Inside ‘The Beast’: The armoured limousine Joe Biden is taking to the Queen’s funeral

When President Joe Biden arrives at Westminster Abbey on Monday, he will be just one of a select few foreign leaders granted permission to use his or her own ground transportation to and from state the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

But unlike most visitors to London from abroad, Mr Biden won’t be engaging the services of a local car service or renting a vehicle from a fleet of rental cars.

Instead, the US president will be travelling in the same bespoke, armoured state car which carries him on any trip away from the White House, foreign or domestic.

Dubbed “The Beast” by the Secret Service agents charged with driving it, the car’s official Secret Service code name is “Stagecoach”.

Though it is built with the familiar grille, headlights and taillights used on the Cadillac vehicles available to any consumer, it’s not based on any production vehicle currently rolling off the assembly lines in Detroit.

The last time a president’s armoured vehicle was based off a car one could buy at a dealership was 2001, when then-president Bill Clinton used a heavily modified Cadillac Fleetwood state car that was acquired in 1993, replacing a heavily customised Lincoln Town Car used by his predecessor, George HW Bush.

When Mr Bush’s son, George W Bush, assumed the presidency in January 2001, the car that took him to his inauguration and chauffeured him around the world for the next eight years was not based on any converted consumer car because Cadillac stopped making cars suitable for conversion into presidential transports.

Ever since the younger Mr Bush took office, the president’s car has remained a Cadillac. But while the limousines subsequent presidents — including Mr Biden — ride in still bear the Cadillac crest on the grille, any similarities between the presidential vehicle and those luxury vehicles ends there.

Unlike the armoured Range Rover Sentinels or Jaguar XJ sedans used by British prime ministers, the car used by the President of the United States is completely bespoke and constructed according to the Secret Service’s specifications.

According to Car and Driver, the Cadillac-badged limousine Mr Biden began using when he assumed the presidency was delivered to the Secret Service in 2018 and is built on a GMC TopKick chassis intended for medium-duty commercial vehicles.

The automotive magazine Road and Track described the vehicle as “a simple evolution of the old model with more current Cadillac design cues, like an Escalade sedan”. Multiple outlets have reported the vehicle’s weight to be somewhere in the range of 20,000 pounds.

The Secret Service didn’t respond to a request for information on the car’s capabilities when asked by The Independent (they rarely comment on the president’s protection) but what is known about the car is that it boasts impressive features meant to protect its occupant in all manner of situations.

The car is fully armoured with tires designed to keep the car moving even if all four wheels take incoming gunfire. It has night-vision capabilities, and can dispense smoke screens and oil slicks to confound anyone bent on pursuing it.

According to NBC, the vehicle’s armour is composed of aluminium, ceramic and steel and can be as thick as eight inches at some points.

The car’s windows don’t open, and they are made from bullet-resistant glass five inches thick. And the car’s doors are said to be as heavy as those of a Boeing passenger aircraft.

It’s also hermetically sealed and soundproof — the interior has speakers so occupants can hear what is happening outside the car — and carries a supply of oxygen in case of chemical or biological attack.

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