Presidential limousine has features to envy

Courtesy of Richard Perry
Richard Perry, The Hemet Car Guy.

Greetings from the Hemet Car Guy,

We have all heard of the presidential airplane, Airforce One, but did you know his car also has a name?

I don’t know if President Donald J. Trump is much of a car guy, but we do know that he now rides around in one of the most exclusive automobiles on the planet. If you’re not familiar with it, allow us to introduce you to “The Beast,” which looks like one Big Cadillac. Not much is actually known about The Beast, but since Feb. 20 is President’s Day, I thought I’d do a little investigating. While it operates out of the Secret Service’s classified motor pool, a few specifications and secrets have leaked out over the years. Of the information that has been made public, this is what we think you should know about the presidential limousine:

It isn’t actually 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 upon those used in the Chevrolet Kodiak, a rugged commercial vehicle previously sold as everything from a dump truck to a U-Haul. Some standard trim pieces, like headlamps from the Escalade and tail lights from the now-discontinued STS, keep it looking vaguely Cadillac-like.

It has its own airplane. The Secret Service makes use of a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to haul The Beast, a second limousine 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.

U.S. Army photo by Pvt. Gabriel Silva
A soldier from the 3d Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) salutes President Donald J. Trump as his motorcade passes in the 58th Presidential Inaugural parade in Washington D.C., Jan. 20, 2017.

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 eight 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 subversive effort. 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 the fuel tank is insulated with a special foam in the event of an impact.

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, according to rumors, 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 in Dallas.

It holds seven passengers. The Beast always has at least 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 are available in the back –three rearward facing spots on a bench and one guest spot next to the president. A folding desk separates the president from his guest. Somewhat surprisingly, the president’s bench is covered in a dark blue cloth rather than leather, which is the standard interior appointment.

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. However, it isn’t known why the Secret Service rotates between presidential vehicles. 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.
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.

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. 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.

Its performance 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 slower than just about any new car we can think of, and The Beast’s top speed is said to max out at 60 mph. In addition, all that weight makes it a guzzler, gulping fuel at a rate of 8 miles per gallon.

It’s due to retire. Though President Trump rode in the current iteration of The Beast for his inauguration, 2017 will see the introduction of an all-new presidential limousine.

So, yes, The Beast is on its farewell tour. I wonder if they will trade it in at VIP Autos?

Good Driving,
Richard J. Perry

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