When President Barack Obama’s motorcade pilots its way through the streets of Kuala Lumpur today, as part of his first official visit to Malaysia, we will get one of the best looks at his Cadillac limousine. Which is often referred to as Cadillac One and occasionally as Limo One or The Beast.
From the time it entered service on January 20, 2009, not much is actually known about Cadillac One because it falls under the Secret Service’s classified motor pool, but a few specifications and secrets have leaked out over the last few years. We pieced through what we could to provide this breakdown of 10 things worth knowing about Cadillac One, Limo One or… The Beast.
Unlike any presidential state car before it, The Beast shares little in common with a standard production car. Its chassis, diesel engine and transmission are based on those used in the Chevrolet Kodiak.
Some standard trim pieces, like headlamps from an Escalade and tail lights from the now-discontinued keep it looking vaguely Cadillac-like.
2. It has its own airplane.
The Secret Service makes use of a C-17 Globemaster transport aircraft to haul The Beast, a second limo and a heavily armored Chevrolet Suburban communications vehicle, any time the President is traveling. The Suburban is nicknamed Roadrunner and it is said to be a rolling communications office directly linked to a military satellite – hence the SATCOM dome festooned to its roof
3. It should be compared to the Batmobile!
Its armor plating is said to be 20cm thick and its doors weigh as much as those on a Boeing 757 aircraft. The doors are so thick that Obama can’t hear any outside noise, so speakers are built in to play the ambient sound of the crowd.
A 13 cm thick bulletproof windows contain at least five layers to put a damper on any effort by subversives. Only the front driver’s window opens, to allow the driver to talk to secret service running alongside or to pay a toll. It is also hermetically sealed to secure it from chemical attack.
The tyres are Kevlar-reinforced run-flats capable of keeping The Beast on the road for quite some distance if needed. The interior is sealed off from the outside world to reduce risks of a chemical attack, while a special foam surrounds the fuel tank to insulate it in the event of an impact.
4. It’s well-equipped.
The trunk is said to be equipped with firefighting equipment and oxygen tanks to a cache of the president’s blood type. There are tear gas canisters, shotguns and, supposedly, grenade launchers, integrated into The Beast.
5. It holds seven passengers.
At the very least, The Beast has three passengers aboard – the driver, the president’s lead Secret Service protective agent in the front passenger seat and, of course, the president himself. However, four additional seats in the back are available – three rearward facing spots on a bench and one spot next to the president for a guest. A folding desk separates the president from his guest’s spot.
6. It flies two flags.
The Beast normally flies two flags, the American flag and the Presidential Standard, which are lit up at night with LEDs. When Obama is on a state visit, the Presidential Standard is replaced by the flag of the country he is visiting.
7. It runs on diesel.
The Beast is believed to use a 6.5 litre Duramax diesel engine closely related to that featured under the hood of Chevrolet and GMC’s full-size heavy duty pickup trucks. Why diesel? Aside from the durability associated with diesel engines, the fuel has a low volatility that reduces the risk of it exploding – and it can be found everywhere in the world, unlike high quality unleaded fuel.
8. Its pilot is a heck of a driver.
Even though The Beast has more in common with a school bus than a sports car, its highly-trained drivers can execute tight J-turns and other police-style evasion techniques in the event of a situation gone south. The Secret Service drivers have undergone extensive training on a secluded site (believed to be a military base) with input from GM engineers and test drivers.
9. Its specs will NOT impress you.
Burdened with lugging a rumored 9,000 kgs. worth of Beast around, the diesel engine isn’t a rocket. The top speed is only 100 kmh and it takes around 15 seconds to reach this. In addition, all that weight makes it a guzzler, sipping fuel at a rate of 3.4 KM/L.
10. The Beast is not alone.
The Secret Service actually has a few Beast-like vehicles. Although it’s not known whether they’re all functionally identical, some look more like a Cadillac DTS than The Beast. The other limousines are used for high-ranking foreign officials and VIP guests when they’re in Washington, D.C. It isn’t known why the Secret Service rotates between presidential vehicles, however.
In addition, the President sometimes travels in a heavily-armored Chevrolet Suburban or a modified Prevost bus known as Ground Force One rather than The Beast.