Cars are a great way to learn about our past and especially American history. You can certainly learn a lot about our presidents based on the cars they drove (or rode in).
The United States presidential state car, or the presidential limo, was more recently better known as “The Beast.” These imposing cars reflect the auto and presidential trends of their day.
Howard Taft’s Pierce-Arrow
President Taft was the first president to officially purchase presidential cars. The first of his four was the Pierce-Arrow he bought in 1909.
Taft saw the future of transportation and converted the White House horse stables into a car garage.
His auto purchases sent a message to the country and the automobile industry that transportation for the president of the United States and the American people was going to change. Following his lead, the government invested in road improvements, and the public’s interest in automobiles grew almost instantly.
Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Sunshine Special” limo
President Roosevelt was the first president to involve the Secret Service with the presidential limo beginning in 1936.
In 1939, his Lincoln Motor Company V12 convertible called the “Sunshine Special,” was the first presidential limo built to Secret Service specifications. The limo had a heavy duty suspension and standing boards for Secret Service agents.
During World War II, the “Sunshine Special” was equipped with bulletproof glass and a compartment for machine guns.
Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, and a Lincoln
Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy all preferred the Lincoln. Each model was modified to suit each president’s desires, needs, and style.
Tragically, the removable top option came to an end after President Kennedy’s assassination. The Lincoln Continental was then redesigned with improved telecommunications gear and flat-proof tires. A bulletproof, clear glass enclosure was installed in models after the JFK assassination, but eventually, all presidential limo roofs evolved into hardtops.
Cadillac, Lincoln Town Car, Cadillac
The 1980s ushered in the first Cadillacs following the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan. Beginning in 1984, he rode in the Cadillac Fleetwood, which was taller, longer, and rugged enough for improvements in bulletproof glass, oversized tires, and armor plating.
The Lincoln Town Car made a brief comeback in 1989 before President Bill Clinton returned to a Fleetwood in 1993.
Born in 2001 with the George W. Bush presidency, “The Beast” was the presidential car to beat until 2018. A Cadillac in name only, really, “The Beast” is not a model of any specific vehicle, but instead, a creation of the research and development arm of General Motors.
No one model car could withstand the modifications, demands, and specifications from the Secret Service. “The Beast” and its successor drive the president with armored fuel tanks designed to fill with foam to prevent explosions.
Weighing over 20,000 pounds with an estimated cost of over $1.5 million each, the presidential car is completely maintained by the Secret Service.
Designed to withstand a missile attack, it has five-inch bulletproof glass and is equipped with a self-contained environmental system in case of a chemical attack. This superhero car is even rumored to carry pints of the president’s blood type in the event of an assassination attempt.
Essentially, the presidential car has become a presidential tank.