Seven ‘Beast’ limos with four presidents makes Biden’s inauguration the biggest procession ever


Joe Biden’s inauguration saw the Secret Service put on the biggest motorcade procession in history, as at least seven ‘Beast’ limousines and an armada of armored cars transported the new president, vice president and three former presidents through the nation’s capital. 

Seven heavily armored presidential limos, nicknamed the Beasts, were seen driving through Washington DC flanked by dozens of fortified SUVs and supporting vehicles after Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony. 

The mammoth procession took Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton and their wives to Arlington Cemetery where they took part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.  

Other officials and members of the media also attended while Donald Trump was notably absent after he refused to respect protocol and join in welcoming his successor to the White House. 

The three former presidents then stayed at Arlington to film an inauguration day message while the motorcade took the president and vice president on a parade back to the White House. 

The outing marked a departure from inauguration day tradition where the president and vice president typically take part in a huge parade from the Capitol to the White House while supporters stand along Pennsylvania Avenue.   

But due to the coronavirus pandemic and the January 6 riot on the seat of American democracy, the event was scaled back with only around 1,000 attendees – down from the typical numbers of around 200,000.

Though scaled back in some ways, the day was larger in others, with the motorcade said to be the largest Secret Service procession ever witnessed.

The historic first topped off a day of other firsts as Biden became the oldest person ever sworn in as president and Kamala Harris became the first woman, black person and Asian-American sworn in as vice president.  

Joe Biden’s inauguration saw the Secret Service put on the biggest motorcade procession in history. Pictured the motorcade on its way back to the White House with Joe Biden and Kamala Harris and their spouses 

Seven heavily armored presidential limos, nicknamed the Beasts, were seen driving through Washington DC

Seven heavily armored presidential limos, nicknamed the Beasts, were seen driving through Washington DC

The motorcade was flanked by dozens of fortified SUVs and supporting vehicles after Wednesday's inauguration ceremony

The motorcade was flanked by dozens of fortified SUVs and supporting vehicles after Wednesday’s inauguration ceremony

The huge motorcade of presidential limousines and armored SUVs passes National Guard troops stationed by the road

 The huge motorcade of presidential limousines and armored SUVs passes National Guard troops stationed by the road

Biden and the First Lady were seen descending the Capitol steps and getting inside one Beast which had new special license plates with ’46’ on it – a nod to his position as the 46th president of the United States.  

The new plates also featured a reference to calls to grant the District of Columbia statehood, with the phrase ‘Taxation Without Representation’.

The phrase subtly hits out at the Founding Fathers’ demand that they pay the British ‘no taxation without representation’ while DC is not classed as its own state and so does not get a vote in Congress. 

The line often features on vehicle license plates in DC. 

Harris and her husband were then seen getting inside another limo. 

Biden’s vehicle was one of three of the newest Beast models – the Next Generation Parade Limousine which first hit the roads in 2018 – that took part in the procession.  

The other four Beasts are part of the generation before, which was first rolled out in 2009. 

Troops line up as Biden and Kamala Harris leave the Capitol with their spouses after being sworn in

Troops line up as Biden and Kamala Harris leave the Capitol with their spouses after being sworn in 

The First Couple are escorted to their waiting vehicle - the 2018 Beast which is heavily armored to withstand attack

The First Couple are escorted to their waiting vehicle – the 2018 Beast which is heavily armored to withstand attack

The presidential limo - with its new number 46 license plates now added - awaits the president and First Lady

The presidential limo – with its new number 46 license plates now added – awaits the president and First Lady

President Joe Biden helps First Lady Jill Biden into the presidential limousine before getting in the other side

President Joe Biden helps First Lady Jill Biden into the presidential limousine before getting in the other side 

The procession first headed to Arlington Cemetery with at least seven 'Beasts' and several SUVs in tow. Pictured the procession heads back to the White House, with the Washington Monument visible in the background

The procession first headed to Arlington Cemetery with at least seven ‘Beasts’ and several SUVs in tow. Pictured the procession heads back to the White House, with the Washington Monument visible in the background

Several different federal agencies are likely to have worked alongside the Secret Service in pulling off the gigantic procession for the new president, vice president and their guests

Several different federal agencies are likely to have worked alongside the Secret Service in pulling off the gigantic procession for the new president, vice president and their guests

The mammoth procession first took Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton and their wives to Arlington Cemetery

The mammoth procession first took Biden, First Lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and former presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton and their wives to Arlington Cemetery

The Beast carrying new President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden Wednesday

The Beast carrying new President Joe Biden and First Lady Dr Jill Biden Wednesday

The motorcade then made its way to the cemetery, passing National Guard troops stationed by the side of the road.  

It is not clear who was in the other five with Obama, Bush, Clinton and their wives all seen traveling in armored Chevy Suburban SUVs. 

Usually at least one extra Beast will join a motorcade as a decoy car in case the car carrying the president is disabled either due to unforeseen car problems or if it comes under attack.  

Other vehicles in the procession included non-armored SUVs, police cars and motorcycles, an ambulance, press vans and a black work truck that carries a HAZMAT team on standby to respond to hazards. 

