A BEASTLY RIDE
There have been any number of famous and legendary beasts over the years. The first that comes to mind is the misunderstood creature from “Beauty and the Beast.” There’s also Cincinnati’s Kings Island Amusement Park where its own “Beast” – a gut-clenching, teeth-chattering wooden roller coaster – has been thrilling fans since 1979.
But the remarkable beast we’re going to talk about today is another story entirely. Also known as Cadillac One, when General Motors unveiled President Barack Obama’s new presidential limousine before his inauguration in January 2009, Secret Service agents immediately dubbed this wonder on wheels: “The Beast.”
Certainly, presidential cars have drawn attention since Teddy Roosevelt decided to buy the first car using taxpayer dollars, a snazzy white Stanley Steamer. His successors also were interested in having hot wheels, with Taft opting for a Model M Steamer as well as a pair of Pierce Arrows reserved for state occasions. (Incidentally, while it’s true that Taft was an exceptionally large individual, it is only a nasty rumor that there actually had to be two Pierce Arrows so the cars could pull in tandem an oversized carriage in which the jovial Taft smiled and waved at the adoring crowds.)
Anyhoo, the current official car replaces the 2004 Cadillac DTS limo favored by George W. Bush. In the interest of leaving no stone unturned when it comes to balancing the budget, Obama seriously considered keeping the Bush car. Unfortunately, the spotted cowhide seats and LED party lights were not to his taste.
According to Cadillac, Obama’s Beast includes many design elements found in the brand’s popular current models, the CTS sport sedan and Escalade. The vehicle has a stylish dual-textured grille and distinctive front and rear lighting, as well as top-of-the-line security features that even LeBron James doesn’t have in his Escalade.
- The armored doors on the Beast are about 8” thick and weigh as much as a cabin door on a Boeing 757. (One source claimed the doors could withstand a hit from an asteroid.)
- The windows are 5” thick. Now, spread your thumb and forefinger to what you think is about a 5” span – and imagine glass that thick. Yes. Really.
- The car is equipped with Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear Regional RHS truck tires, but should the run-flat tires be blasted away – the vehicle can escape at speed on its special steel rims.
- Even the gas tank is armor-plated and equipped with a special foam that will prevent it from exploding, even from a direct hit.
- And finally, it appears that while the size of the engine and other goodies under the hood remain secret, it’s probably safe to say that the limo has a little more oomph than the Ford Escape Hybrid President Obama drove in Chicago before the election.
Before moving on to other interesting tidbits about the Beast, here’s a fun historical note: Prior to World War II, the Secret Service made it a point to choose hefty cars and went on to equip them with easy-to-reach weapons, two-way radios, and running boards wide enough for a Secret Service Agent to jump alongside for added protection.
In 1939, Franklin D. Roosevelt commissioned a Lincoln V12 convertible especially for his use that was nicknamed the “Sunshine Special.” But after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, the Secret Service didn’t feel the car was safe enough. The very next day, gangster Al Capone’s heavily armored 1928 Cadillac 341A Town Sedan was confiscated from an impound lot and rushed into service for the U.S. Government. With bulletproof tires, inch-thick windows, storage compartments for submachine guns, and more, the mob’s gangster-mobile served the president well until the “Sunshine Special” could be toughened up and made suitable for the war years.
However, the Beast wouldn’t be a truly presidential ride if it didn’t have more to offer than impregnable safety. The back of the car comfortably seats four and is higher than a normal car, presumably to accommodate the freakishly tall members of the First Family. It also has countless features sure to appeal to all the Obama clan.
Peek in the back and you’ll find all kinds of goodies, starting with a hideaway desktop with a laptop computer and Wi-Fi for Mr. O; a satellite phone and direct lines to the Pentagon and Vice President
(for . . . ?); twin bedazzled Kindles loaded with Harry Potter and Twilight series books to keep Malia and Sasha entertained on long rides; a pantry stocked with pudding cups, Skittles and Dr Pepper; Beggin’ Strips for Bo; a flat screen TV and a DVD collection including classics like “Saved by the Bell” and “West Wing;” Michelle’s mobile accessory closet and law library . . . . Now, that’s a beast any world leader would be proud to call his (or her) own.