The U.S. Secret Service has begun the process of ordering up a new presidential limousine — but it will be a lot more complicated than simply checking out what’s available in Washington showrooms.
And while the White House has been pressing automakers to expand their “green” offerings with new hybrids, plug-ins, battery-cars and even hydrogen-fueled vehicles, it’s almost certain that the next presidential limo will stick to tried-and-true gasoline power when it rolls up to the White House in time for the next Commender-in-Chief’s inauguration in January 2017.
It will replace President Obama’s set of wheels — a behemoth estimated to weigh as much as 15,000 pounds and known as Cadillac One or The Beast. But it will carry over or enhance many of the critical features found on the car currently parked in the White House garage, with an emphasis on safety, security and constant communications.
The Department of Homeland Security kicked off the process of seeking a replacement this month with the announcement it plans to award a contract for the next presidential limo by Aug. 29. And for those who worry about government spending, the call for bids emphasized that it wants a proposal “based on (the) best value to the government.”
The bidding process is “restricted to Major domestic U.S Automobile Manufacturers, who have their primary headquarters located in the United States of America.”
U.S. automakers only need apply
Of course, that doesn’t mean the next president will have to settle for a Korean econobox. The bidding process is “restricted to Major domestic U.S Automobile Manufacturers, who have their primary headquarters located in the United States of America.”
General Motors is considered a strong favorite for the job considering it has supplied all of the limousines used for presidential duty for more than three decades. But Ford has also supplied the White House over the years, its best-known limousine being the ill-fated Lincoln convertible in which Pres. John F. Kennedy was riding when assassinated during a visit to Dallas in November 1963.
Gary Malerba / Courtesy The Henry Ford
The presidential limousine has evolved a long way since the one that President John F. Kennedy was riding in when he was shot on Nov. 22, 1963.
That shooting increased the need to secure the POTUS, as Washington insiders refer to the President of the United States. The Lincoln was renovated and returned to duty for Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson with a protective roof installed. And each limo since has upped the defensive ante, in keeping with the increasing sophistication of enemy firepower, from AK-47s to RPGs, IEDs and biological and other weaponry.
Designed to look something like a 2008 Cadillac DTS the Beast is actually a hybrid that apparently blends Caddy components with guts from a Chevrolet Kodiak commercial truck – along with tons of heavy armor.
Its armor reportedly includes 8-inch plates capable of stopping all but the biggest guns or explosive devices. Five-inch multi-layer windows make the doors as heavy as those on a 757 jet. The car is sealed against biochemical attacks.
Goodyear run-flat tires fit into extra-large wheel wells so The Beast can keep running in an emergency. Meanwhile, there are a number of other tricks that include a special night vision system. A blood bank matching the president's is kept in the trunk.
It takes plenty of torque to move a beast like the Beast and a diesel or gasoline engine will be the likely source of power for the next presidential limo – despite a promise made by candidate Barack Obama in 2008 that the White House fleet would go plug-in “as security permits” by 2012. (So far, not a single vehicle used at the mansion has gone electric.)
William McKinley was the very first president to ride in an automobile in November 1899, though Teddy Roosevelt was the first to commission a government-owned car, a white convertible Stanley Steamer. Roosevelt’s successor, William Howard Taft, converted the White House stables into a garage.
Each of those were convertibles, a traditional favorite for politicians at all levels who know the value of being seen by their constituents – but that changed forever on November 22, 1963.
Specially modified limousines have been around for quite some time, though Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s “Sunshine Special,” a V-12-powered Lincoln, was adapted to his needs as a polio victim and also allowed FDR to drive with an open top. It was only with the arrival of Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower that the Secret Service developed a protective but removable bubble top that was not used during Kennedy’s fatal visit to Dallas.
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First published March 17 2014, 4:37 AM