Hail to the Chief: The best presidential rides of all time
This election cycle may have left you struggling with who you think should be taking office in January as the President of the United States. By now, you’ve cast your vote and the rest is history, as we say goodbye to political ads and exhaustive campaigning and gear up for inauguration day.
As exciting as the party on the National Mall is sure to be, not only will Americans be witnessing the start of a new term, but the POTUS elect will be taking the trip to Capitol Hill in a whole new presidential limousine.
The first specialized whip designed exclusively to taxi around the most powerful man in the world came about in 1939 when Lincoln created the Sunshine Special for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Having already survived an assassination attempt six years earlier in the back of Buick convertible, the secret service took this monster, which was modeled off an extended-chassis K-series, and dropped a V-12 engine in it to ensure a fast getaway.
This model was replaced with the 1950 Lincoln Cosmopolitan, which, in my opinion, was by far the best looking ride enjoyed by any POTUS, past or present. President Harry S. Truman retired the Sunshine Special in favor of this extended convertible when he took office, wanting a fresh ride for a fresh administration. Rumor has it that despite offers by General Motors to produce a car for Truman’s time in office, he went to Ford’s Lincoln division after being denied cars from GM for use on the campaign trail.
Lincoln has made more presidential limos than any other carmaker, with a slew of specially armored Continentals commissioned by the federal government for the office-holder. The most notorious model was the 1961 SS-100-XX, which was the convertible President John F. Kennedy was riding in during his assassination. Despite the tragic connotations, this was a sweet ride, as it was almost three feet longer than the factory Continental and featured a screamer of a 430 c.i. Lincoln V8.
After the tragedy with President Kennedy, the Secret Service discontinued use of convertibles and switched to hard-top limousines exclusively for every consecutive president who followed. Lincoln made all of these armored cars for decades, until in 1983, Cadillac was given the chance to produce an armored car for the POTUS.
The 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood was one of the more awkward-looking presidential limousines as it featured an abnormally tall greenhouse for a car that was only stretched 17 inches longer than the standard sedan. However, this limo set a design standard for presidential rides that endures today, as the cabin had amazing visibility for the president and better maneuverability when driving than a standard stretched model.
The Cadillac made for President Barack Obama’s 2008 inauguration was unlike any production model sold on Cadillac dealer lots, though it featured the brand’s famous shield and the “arts and science” design philosophy behind contemporary Cadillac models. This ride was heavier than any limousine made for a president in nearly three decades, as it featured a host of safety features that made the car practically impenetrable.
We’ll see what Cadillac has whipped up for the next four years this January when the president elect is inaugurated. Now that you’ve already cast your vote for the next commander-in-chief, voice your choice for the best presidential ride of all time below: