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Which State Limo Wins The Beauty Contest?

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President Obama’s Cadillac versus Queen Elizabeth II’s Bentley

By Gunnar Heinrich

ALRIGHT, I will throw it out there: which state limousine wins on style points?

Given that the Japanese emperor’s state limo is Toyota’s best impression of a Rolls-Royce Phantom, and that the Pope rides in many cars ranging from a standard VW Touareg to the previous-gen. M-Class “Pope Mobile”, and that the Russians have been favoring the Sonderklasse over the old Soviet Zil, we’re really down to two state limousines to compare.

They are: U.S. President Barack Obama’s “Beast” (pictured left); a specially modified and fortified stretched Cadillac that’s riding on a truck platform and the UK (plus Commonwealth) Queen Elizabeth II’s bespoke Bentley (pictured right); also fortified and tailored to suit H.M.’s predilections (ex. H.M. preferred cloth upholstery).

To be sure, the Cadillac wins on security points; though the Queen’s chariot is armored enough to be sealed off from a gaseous attack from outside (though not from Prince Phillip’s hot air inside, one assumes).

And since neither of these V8 powered tanks will be tested against one another in a quarter mile charge down either countries’ Malls, we really are left to judge on aesthetics.

So about both cars’ designs –

The new for ’09 Cadillac is meant to showcase the next wave of Caddy design. It’s part Escalade, part CTS and all brute. That said, the grille and front fascia are bold and beautiful; the C-pillar blends fluidly into the trunk line, and there’s just the right amount of chrome.

By contrast, the Bentley’s design (presented to the Queen in ’02) was a retrospective on post-war Bentley design – so it carries elements from each decade of the Queen Elizabeth II’s reign.

The effect is a little oafish, to be honest, particularly with the Jaguar S-Type like headlamps. That covered, the two tone paint reflects brilliantly against the classic rolling fenders and the limo is nicely proportioned front to rear.

My vote goes to the Queen’s Bentley, though feel free to disagree in comments.

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Obama’s New Cadillac

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President Obama’s “Beast”

By Gunnar Heinrich | IMG via BBC

THIS is another reason why Cadillac cannot fail.

What would the world think if the president of the United States were to parade around in a limousine from a defunct marque? What would be the future alternative transport for POTUS, a Mercedes-Benz limo made in Alabama? Would that not project that USA, Inc. couldn’t keep up with the rest of the world? 

Anyway, the net was abuzz recently with the news that President Obama’s Cadillac limousine will make its grand debut at the inaugural parade in Washington. This is in keeping with tradition as the most recent presidential limo – again a Cadillac – made its entry onto the world stage for President Bush’s second victory parade.

The last presidential Caddy put security well ahead of beauty. Visually the limo came off like an armored truck on steroids with DTS styling cues. That said, all the heavy armor in the world didn’t keep the limo from breaking down in Rome. That’s why, owing to classic Jaguar tradition, it’s good to travel with two of the same car.

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President Bush’s tank

The Bush tank’s predecessor, the Clinton-era stretch (which the Secret Service still widely employs for lesser higher-ups in D.C.) was far more graceful. Essentially that series limo was a heavily armored stretch Fleetwood Brougham from the mid-1990s. 

The latest Cadillac limo, expressly made for the new president, looks to be based more on the Escalade. Indeed, its chassis is that of a GM truck which explains the taller than usual stance.

There were some who suggested that due to armor’s heft, the new limo’s top speed would be limited to 60 mph and it would likely average 8 mpg.  The former point’s hard to believe considering that your average Mack can do 80 mph or better when trucking tons of cargo.

Berry doesn’t weigh tons.

Still, the truth is a national secret and the Secret Service is right to keep the car’s particulars under lock and key. Apparently such is the agency’s guarded nature that the out-of-use Fleetwood limo sitting at the Clinton Library in Arkansas is locked so that the library staff can’t even get inside to clean the interior.

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The party van

An aside: one sunny afternoon in Washington, yours happened upon one of the old navy blue Fleetwoods with a Secret Service man taking a moment to wash the windshield in front of the White House. I paused on my way to advise that the car needed a coat of wax as the finish showed spider lines. He smiled and nodded in agreement.

A smile from a Secret Service agent? It was an unusual moment to say the least.

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