Jan. 14, 2009 — -- When then-President Barack Obama pulls up to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Jan. 20, he will do so in a new car -- a highly armored, specially designed limousine manufactured in near secrecy by General Motors and its Cadillac division.
The new Cadillac presidential limo will make its debut during the inaugural parade as a newly sworn-in Obama makes his way to the White House, according to GM and the Secret Service.
The 2009 presidential limousine provides the Secret Service with a "valuable asset in accomplishing its protective mission by affording its occupants the highest level of protection," the agency said Wednesday.
Although the car's passenger is the most well known man in the world, until this week what's under the hood has been a closely guarded national secret.
"Although many of the vehicle's security enhancements cannot be discussed, it is safe to say that this car's security and coded communications systems make it the most technologically advanced protection vehicle in the world," said Nicholas Trotta, assistant director for the Office of Protective Operations.
Gauging from what is known of earlier models, the car reportedly has armor plating at least five inches thick, bulletproof windows, run-flat tires and a sealed interior to protect the president in case of chemical attack.
Cadillac said it has roughly the same footprint and size specs as the previous model -- although it is somewhat more vertical and has larger windows for increased visibility from the inside out.
Though still short on specifics, officials now are offering a bit more information about the car than they did last week, when Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan said the Secret Service "does not disclose specifics, features or capabilities."
While Cadillac said today that the presidential limo is an entirely new design, it has many features that echo Cadillacs currently on the market. The limo's dual-textured grille are similiar to the grille on the Cadillac CTS sport sedan and Escalade, for instance.
But the president's new wheels naturally feature some details not available at your local Cadillac dealer. The rear passenger area includes "an extensive executive compartment with ample seating space, outward visibility and useful mobile office features," Cadillac's statement said.
And there is a presidential seal embroidered in the center of the rear seat. Additional seals adorn the door panels, and American flags, lit at night by LED spotlights, top the front fenders when the president is in the vehicle.
When asked about the sound system of the new limo and whether it has a CD player, the Cadillac spokesman, Caldwell, said: "You can rest assured the technology in the car is a bit more advanced than that."
The vehicle also has hand-stitched leather seats and vertical lighting.
The car, he said, was built in a "secretive manner" and, "this was a case where we were certain to follow the instructions of the customer to the letter."
Caldwell said other firms were involved in installing security features but would not say which companies or what they did.
Unauthorized images of the unfinished vehicle recently were leaked on the Internet, but official photos were released today.
While one presidential limo already has been delivered to the Secret Service, two additional matching models are on their way.
GM exclusively has built the presidential limousine since 1983. Cadillacs have been used as presidential vehicles dating back to Woodrow Wilson's presidency and the early days of the automobile. The limo currently used by the president was unveiled at President George W. Bush's second inaugural in 2005.
Many former presidential limos find their way into presidential libraries and museums. The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Mich., has the largest collection of presidential limousines, including the convertible in which President John F. Kennedy was shot in 1963.