Taft to Trump: A brief history of U.S. presidential limousines

President Trump added an interesting chapter to the legacy of presidential limousines by taking his Cadillac for a lap of the Daytona International Speedway ahead of the 2020 Daytona 500.

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Here’s a look at some other significant moments in the century-long history of U.S. presidential state cars.

(Library of Congress)

William Howard Taft was the first president to make the switch from horse-drawn carriages to horsepower. According to Hemmings, Congress appropriated $12,000 in 1909 for the purchase of three automobiles that included a Pierce-Arrow, a Baker electric and a steam-powered Model M from The White Motor Company of Taft’s home state of Ohio. Taft was a supporter of the automobile industry and partial to the Model M.

(Library of Congress)

Franklin D. Roosevelt had several private cars equipped with hand controls so he could drive them around his private properties in New York, despite being partially paralyzed due to polio infection. He was also the first president to have a car designed specifically for him when Ford created a Lincoln K Series limousine that came to be nicknamed The Sunshine Special. It featured wide doors for easy entry, rear-facing jump seats and handles for Secret Service agents to hold onto while riding on the running boards, according to the White House Historical Association.

(Keystone/Getty Images)

John F. Kennedy’s Lincoln Continental Convertible was likely the most stylish of the presidential cars, but became the most infamous when he was assassinated in it while riding through Dallas on Nov. 22, 1963. Officially known as SS-100-X, the car was later redesigned with armored bodywork, a permanent roof, bulletproof glass and served both the Johnson and Nixon administrations before being put on display at The Henry Ford museum in Michigan, where it remains today.

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Bill Clinton’s armored Cadillac Fleetwoods were the last presidential limousines based on a production car. One currently resides in the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock. Later vehicles in the White House Fleet would feature sedan-style bodies on truck frames.

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Barack Obama’s “Beast” is a monster car reportedly based on a medium-duty GMC truck and fashioned to look like a Cadillac sedan. The car is believed to be capable of withstanding chemical weapons and IED assaults, and also has an onboard medical kit equipped with emergency units of blood. Several are still in use in the White House pool, while Trump received updated models in 2018.