San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cadillac One: 'The Beast'

Not as famous as the presidential airplane “Air Force One,” the modified limousine that transports U.S. President Barack Obama is practically a war tank.

The armored – and always black – Cadillac often referred to as “Cadillac One” or “Limo One” includes an impressive ammount of security measures, among them, its own system of oxygenation and an armored structure able to withstand the direct impact of bombs, grenades and sniper shots. Bottles of the president’s blood are kept on board in case he needs an emergency transfusion.

“The Beast,” as the Secret Service refers to the heavily armored vehicle, is driven by a chauffeur specially trained by the Secret Service in the most demanding of driving conditions, including escape and evasion and 180-degree “J-turns.” It is transported inside a C-17 Globemaster III from U.S. Air Force.

The vehicle’s body has a 12 centimeters ballistic structure of steel, aluminum, titanium and ceramic to protect the base of the car in case of explosion of bombs or rolling granades. In addition, the gas tank is shielded, for preventing explotions from a direct impact. The windows are made of 12 centimeters of ballistic glass, and armour-plated eight-inch doors are the weight of a cabin door on a Boeing 757 jet.

Tires are “run flat” and reinforced with kevlar, meaning that if struck, ballistic steel rims support the 10-ton weight of the car to escape at 60 miles per hour.

The driver’s cabin has a communications center with GPS, fax, wireless network, and a laptop and satellite phone connected to the Pentagon, the CIA and the vice president office.

The defense system has night vision cameras, pump-action shotguns and tear gas cannons.

The presidential motorcade consists of up to 45 modified limousines escorting Cadillac One.

Right behind The Beast, the USSS Electronic Countermeasures Suburban is used to counter nuclear, biological and chemical attacks.

The number of vehicles depends on the risk level of the destination. In Costa Rica, seven vehicles likely will escort the Limo One.

This is Obama’s second presidential visit to Central America after a meeting in El Salvador in 2011.

Contact L. Arias at

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