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New 'First Caddy' on Duty at White House

January 24, 2001|TERRIL YUE JONES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

DETROIT — A new mailing address wasn't all George W. Bush got with his inauguration on Saturday. The new president also received new wheels--a brand new stretch 2001 Cadillac DeVille full of high-tech gadgetry.

The seven-seat presidential limousine was hand-built by the GM Specialty Vehicle Group. Aside from its length, it looks at first glance pretty much like a production DeVille.

This one, however, is taller, wider, heavily armored and bristling with communications gear. It even has Cadillac's patented infrared Night Vision system, although the camera lens is hidden and doesn't peek out from the center of the grille as it does on ordinary DeVilles.

Cadillac says the new presidential limo is the most technologically advanced car in the world.

The car maker won't give details about bulletproofing and other capabilities, "for security reasons," said Cadillac spokeswoman Cindy Kamerad.

But Cadillac General Manager Michael O'Malley said that, just as Air Force One is a flying Oval Office, the new limo "provides the same amenities for our nation's leader while traveling on the ground." So assume that President Bush has enough satellite communications technology at his fingertips to wage war from the back seat.

Inside, there are wood accents similar to those in production DeVilles, and rich blue leather and cloth upholstery.

A 10-disc CD changer and premium stereo system will let Bush relax to classical music or the country sounds he is said to favor.

The presidential seal is embroidered on the center of the rear seat back and emblazoned on the outside of the rear doors.

Cadillac won't say how many of the specialty limos were delivered to the White House, but U.S. presidents typically have at least two, so that one can be sent ahead and be waiting for the chief executive during travel stops.

The new limousine replaces the Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham delivered to President Clinton upon his inauguration in 1993 and is one of a long line of Cadillacs pressed into presidential service.

(The new president's father, George H.W. Bush, used a Lincoln limo during his 1989-93 administration.)

Woodrow Wilson was one of the first presidents to use a Caddy--he rode in one during a World War I victory rally in 1918.

President Calvin Coolidge used a lavish 1928 Cadillac town car. And in 1938, two Cadillacs were put into service and lasted through the presidencies of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman and into the first term of Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1956, a pair of Cadillac convertibles joined the White House motor pool, which over the years has also included a number of Lincolns.

GM's next new presidential limo was a 1984 DeVille used by Ronald Reagan during his second term. George H.W. Bush's Lincoln came next, replaced in the Clinton White House in 1993 by a Caddy Fleetwood.

Cadillac pioneered the use of GM's Onstar wireless navigation, rescue and entertainment service, which is now available in a variety of GM vehicles.

But the company is mum on whether the new presidential limo has Onstar.

So no word yet whether, as with Batman in the Batmobile, there will be any Onstar commercials featuring the Prezmobile.

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