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Sunday, 8 February 2009

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Obama and the Beast

When is a car called a Beast? When it is carrying the President of the United States.

It is code-named “Stagecoach” but given its weight, wheelbase and bunker-like level of protection, President Barack Obama’s new limo has been nicknamed “the Beast.”

The First Car, which the whole world saw at President Obama’s inauguration on January 20, is a veritable battle tank wrapped in Cadillac bodywork.

This being America, they didn’t obviously want to ferry the President in (a German) Mercedes S600 or a BMW 7 Series.

Although General Motors and the Secret Service jealously guard the vehicle’s specs and secrets, you can bet Obama’s ride is the toughest, most sophisticated car anywhere. It is the road-going equivalent to Air Force One.

Here are some interesting stats on his ride around town. By the way, the car will be ferried to any world capital that he visits and don’t think they have got only one of these: There are 25.

* The ballistic glass windows, said to be about five inches thick, can block a .44 Magnum round at point-blank range, withstand a bomb blast and even stop high-powered bullets fired from military assault rifles.

The body is sheathed in military-grade armour as much as 8 inches thick on the doors (each of which weighs as much as the cabin door on a Boeing 747. The armour reportedly is a mix of dual-hardness steel, aluminium, titanium and ceramic.

* Based on GM’s heavy-duty truck platform, the DTS is well over seven tons.

* Limo One is thought to get only 10 miles per gallon in the city. The good news: That’s a three mile-per-gallon improvement over the Caddy used by George W. Bush.

* The black caddy includes an advanced GPS and communications system, as well as its own internal air circulation in case of chemical attacks.

* The body is covered in military-grade armour - made of steel, aluminium, titanium and ceramics — as much as eight inches thick on the doors, each of which weighs as much as the cabin door on a Boeing 747.

* With its plates reading “USA 1,” the car rides around on 19 1/2-inch Goodyear Regional RHS truck tyres, specially designed to keep going even if they go flat. The cabin is believed to feature a sealed air recirculation system to protect its occupants from chemical attacks.

The limo is the latest in a long line of Cadillacs to join the First Fleet over the years.

“Although many of the vehicle’s security enhancements cannot be discussed, it is safe to say that this car’s security and coded communications systems make it the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world,” Nicholas Trotta, Assistant Director for the Secret Service Office of Protective Operations, said in a statement.

Although presidential limos have a lifespan of about a decade, the Commander in Chief gets a new one about every four years.

Hand-me-downs are used to carry the vice president and visiting heads of state. The only bog-standard thing you will find inside the car is the leather.

Despite being at least as secure as a hardened missile silo, GM says Caddy One features the same hand-sewn leather interior found in the Cadillac CTS. And that 10-disc CD player is also no different from the consumer version.

The President will have fully encrypted satellite phones and Internet access at his fingertips.

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