American Presidential Motorcade: Meet "The Beast"
You won't believe the extensive security features
On Wednesday, January 20, 2021, the world watched as Joseph R. Biden, Jr., and Kamala D. Harris were sworn into the office of the United States President and Vice President, respectively. It was a different scene this Inauguration Day in Washington, D.C. as security concerns and Covid-19 restrictions kept the area on strict lockdown from the public.
Even before recent alarming events, security has always been the top priority for these leaders. The state car, used to transport the President, is a vehicle composed of some of the strongest defenses in the world, and it’s a spectacular feat of craftsmanship.
The Presidential state car, nicknamed “The Beast”, is currently a Cadillac that was commissioned in September 2018, under the previous presidency. It’s not any specific Cadillac model, but rather a cosmetic combination of the CTS and Escalade, and can hold seven passengers. The vehicle is maintained by the United States Secret Service and is held to an extremely high standard of safety.
The Beast lugs a hefty V8 diesel-powered GM engine, kicking out 214 horsepower. It weighs anywhere between 15,000 to 20,000 pounds and can only reach up to 60 mph due to its size. It sits on run-flat tires by Goodyear, the Regional RHS kind that are primarily used in heavy duty trucks.
The weight comes from more than eight inches of armor plated bodywork and five-inch thick bulletproof glass, all sitting on a reinforced steel chassis and plates strong enough to withstand a bomb. The doors weigh as much as those on a Boeing 757 plane. The armor can resist great impact, as well as act as a seal to protect its occupants in the event of a chemical attack. Even the fuel tank is extra protected with special foam to prevent it from exploding.
The Beast contains weaponry such as shotguns, tear gas, and apparently even a grenade launcher (but that’s a rumor). Its door handles are able to be electrified to shock unwanted intruders. On board are oxygen tanks, night-vision gear, firefighting equipment, and even a spare cache of the sitting President’s blood type. The cost to build it? The current one is estimated at around $1.5 million.
When one of the Presidential vehicles is no longer in use, it must be deconstructed by the Secret Service with fine intricacy to preserve the intelligent defense and secrets involved. However, a select few are on display at museums across the country; several are located at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, which include limousines used by Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Teddy Roosevelt, and even the 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
Alvintrusty, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Presidential vehicles have an extensive history of modifications to keep up with everchanging threats. In 1939, President Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first to have cars built by Secret Service standards. His favorite—a Lincoln V-12 convertible called the “Sunshine Special”. FDR was paralyzed from the waist down and he used this specially built convertible to meet the public without having to exit in his wheelchair.
The Sunshine Special underwent numerous safety modifications after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor which increased worries about possible assassination attempts. The White House history website has a fascinating page dedicated to this car and you can read it in detail here. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963, convertibles were out and even further protection was installed.
The Presidential motorcade consists of many more vehicles including police, ambulance, press, and other teams of essential staff. In current times, there’s about fifty vehicles in the fleet. One of the more notable motorcade cars, other than the President’s, is the “Roadrunner”.
The Roadrunner is currently a heavily armored and modified vehicle based around the Ford F-350 Super Duty. It's used as a command center to keep the administration in touch with military leaders at the Pentagon. It's also vital for use of electronic countermeasures—which basically means it can be used to launch a nuclear attack or help stop one.
It’s designed to protect against various types of electronic warfare, including IEDs, grenades, and anti-tank guided missiles. The antennas on its roof are designed to detect barrage jamming (electronic warfare in which the enemy jams the radio waves) and can launch infrared smoke grenades for a smoke screen to get the heck out of Dodge.
The Beast, Roadrunner, and a backup limo all fly on their own aircraft too—a C-17 Globemaster—which transports the vehicles around the world.
There will surely be more upgrades and tweaks to come as the years go on, and things are bound to change with a new President. So kindly note that details in this article are subject to change, but it gives you an idea at the incredible security features in these cars (plus, the Secret Service can't divulge all the juicy details).
The Beast was however equipped with a new mod, special for this Inauguration Day.