Obama’s transport to Madiba’s memorial service

Obama's transport to Madiba's memorial service

The world is weeping as it has lost one its greatest upholders of peace and equality for all, former South African president Nelson Mandela – Tata Madiba. Leaders from across the globe made their way to the FNB Stadium in Soweto for his National Memorial Service on December 10.

One such leader was Barack Obama, President of the United States (US), who got stuck in traffic – as reported on Firstpost’s website – en route to the service. But a fender bender (which was totally possible if you take the Johannesburg traffic and the heightened activity into account) wouldn’t have had much effect on Obama’s limo as he used his massive armour-plated Cadillac to get around in Johannesburg.

However, according to the US Autoweek, it isn’t really a Cadillac … Appropriately dubbed “The Beast”– one of many – it is more of an armoured truck than the iconic US brand of vehicle.

Autoweek reports that, until recently, the Secret Service bought standard limousines for the president. These were then modified with an array of aftermarket products and systems. They kept breaking down, however, as all the extras put a massive strain on the original vehicles.

“The transmissions often failed and the brakes would last for about two trips,” a veteran agent told Autoweek. “The cars were just too heavy. They were a terror to drive and even harder to stop.”

The US publication reports that the Secret Service decided to design and then build the car from the ground up. “The emblem may say Cadillac,” explains one agent, “but very little in that car is a Cadillac.” It is built by a research and development arm of General Motors in Detroit. “But even the Cadillac emblems on the hood and trunk are supersized. It is really a truck that looks like a limo. And it drives like one, too.”

Autoweek explains that the modifications include an armour-plated fuel tank that is encased in special foam to protect it from rupture in case of collision or small-arms fire. The outside features military-grade armour plating surrounded by removable fibreglass sheets on the doors and fenders.

“The Beast is heavy,” reports Autoweek, “the armour plating is so thick and the doors so heavy that it’s nearly physically impossible for the president to open them from the inside.”

Additional safety features include an onboard fire-suppression system, a separate oxygen supply under the president’s seat and emergency medical equipment. The interior is also cut off from the outside world and sealed – in case of a chemical attack.

Autoweek states that the Secret Service has been experimenting with special night-vision cameras and monitors to be used if the windshield is somehow compromised or view is obstructed.

However, despite some traffic, Obama made it to the FNB Stadium in the belly of The Beast to deliver a wonderful tribute to Tata Madiba that summed up the admiration and respect Mandela inspired around the world.

Watch his speech here.

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