Cars of US Presidents Over the Years & How They Have Evolved

The Quint
·6-min read

There has always been a fascination with cars that are used by some top leaders in the world. One of the most powerful on that list is the car that is used by the President of the United States of America.

Dubbed “The Beast”, the current US President Donald Trump is chauffeured around in a Cadillac which is a marvel of mechanical engineering and many might relate it with a tank due to the security it offers. The armoured vehicle is managed by the US Secret Service and is the epitome of high-security vehicles.

With the US Presidential election right around the corner, we thought it might be a good idea to take you down memory lane and show you the cars US presidents have used over the years, all the way back to 1939.

Lincoln K Sunshine Special (1939)

The first-ever official presidential car was the Lincoln K Sunshine Special commissioned back in 1939 and was used by Franklin D. Roosevelt – the 32nd President of the United States.

The car was in service till 1942 and was also the first car to receive recommendations and customisations based on the Secret Service.

It had a two-way radio, extra-wide running boards and grab-handles for Secret Service agents. The Lincoln got some extra protection after the Pearl Harbour incident in 1941, with added armoured-plated doors and bulletproof tyres.

If the occupants of the car needed to retaliate, submachine guns were stored in each compartment door.

Lincoln Custom (1942)

The Lincoln Custom was the second presidential car that was built during the Second World War in 1942 and was used by Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry Truman, the 33rd President of the United States.

This was the first car to be delivered with protective armour and also came with a "parade generator" which would keep the lights running over extended periods of time.

Lincoln Cosmopolitan (1950)

Then President Harry Truman chose Lincoln over Ford to make his presidential car which was the Lincoln Cosmopolitan. One of the modifications that were made to the $50,000 car was that the headroom was increased to accommodate tall silk hats as they were in fashion at the time.

Apart from an armoured-plated bodywork, the car also got a “bubble-top” to help the people have a view of the president inside the car.

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Lincoln Continental SS-100-X (1961-1972)

The fourth iteration of the Lincoln Continental was used between 1961 and 1972 although we’ll focus on the SS-100-X. This moniker was given by the Secret Service and was the same car in which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963.

Despite the incident, the car remained in service for eight more years (with a hardtop installed) but many new security features were added, like titanium armour plating, a bulletproof permanent hardtop and glass.

Cadillac Fleetwood (1983)

Ronald Reagan was the first and the only US President to use the Cadillac Fleetwood when it was delivered n 1983. It was after a long haul of Lincoln cars that a Cadillac was given opportunity to drive the President.

It was armoured to the teeth with bulletproof glass, thickly armoured bodywork, heavy-duty brakes and over-sized wheels.

Lincoln Town Car (1989)

The Lincoln Town Car was the last Lincoln to be used as an official state car after which Lincoln took the reins permanently.

It features security upgrades like bulletproof glass and armoured plating, which was becoming a standard for all presidents’ cars, although the 7.5 litre V8 powertrain had to be updated to carry the heavier kerb weight.

Cadillac Fleetwood (1993)

The updated Cadillac Fleetwood made a comeback during President Clinton’s term in 1993. The sunroof was purposefully removed from the car to offer extra protection. It was powered by a 7.4-litre V8 engine from a Chevrolet pick-up truck.

In 1993, it was considered extremely high tech to have access to phones, Internet and "satellite communications" while sitting in the car.

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Cadillac DeVille (2001)

According to the commentators of the time, the Cadillac DeVille was the most technologically advanced car in the world at the time.

Besides being a heavily armoured vehicle with bulletproof glass the limousine was also equipped with an infrared night vision system and rumoured to have an emergency supply of blood, if needed.

Cadillac DTS Presidential State Car (2005)

The Cadillac DTS was introduced in 2005 and was a hand-crafted model with specifications handed over by the Secret Service.

Due to the nature of its secrecy, not a lot of details have come out about the car but it’s confirmed to have five-inch-thick armour panels that surrounded the car.

Though the thick bulletproof car restricted the sunlight from entering, a fluorescent halo lighting system was added to ensure that the president inside can catch some rays without having to open a window.

Cadillac "Cadillac One" (2009)

The Cadillac One came into action in 2009 and was used by President Barack Obama in one of his first inaugural parades. It has also been used by the current US President Donald Trump.

The specs for the car were provided by the Secret Service, and it featured state-of-the-art electronics, five-inch-thick bombproof glass and a sealed interior to prevent against chemical attacks.

It was the presidential car until 2018 and a new model came into service after that, called “The Beast”.

Ground Force One (2011)

The bus borrows its name from the president’s plane – Air Force One. The Ground Force One is a black armoured bus used by the president and his/her officials.

The 45 m-long bus has been designed by the Secret Service and comes loaded with an array of security features, including oxygen tanks to guard against chemical attacks, an extra supply of the president's blood and an enemy suppression fire system.

It is estimated to cost around 1.1 million dollars.

Cadillac 'The Beast'

The update to the 2009 variant, the new Cadillac has similar security features with a few minor updates.

The car gained notoriety after Donald Trump's state visits to the UK, and his 2018 meeting with Kim Jong-un.

It comes with kevlar-lined tyres which prevent the car from slowing down if the tyres are shot at, offering a state-of-the-art communication system as standard and secure oxygen and blood supply as standard.

Which President Had the Most Expensive Car?

If you consider the inflation today, even after adjusting it, President Kennedy's Lincoln Continental SS-100-X was the most expensive of all the presidential cars.

In actuality, the car would have cost $7,347 but due to the customisations the cost went up to $200,000 back in 1961, which today would be around $1.74 million.

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