If you think a world leader’s ride is a few tricks shy of the Batmobile well, you’re not far off. Plenty of official state vehicles are outfitted to protect and intimidate, but not every politician hits the road behind a plate of bullet-repellant glass. From elegant limos, a vintage roadster, and an (almost) getaway car, here are a few remarkable vehicles used by world leaders past and present.
Queen Elizabeth II was many things, and classy was one of them. The Bentley State Limousine is handsome, ornate, and worth $13.5 million. One of two Bentleys gifted to the Queen to commemorate 50 years on the throne back in 2002, the State Limousine was based on a design exclusive to the Royal family that emphasized safety and comfort sure, but also privacy.
If paparazzi got too close, her highness could cloak herself behind opaque cabin panels, while lambswool upholstery ensured maximum coziness. The interior is completely airtight and its Kevlar tires are impossible to deflate. Armor plating adds a lot of weight to the vehicle, but a 6.7-liter V8 helps it rocket to 130 miles per hour if needed.
When he’s not occupying a decoy vehicle, Russia’s President rides around in the toughest Aurus Senat limousine known to man. Like many presidential vehicles, the Russian-made luxury vehicle is completely bullet-proof, but it’s also grenade-proof and equipped with what’s assumed to be an intimidating level of artillery.
Many of Putin’s Aurus Senat’s details are under wraps, but it’s been the official state car of mother Russia since Putin was inaugurated for a fourth time in 2018.
The last time Italian dictator Benito Mussolini saw the 1939 Alfa Romeo 6C Sport Berlinetta he gifted to his girlfriend Clara Petacci was the last time he saw pretty much anything. After a failed attempt to flee Italy in the car, Mussolini and Petacci were killed, and the two-door Alfa wound up in the hands of Charles Pettit, a US Army officer stationed in Italy at the time.
Pettit shipped the car to his upstate New York home where it eventually receded into obscurity. Decades later, the rusty Alfa was purchased by a local high school teacher for $300. After learning about the car’s sordid yet fascinating history, Mussolini’s Alfa Romeo journeyed back to Italy for a $570,000 restoration and was sold by RM Auctions for $2.1 million.
On a redemptive note is the story of the late South African president Nelson Mandela’s BMW. Mandela was famously escorted from the prison where he spent 27 years of his life in a Toyota Cressida. Shortly after, the Mercedes-Benz plant in South Africa gifted him a red W126 S-Class, Mandela said its color reminded him of blood spilled in battle.
In preparation for the 1994 presidential election, BMW headquarters permitted their South Africa facility to provide Mandela with an armored V12 7-Series with its own oxygen supply. Mandela considered the gift to be extravagant and politely declined, so BMW insisted he test-drive it instead—but refused to take the car back anytime Mandela attempted to return it.
Before he was the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau opted for modest transportation, like the public bus or his Volkswagen Jetta. However, for those who don’t know, Justin’s father Pierre Trudeau was also the Prime Minister of Canada—during which time he enjoyed cruising the streets in his très chic 1960 Mercedes 300SL convertible.
When Papa Trudeau passed away in the year 2000, Justin inherited the prized automobile and is said to have been so enamored with it that he wanted to say his wedding vows inside (he didn’t).
Today, US presidents are well accustomed to traveling by land in the practically indestructible Cadillac One endearingly known as The Beast. Before The Beast had a place in the garage, there was the Sunshine Special, a 1939 Lincoln K Limousine that served as the first-ever official presidential vehicle.
32nd president Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed the use of the Lincoln limo for most of his 12-year presidency—nicknaming it Sunshine Special due to his preference for riding with the top down. Unfortunately, the top went up and stayed that way after the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor. It was also outfitted with armor plating and a bullet-resistant gas tank and tires—early inspiration for The Beast no doubt—before entering retirement in 1950.
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