Biden’s Inauguration Featured The Mother Of All Motorcades With Seven ‘Beast’ Limos

With four presidents and an armada of armored cars in tow, it was the biggest procession we have ever seen the Secret Service put on.

byJoseph Trevithick|
U.S. Homeland photo


An absolutely massive motorcade took President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, along with former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, among others, around the greater Washington, D.C. area after the inauguration today. At one point, at least seven heavily armored and otherwise custom-built presidential limousines, commonly known as "Beasts," together with an armada of other armored SUV limousines and supporting vehicles, took part in the procession. You can read more about the vehicles that typically make up presidential motorcades in this past War Zone feature.

Traditionally, the inauguration is followed by a very public parade down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, the center of the city has been turned into a veritable fortress, with 25,000 members of the National Guard and thousands more U.S. military personnel and law enforcement officers now providing an unprecedented level of security, following the storming of the Capitol building by supporters of now former President Donald Trump on Jan. 6. That's to say nothing of the additional safety protocols that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic already imposed on the ceremonies.

Multiple Beasts are seen in the presidential motorcade heading to Arlington National Cemetery after the inauguration on Jan. 20, 2021., CBS News capture

So, instead, the motorcade also took Biden and Harris, together with their spouses, went to Arlington to take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Obama, Bush, and Clinton, and their spouses, along with other officials and members of the media, accompanied them. Trump did not attend the inauguration, at all, instead flying to Florida earlier in the day. Jimmy Carter, the only other surviving President of the United States, was also not present due to health concerns. Former Vice President Pence, who did attend the inauguration, did not go to Arlington.

Footage of all seven Beasts together begins at around 8:24:00 in the runtime of the video below if it does not automatically start from that point. There is other footage of various configurations of the motorcade from before and after the inauguration throughout.

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Afterward, the motorcade returned to downtown D.C. to take part in a more muted procession toward the White House. The bulk of the traditional parade was transformed into a virtual "Parade Across America." 

The sheer size of the assembled fleet of vehicles outside of the Capitol after the inauguration got underway was a sight to behold in of itself. It seems very likely that multiple federal agencies beyond the U.S. Secret Service, pooled their resources to help fill out this motorcade and the transportation needs of other VIPs. 

A screengrab from live footage of the inauguration showing just some of the assembled vehicles outside of the Capitol., CNBC capture
SUVs waiting to pick up former Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, and their spouses, among others, after the inauguration., CNBC capture
A view looking away from the Capitol as President Biden and Vice President Harris conducted a ceremonial inspection of troops after the inauguration. More vehicles are visible in the background., CNBC capture

Of course, having Biden, Harris, and three other living Presidents all in the same place would clearly make this motorcade an unusually large target, even without the added security and public safety issues at play right now in the nation's capital. It's not surprising that nothing spared to provide top-level security for the entire procession.

Still, seeing at least seven Beasts driving together at once, along with a huge number of other armored SUV limos, is unprecedented and we here at The War Zone can't remember the last time we saw anywhere near that many in the same place at the same time. The entire Presidential limo fleet, which the Secret Service maintains, is understood to only consist of between 16 and 20 vehicles in total, made up of two generations of cars.

Two are typically employed, with one actually carrying the President and the other acting as a decoy car and spare in case the primary vehicle is disabled for any reason. It's not exactly clear who might have been riding in the other Beasts, but President Biden and Vice President Harris, along with their spouses, did travel separately and there could have been a requirement for additional spares, as a result, that would have accounted for a significant number of the limos. Live coverage of the event showed that former Presidents Obama, Bush, and Clinton, along with their spouses, traveled in armored SUVs.

At least three of the examples in Biden's motorcade were of the newest type, the first images of which emerged in 2017 and that which made its public debut the following year. This included the one carrying Biden, the 46th President of the United States, which had a special Washington, D.C. 59th Presidential Inauguration license plate with just "46" on it. 

The plate also had the phrase "Taxation Without Representation," a play on the common refrain of "no taxation without representation" by American colonists during the lead up to the American Revolution. The District of Columbia has adopted this slogan as a reflection of its lack of voting representation in Congress and it is often referenced by advocates pushing for the federal city to become an actual state.

The latest iteration of the presidential limo, also known as the Next Generation Parade Limousine, was designed by General Motors and has an outward appearance similar to recent models of the Cadillac CT6 sedan. The remaining Beasts in the procession were examples of the previous generation, which entered service 2009, and that has an exterior aesthetic similar to that of a Cadillac STS. 

The video below shows the public debut of the next-generation Beast as part of a motorcade carrying then-President Donald Trump in New York City in 2018.

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While its exact specifications of these limos are understandably classified, the actual underlying chassis and body are actually derived from larger truck designs. All of the Beasts are heavily armored and designed to be at least resistant to significantly powerful weaponry, including rocket-propelled grenades and mines. They also have fire suppression systems, run-flat tires and can be hermetically sealed to protect against nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) threats. Night vision driving systems, secure communications gear, and various defensive measures are also integrated into the vehicles, which you can read about more in this past War Zone piece.

The video below shows examples of the previous generation of Beasts during rehearsals for President Trump's inauguration in 2017.

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As mentioned, a massive amount of armored and non-armored Chevy Suburban SUVs were also part of the motorcade. The U.S. Secret Service operates examples of these vehicles configured as limos, as well as various other types setup as mobile command and control centers, electronic countermeasures platforms, and simply for carrying the members of the escorting protective details

The new six-door Ford F350 Super Duty-based Mobile Communications Vehicle (MCV), which is packed with high-bandwidth satellite communications and data-sharing links, among other equipment, was also on hand today. You can read more about this vehicle, which first appeared publicly in 2018, in this past War Zone piece.

At least one of the Suburbans had interesting protective covers its rear wheels. Combined with the presence of running boards on this particular SUV, this feature may be intended to prevent Secret Service or other personnel hanging on the outside from getting injured by the rear wheels while in motion.

Photographs and video of the motorcade also show a black work truck that carries a hazardous material (HAZMAT) team, which can respond to NBC incidents, as well as other potential hazards. Various police cars, other SUVs, and motorcycles from other law enforcement agencies outside the Secret Service, along with an ambulance, accompanied the entire group. Various vans and other SUVs, including those carrying members of the traveling press pool, trailed behind.

Again, you can read more about these vehicles, as well as the breakdown of a more typical presidential motorcade, in this past War Zone piece.

This particular motorcade looks set to be one of a kind. Even on overseas trips, we have never seen the USSS execute this big of a procession. It's a small, but intriguing detail from what had to of been one of the most unique inaugurations ever. 

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