Several different federal agencies are likely to have worked alongside the Secret Service in pulling off the gigantic procession for the new president, vice president and their guests, reported The Drive. 

Biden and the First Lady were seen descending the Capitol steps and getting inside one Beast which had new special license plates with '46' on it - a nod to his position as the 46th president of the United States

Biden and the First Lady were seen descending the Capitol steps and getting inside one Beast which had new special license plates with ’46’ on it – a nod to his position as the 46th president of the United States

Officials switch over the license plates. The new plates also featured a reference to calls to grant the District of Columbia statehood, with the phrase 'Taxation Without Representation'

Officials switch over the license plates. The new plates also featured a reference to calls to grant the District of Columbia statehood, with the phrase ‘Taxation Without Representation’

The full Beast fleet only consists of between 16 and 20 limos, meaning almost half were used during Wednesday’s outing. 

While the scale of the motorcade was no doubt partly due to the VIPs taking place on the journey to the cemetery, it was also a sign of how security was beefed up for inauguration day following the January 6 insurrection that left five dead. 

Washington DC went into lockdown with several blocks around the Capitol cordoned off in the days leading up to the inauguration to prevent a repeat of the chaos when Trump supporters stormed the Capitol.  

A Baghdad-style ‘Green Zone’ perimeter was set up, more than 20,000 armed National Guard troops were mobilized and much of downtown DC was off-limits.  

Each Beast is heavily armored to withstand attack including from bullets, mines, grenades and explosives. 

Other features include fire suppression systems, tires that can drive when flat and a sealant ability to stop penetration from nuclear, biological, and chemical agents.

Many features remain under wraps as the detail is highly secretive in the interest of security and all decommissioned cars are destroyed by the Secret Service as soon as they reach the end of service.    

It is not clear who was in the other five limousines in the motorcade with Obama, Bush, Clinton and their wives all seen traveling in armored Chevy Suburban SUVs

It is not clear who was in the other five limousines in the motorcade with Obama, Bush, Clinton and their wives all seen traveling in armored Chevy Suburban SUVs

How the ‘Beast’ has changed over the years

The presidential state car has taken on many guises over the years since the first model in 1939 to the current model that hit the roads in 2018, according to Vanarama.    

Here are the different ‘Beasts’ and some of their key features:  

1939: The first ‘Beast’

The first version of the presidential car that became known as the ‘Beast’ was the Lincoln K Sunshine Special used by President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1939 until 1942. 

Features included a two-way radio, extra-wide running boards and handles for Secret Service agents to grab and ride on the outside of the car. 

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, armored doors, bulletproof cars and machine guns were added to the car.  

1942: The first with protective armor

Built during the Second World War, the 1942 Lincoln Custom was the first presidential car fitted with protective armor. 

The armor made the car 7,000 pounds heavier so had to be fitted with a Bendix Aviation brake servo, to help the driver slow the car down. 

1950: Ford takes over

When Harry Truman was elected president in 1948 he changed the chosen carmaker from General Motors to Ford – supposedly because GM wouldn’t let him use its cars during the White House race.  

Features of the new Lincoln Cosmopolitan included armour-plated bodywork and extra headroom to fit tall silk hats worn at the time. 

The car was modified by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954 to include the ‘bubble-top’ so people would be able to see him in the car if the roof was up.

1961-1972: JFK’s assassination ends the open-top car 

Four versions of the Lincoln Continental were made between 1961 and 1972.

In 1963, President John F. Kennedy was riding in the car with the code name SS-100-X when he was shot dead, spelling the end to the open-top presidential car and sparking a ramp-up of bulletproof materials and armor plating.  

1983: Cadillac develops a model 

Cadillac made its first presidential car – the Fleetwood – for President Ronald Reagan.

Features included a raised roof and seats, bulletproof glass and oversized wheels. 

1989: The last Lincoln

President George H. W. Bush commissioned the Lincoln Town Car in 1989, marking the last Lincoln car used as Cadillac has supplied the cars ever since. 

It had an updated powertrain to allow for the extra weight from the fortified vehicle. 

1993: The Cadillac Fleetwood returns

The Cadillac Fleetwood made a return with the addition of communication systems inside for President Bill Clinton to take calls while on the move. 

It could also reach speeds of up to 142 MPH. 

2001: The most high-tech car in the world

The 2001 presidential car – the Cadillac DeVille – is thought to have been most high-tech car in the world at the time with an infrared night vision system. 

It also reportedly carried an emergency supply of blood. 

2005: The car with partitions inside

The one of a kind Cadillac DTS hit the roads in 2005 with five-inch-thick armor panels, windows that cannot be opened, run-flat tires and a glass partition between the driver and the back seat. 

2009: The most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world

The Cadillac One was the presidential car from 2009 to 2018, and was described as the ‘most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world’ with five-inch-thick bombproof glass and a sealed interior to prevent against chemical attacks.

It was used for President Barack Obama’ inauguration.  

2018: The Beast

The newest limo – now known as the Beast – used by President Donald Trump is an updated version of the 2009 model and has been dubbed a ‘rolling bunker’.

Features include a foam-sealed fuel tank to prevent it exploding while inside there is also high-tech comms systems and an oxygen and blood supply.  

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