The West Wing Wheels: Barack Obama
Drive down Pennsylvania Avenue with the United States Presidents in this 10-part series
From Lincoln to Ford, the United States automotive industry has been greatly affected by the Presidents of the United States. Pardon the pun. However, cars have also had a profound impact on the presidents themselves. As the most powerful person in the country, the President of the United States needs a powerful set of wheels to get around. Each President of the 20th and 21st century possessed his own fleet of personal vehicles.
Over the years, the United States Presidents have owned some very interesting automobiles. From a 20th century electric car, to a car that drove on water, presidential cars are among the most cool and quirky in our country’s extensive history. In this installment, I will examine the presidential vehicles of 10 of our country’s most famous and infamous leaders. So let’s explore the personal cars of the Commander in Chief with “The West Wing Wheels.”
Barack Obama: 44th President of the United States (2009-2016)
Bill Clinton’s not the only presidential Democrat who misses driving. Current President of the United States Barack Obama misses the opportunity to get behind the wheel as well. He and his wife Michelle couldn’t even teach their daughter Malia how to drive. That rite of passage was instead facilitated by the Secret Service.
Deep down, Obama’s a bona fide car guy. Over the years, he has driven around in a variety of different vehicles. However, the car he himself learned how to drive in nearly nipped that enthusiasm for driving in its bud.
Young Barack Obama learned the intricacies of automotive endeavors in his grandfather’s Ford Granada. Most people remember their first car fondly. Obama has no such nostalgic adoration for the Granada. In his own words, the car “may be the worst car Detroit ever built.”
According to Obama, the Granada was built like a tin can. In order to maintain the large dimensions of the vehicle, Ford used tin in the build. This made the vehicle unstable. At speeds over 80 mph, the car would lose control, endangering the life of the future President of the United States.
The president’s view on Motown’s automotive industry hasn’t prevented him from buying American cars. Obama was a big fan of his classy Chrysler 300C sedan. However, the 300C is not the most fuel efficient or environmentally friendly of vehicles. And when environmental reform is one of the big ticket items on your ballot, you’ve got to walk the talk. So around the time that Obama entered the fast lane to the presidency, he traded the Chrysler for a environmentally green Ford Escape Hybrid SUV.
Once Barack Obama won the presidency, he had to hand over his driving privileges to the Secret Service. However, he got a pretty sweet consolation prize: The Beast.
If this vehicle sounds imposing, that’s because it is! The Beast is the nickname of President Obama’s presidential limousine, also known as Cadillac One. Only Cadillac One isn’t really a Cadillac at all.
Sure it bears the Cadillac badge, but the Beast shares more in common with a truck. The chassis for the vehicle is rumored to be based upon the GMC TopKick/Chevrolet Kodiak. What makes the Beast truly unique is that it is the first presidential limo designed from the ground up. In the past, the presidential limousine was always the product of modification to a vehicle bought off the lot.
Furthermore, the Beast is not alone. This animal travels in packs. There are a dozen Beasts, rotated between each use. The Beasts that are not carrying the president around are parked under the Secret Service headquarters and kept under 2- hour surveillance. You’d keep an eye on them too if each one had cost you $1.5 million to produce!
Measuring 18 feet long and 5 feet 10 inches tall, the Beast is massive. It also weighs a ton. Many tons, in fact. The exact weight of the vehicle is classified, but estimates exceed well over 15,000 pounds! Unlike Obama’s fuel-efficient Ford Escape, the Cadillac One gets an average of 3.7 miles per gallon.
What are some of the Beast’s features? Get ready for a model overview straight out of Ian Flemming’s James Bond novels.
- Kevlar-enforced tires, which are resistant to puncturing
- 5-inch thick bulletproof glass
- An armored-plated fuel tank, surrounded in a special foam that prevents it from exploding
- An encrypted satellite phone placed inside in order to make emergency calls to the Pentagon
- 8-inch thick, armor-plated doors, which are as heavy as the cabin doors of a Boeing 757
- A night-vision camera and tear gas containers built into the front of the vehicle
- A separate supply of oxygen and a cache of the Obama’s blood type are housed in the vehicle
The Beast is a moving fortress, designed to protect the president in any scenario. So it’s surprising to hear that the next President of the United States, whoever he or she may be, will be greeted with a brand new presidential limo. Long gone are the days when Kennedy’s Lincoln Continental was used by multiple presidents after his death. The only question is, how are they going to top the bastion that is Obama’s Beast?
With that, “The West Wing Wheels” closes the curtains on its final entry. I hope you all enjoyed this special installment of The News Wheel more than your high school history class. Maybe you even learned something! I definitely enjoyed learning about the interesting and sometimes downright quirky vehicles of the United States Presidents. Whether these presidents rode around in a mobile bulletproof bunker or a transforming aquatic car, they took hold of the wheel in America’s driver’s seat. On the road ahead, who knows what fascinating automobiles the future Presidents of the United States will drive.
Quick, to the Trump-mobile!
Don’t worry, that was just a joke. Hopefully…
Past installments of “The West Wing Wheels” include:
Zachary Berry currently resides in the Dayton, Ohio area. However, he enjoys traveling from place to place, as he was born in Oklahoma City and has also lived in Albuquerque and Orlando (such is the life of a military brat). Zachary graduated from Ohio University with a major in Strategic Communication, which is fancy talk for advertising and public relations. Beginning his career at The News Wheel as a lowly intern, he was able to climb his way to the top, eventually claiming his place within the last cubicle on the left. Other jobs that Zachary has held include driving around a safari truck at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. When he’s not putting his nose to the grindstone, Zachary enjoys watching and critiquing movies and television. See more articles by Zachary.