These days we take for granted that the President rides in one of the most advanced armored cars that rolls down the street, but this wasn’t always the case. Until the attack on Pearl Harbor prompted the Secret Service to beef up security for President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the President usually rode in any car of his choice.
But on December 8, 1941 FDR rode to deliver his “Infamy” speech in the first Presidential armored car…a ’28 Cadillac which once belonged to Al Capone. Yep, that’s right, the first armored Presidential car was commissioned by a gangster! It had been sitting in the Treasury Department’s impound lot until the Secret Service decided to put it back into action for an ironic last service. After that FDR’s ’39 Lincoln V12 convertible “Sunshine Special” was modified to be bullet proof, and he rode out the rest of his term in his upgraded Lincoln.
In fact a long line of Presidential rides were Lincolns. After FDR other Presidents who rode in Lincolns include Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Lyndon B. Johnson, and of course John F. Kennedy. What many don’t know is that the infamous ’61 Lincoln that JFK was assassinated in still served as the Presidential limo to his successor LBJ, and remained in service for another 13 years! After the investigation of JFK’s assassination the car was rebuilt, painted black and put back on the road. Why would this morbid choice be made? The simple answer was time and money…it could have taken 3-4 years to design and build a new Presidential limo, so instead they rebuilt this already modified Lincoln.
In ’83 Reagan’s administration brought back the Cadillac, and most of the Presidential rides since then have bore the Cadillac shield. Barack Obama’s administration took it a step up with a Cadillac totally modified by the firm Prevost Car, nicknamed “the beast.” Looking at the doors may give us an insight into Michelle Obama’s arm workout – this thing is no joke!
From open carriages, to a gangster’s confiscated ride, and now to a car so crazy secure it’s called “the beast” this metamorphosis just goes to show you how our view on security plays out in the rides our Presidents push. What’s next? Only time will tell.