Monday, November 8, 2010
Cadillacs, Lincolns, and Pierce Arrows. Presidential limousines and parade cars throughout history
The Cadillac limo that President Obama rides through town in is more like a tank than a car. It is believed to weigh-in at more than 10,000-lbs. Most of that is due to thick, bullet-proof glass and armor plating throughout. Even the tires are resistant to attack and contain innerliners just in case the outer tires are damaged.
Many of the specific details of the president’s car are secret. Cadillac provides information like “old-world craftsmanship” and “hand-sewn interior”, but for security reasons they don’t tell us things like what’s under the hood or how the car is built.
Obama’s limo is the first presidential Cadillac that isn’t named after a specific model. For example, previous versions were still considered to be Fleetwoods, DTSs, or Eldorados. This one is just a Cadillac Presidential Limousine. There are parts that you can recognize, though. For example, the headlights appear to be those used in a production Escalade.
In the early days, armor-plating and high-security wasn’t as big of a priority for the U.S. President. When William S. McKinley became the first president to ride in a car (a Locomobile Steam Carriage), he was just hanging right out there in the open with a couple of street cops riding bicycles nearby. But cars were a novelty in the beginning, and just the idea that it could motivate without being dragged by a horse was big news. Bulletproof automotive glass technology would have to come at a later date.
Eventually, as in most things, the biggest, most powerful companies began to get those prestigious presidential limousine contracts. As special orders and heightened security became more prevalent, General Motors and Ford seemed to take the lead.
Cadillac has supplied cars for our nation’s Commanders in Chief on-and-off since any living person can remember. Most of them had some version of armor-plating similar to this current offering. Some of them were all-out assault vehicles. In 1938, Cadillac provided two fully plated and armed behemoths to Franklin D. Roosevelt that were named the “Queen Mary” and the “Queen Elizabeth” after the huge ocean liners of the time.
The first full-on limousine that Cadillac produced for a president without the aid of an aftermarket upfitter came with the Clinton Fleetwood of 1993. Before that, all presidential limos started off as a production car that an outside company would transform. The ’93 Car was built from the ground-up by General Motors, and for the most part they continue that tradition today.
The most infamous presidential limousine of all time had to be the 1961 Lincoln Continental SS100-X, which people typically associate with the assassination of John F. Kennedy. And while the car was in use during one of the most significant events in U.S. history, it was not actually retired after the assassination. Instead, it was sent back to coachbuilder Hess & Eisenhart, where it was repainted from blue to black, and fortified with an armor-plated roof among other updates. The car remained in service for several years, and is now on display at the Henry Ford Museum.
If you click on the little dialogue balloon in the lower left corner of these pictures, you’ll see a caption with more information on that particular car.
Notable presidential vehicles throughout history
William S. McKinley – First president to ride in a car-Locomobile Steam Carriage
Theodore Roosevelt – Stanley Steamer
William Howard Taft - White Model M Steamer, and two Pierce Arrows
Woodrow Wilson – Cadillac, Pierce Arrow
Warren Harding – 1921 Packard Twin Six
Calvin Coolidge – 1928 Cadillac Town Car, Pierce Arrow
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1938 Cadillac Convertibles known as the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1939 Lincoln V12 Convertible known as the Sunshine Special
Franklin D. Roosevelt – 1928 Armored Cadillac 341A Town Sedan formerly belonging to Al Capone was used for Infamy Speech after Pearl Harbor attack.
Harry S. Truman – 1947 Cadillac
Harry S. Truman – 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitans, including one with a bubble top.
Dwight D. Eisenhower – 1953 Cadillac Eldorado
Eisenhower/Kennedy/Johnson/Nixon – 1952/1956 Chrysler Imperial
John F. Kennedy – 1961 Lincoln Continental Convertible SS-X100
Lyndon B. Johnson – 1965 Lincoln Continental
Richard M. Nixon – 1969 Lincoln Continental, 1972 Lincoln Continental
Jimmy Carter/ Ronald Reagan – Nixon’s ’72 Continental updated to look like a 1978
Ronald Reagan – 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood
George H.W. Bush – 1989 Lincoln Town Car
Bill Clinton – 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood
George W. Bush – 2001 Cadillac Deville
George W. Bush – 2005 Cadillac DTS
Barack Obama – 2009 Cadillac Presidential Limousine