You're familiar with The Beast, right? No, not the one whose name adds up to 666. The presidential limo that looks like a Cadillac but really isn't. If you're not up to speed, get cozy and learn some more about the combat-grade mega-limo that has ferried the President since Dubya's tenure.
Of course, our current President, Barack Obama, has his own version, first unveiled in 2009. But the transition from converted production cars to purpose-built superlimos was made during George W. Bush's time in office, and it has resulted in some incredible abilities and statistics.
Based on a truck platform (likely a GMC Topkick commercial vehicle), designed by a research and development of General Motors, and wearing super-sized Cadillac badges to help with the limo's incredible scale, The Beast is seriously imposing.
Even the fuel tank is armor-plated to help reduce the risk of fire in an attack. That's supplemented by a Halon fire-suppression system like you'd find in many race cars. The trunk is stuffed to the gills with a small armory, an oxygen supply for the limo, emergency medical equipment (including spare blood for the President), and more.
Weighing in at an unspecified but horrendous weight (rumored to tip the 10-ton mark) thanks to its armor plating, including 8-inch-thick doors that are nearly impossible to open from the inside, The Beast once (in)famously got itself stuck during a drip to Dublin. Fortunately for President Obama and wife Michele, the interior is completely sealed from the environment, and is equipped with a satellite-based phone and video conference system, giving them full contact with the outside world when stuck inside.
The Beast might save the President in the event of an attack, but it won't be saving us taxpayers any money any time soon (nor will it be saving the Earth): Each example costs about $1.5 million, and gets about 3.7 miles per gallon. There are believed to be 12 of the uber-limos in existence at any given time.
Other special features of The Beast: the tires are Kevlar-reinforced Goodyear run-flats; the armor in The Beast is made of steel, but also aluminum, titanium, and ceramic materials; the body skin isn't the armor itself--instead, the parts you can see are made of removable fiberglass panels; Secret Service technicians have been experimenting with a night-vision-capable camera system to drive the car in the event that vision is completely obstructed through the bullet-proof windshield; the driver is required to spend a full week learning how to drive the car at the absolute limits, including in tactical emergency situations.
So The Beast isn't really a car, or a Cadillac, but is it better than the limos it replaced? According to the Secret Service, it sure is. The old cars used to use up their brakes in just two short trips, they'd break transmissions constantly, and were nearly impossible to drive, much less control in an emergency.
Hollywood also loves The Beast, giving it a starring role in the (not so successful) movie White House Down. We spent some quality time with the movie version of The Beast, and while it's not as impressive as its real-life counterpart, it certainly has its own bragging rights, including a Chevy Suburban chassis and an LS3 V-8 engine.
As monstrous as The Beast is, the custom-built Presidential limo may be replaced soon. The U.S. government recently put out a request for proposals on a new armored limousine transport, and while it's not clear that the President is the intended recipient, we can't help but think he'd be first in line for an upgraded way to travel the world in comfort, safety, and extreme preparedness.