Pennsylvania Avenue Cruisers

Our Favorite American Presidential Cars


November 7, 2016 Cars By
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Politics is a fraught subject, but it’s pretty simple from an automotive point of view: what vehicle does the president use as their everything-proof limousine? Since it’s President’s Day weekend, it’s a perfect time to take a moment and reflect on some of the greatest Presidential limos of all time.

1909 White Model M Steamer

President William Taft

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When Taft named his Model M Steamer the official Presidential car and converted the White House stables into a garage, it was the death knell for the horse and carriage at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The large open-top luxury limousine also set the tone for the next 100+ years of Presidents-elect and their stately rides.

1939 Packard Twelve

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Roosevelt’s Packard was the first presidential car to be built with bulletproof glass. Yet, it remained open-top — not the most thought-out design, protection-wise, but who can blame him for choosing a Packard V12 to get around?

1939 Lincoln K-series “Sunshine Special”

President Franklin D. Roosevelt

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Even as late as the FDR administration, the idea of armor plating presidential cars wasn’t commonplace. But after the attacks on Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt’s K-Series received bulletproof windows and armor plating. Aside from that, the only real modifications included runner-boards for secret service and a few lights and sirens.

1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan

Presidents Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and John F. Kennedy

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Truman needed something to replace Roosevelt’s aging Sunshine Special, so he commissioned a 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan Convertible to be stretched and later retrofitted with a glass “bubble top” canopy. It wasn’t the 360-degree protection we’ve come to expect, but it did a good enough job to stay in service all the way through 1965.

1961 Lincoln Continental SS-100-X

Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, and Richard Nixon

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Regrettably, one of the most recognizable Presidential limousines is JFK’s Lincoln, which marked the end of open top-motoring for Presidents on tour. Although Johnson and Nixon kept the stylish land-yacht in service, a bulletproof hard top was permanently added.

1970-72 Lincoln Continental

Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan

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Carrying on the lessons learned from JFK’s Lincoln, Ford, Carter and Reagan’s Continental came with bulletproof roof from the start. That said, there were openings built into the roof so that the president could wave to the public as he passed by — Again, something that would not fly with secret service today.

1983 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham

President Ronald Reagan

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After assassination attempts on both Ford and Reagan, roof openings were nixed. Reagan’s new Cadillac was custom built with large enough bulletproof windows that the President could easily be seen while still being provided maximum protection.

2009 Cadillac One, “The Beast”

President Barack Obama

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What makes Obama’s Cadillac fantastic is that it isn’t based on any one car; it’s a ground-up custom limousine. Though it looks like an overgrown Cadillac DTS, it also borrows parts from an Escalade and CTS, and it’s rumored to be built on a GM Kodiak Platform. Not only is it bulletproof, but it’s also IED-proof and can eject infrared smoke grenades in defense against RPGs and anti-tank missiles. And if that’s not enough, it has tanks of oxygen on board and can be sealed in the event of a chemical attack.

Ground Force One

President Barack Obama

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Ground Force One may not be a car, but there’s no way a $1.1 million, 45-foot-long party bus with the same amenities and defenses as “The Beast” isn’t making this list.

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