would it keep from interrupting the President's schedule, but the country could also save itself from the embarrassment of having the leader of the free world experience a breakdown. It is not clear if AAA responds to POTUS. The L.A. Times says the tires on The Beast are ballistic resistant and reinforced with Kevlar, the same material used in bulletproof vests. Yahoo News Australia also notes the wheels themselves are reinforced more robust than the average passenger car. Not only would having a flat be a bad look for POTUS but having the tires shot out would be catastrophically bad.

Specially-trained drivers

The Secret Service is tasked with the security of the President and handles most ground transportation as well, with the Marines and Air Force handling duties in the air. Ground transportation includes not only the limousine but also an armored custom bus denoted as Ground Force One. They also manage a fleet of cars, SUVs, and motorcycles that accompany the motorcade. Drivers of any of these vehicles go through extensive training to qualify for such duties. Agents must complete a driver training course to be certified to drive in the motorcade and an additional course specifically for the limousine. It is among the most highly coveted assignments within the Secret Service.

Voice of America describes the training as more than just a defensive driving course. While elements of any type of defensive driving are integral to the training, the purpose of the training is protective driving. This means drivers need to be skilled not only in how to drive and maneuver the vehicles in extreme circumstances but also in how to effectively provide security to the occupants. Formal training for the drivers did not exist before 1970, and today includes a 5-day course for drivers in the motorcade and a 5-day course specifically for the limousine. Only 60 percent of applicants qualify at the end of the course.

The plane

Traveling to foreign countries for the President is a major undertaking. Besides all the arrangements for accommodations and functions in the itinerary need to be carefully planned and executed, all the transportation must be in place well in advance of arrival. Before any visit happens, the Secret Service delivers two or more of the limos to the destination country or countries by flying them on a cargo plane.

The workforce of our armed services is the venerable C-17 Globemaster which transports everything from heavy military equipment to humanitarian aid around the world, and this is what the Air Force uses to move The Beast around. The movement of the presidential vehicle may also be accompanied by a complement of servicemen stationed offshore on an aircraft carrier near the host country, according to the Air Force. Moving POTUS and the accompanying entourage is a major operation involving hundreds of people, dozens of people, and multiple aircraft and executes the most secure travel on Earth.


The President is never off work and even when POTUS is on a vacation, the demands of the office aren't far away. Global events can spring up and require important decisions at a moment's notice, so the President is kept within a short distance of communications at all times. The limo is somewhat of a mobile extension of the Oval Office. The cars are outfitted with state-of-the-art satellite communications such that contacting the joint chiefs of staff, military generals, or the vice president is always an option.

The details of the communications, like so many other facets of the limo, are highly classified. However, there are some safe assumptions along with a few details that give a good idea of what is on board. In an episode of Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, President Obama tells Jerry Seinfeld, "I could call a nuclear submarine right here," and adds "It's a cool feature. Pus seat warmers." The car is outfitted with secure communications lines but is also followed by a vehicle dubbed The Roadrunner, according to The Drive. Its responsibilities are to carry the equipment that makes the secure satellite connections and also is said to be equipped with other equipment such as radar to monitor surroundings and see any possible incoming threat.


There are many copies of The Beast. GM was contracted to make twelve of them for a few reasons. Multiple limos are often used in a motorcade to transport not only the President but other officials and dignitaries. Multiple copies are needed to provide transport at both ends of a flight. Extra limos are also flown in or kept in a garage for redundancy. Most importantly, The Beast is built to an extremely high standard, but like the humans that build it, it is not perfect and breakdowns happen.

Previous versions of the car experienced breakdowns due to the added weight of all the safety features. The engines were the same as in passenger vehicles and wore out quickly. Other maladies can also arise. The Atlantic reported in 2011 an incident in which one of the limos got stuck exiting the embassy in Ireland. In videos of the incident, it appears the vehicle bottomed out and was prevented from continuing to drive. BBC posted a video of another time in which the limo had a bit of trouble exiting the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street. In the video, the driver attempts to turn the massive vehicle around and ends up in a five-point turn slowly getting the length of the ship righted and down the road.

Heavy armor

The first armored limousine for POTUS was built for Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It was decided to be reinforced due to the heightened levels of security from WWII and his 1939 Lincoln "Sunshine Special" was outfitted with armor in 1942, per the Secret Service website. Although it was a convertible car, the doors received special plating to make them resistant to small arms fire.

The modern-day limousine is substantially tougher than FDR's car. Specifics are clearly top-secret, but several cues can be taken from the car to signify how much different it is than regular production cars. Pictures showing the President entering the car reveal massively thick doors, 8 inches by Autoweek's account. Further inspection of the pillars around the windows shows how much thicker they are than any other car. Not only do they need to be extremely strong to protect against impact, but they also have to house the incredibly thick and heavy glass. It is certain they create some of the biggest blind spots of any other car on the road, but it all serves a purpose, keeping POTUS safe.