U.S. Presidential Limo Defeated by Steep-Grade Parking Ramp

It’s not something I know anything about—actually, it’s not something many people know about—but I’ve posted some links about the security features of the U.S. presidential limousine. So it’s amusing to watch the limo immobilized by a steep grade at the U.S. embassy in Dublin. (You’ll get a glimpse of how thick the car doors are toward the end of the video.)

EDITED TO ADD (6/1): It was a spare; the president was not riding in it at the time.

EDITED TO ADD (6/13): Here’s a video of President Bush’s limo breaking down in Rome.

Posted on May 26, 2011 at 1:57 PM32 Comments


Alex May 26, 2011 2:19 PM

At first I thought it couldn’t clear the bump and got stuck, but it looks like the axle broke (perhaps right when it bottomed-out).

Jerry A May 26, 2011 2:49 PM

It sounds like something broke, for sure. Listen right after the camera zooms in tight, there’s a whirring sound. I’m sure the tires would have been spinning if it were high-centered.

karrde May 26, 2011 2:54 PM

Wikipedia claims that the car which got in trouble in Dublin was an earlier model, not the model delivered to the President on Jan 20, 2009. It also claims that the President was not inside at the time.

I assume that several are kept for Presidential travel, but I still wonder what the backup plans are for vehicle trouble.

Jeff May 26, 2011 3:04 PM

It appears to me that the limo’s front suspension gave out and THAT caused the crash to the ground. There’s a bang and the front wheel goes up (and stays up) before the vehicle hits the ground.

Thruhike98 May 26, 2011 3:08 PM

Its wheelbase is just much longer than the BMW that went before it, so the undercarage struck the peak. You occasionally see signs warning trucks of this at railroad crossings.

Anonymous Coward May 26, 2011 4:11 PM

The prez was in the second car…the first one was carrying his ego.

a May 26, 2011 4:21 PM

They need to just get an MRAP, paint it gloss black, and install leather seats. This thing where they try to make a GMC medium-duty truck look like a Cadillac sedan isn’t a good compromise.

Jack May 26, 2011 4:42 PM

I watched an M60 tank just skid around on a short ramp of concrete trying to get up into a depot, but couldn’t because the ramp had ice all over it.

Richard Steven Hack May 26, 2011 5:24 PM

I like how first the crowd is cheering, then they’re clapping as the damage done is clear.

Now every terrorist in the world knows how to immobilize the President – just wait until the car hits the crest of a steep incline – then fire your shaped charge you buried in the asphalt months ago under the guise of road repairs.

Like I say, there is no security – for anyone.

                    tommy                     May 26, 2011 6:15 PM

@ a:

“They need to just get an MRAP, paint it gloss black, and install leather seats.”

That may be a bit extreme, and has other downsides. Spies and such on TV always drive big SUVs for such situations. They’d support the weight of the armoring, provide needed ground clearance, 4WD with all-terrain tires for any circumstance (ice; being run off the road, or having to go off-road to escape an ambush, etc.)…

If the POTUS and/or family want their due “dignity”, they can be driven around the White House grounds in their taxpayer-paid limo, under heavy guard. Or just accept the fact that you campaigned very hard to become a target who lives in a fishbowl, and accept the needed security measures.

Davi Ottenheimer May 26, 2011 6:20 PM

aha, bet they didn’t anticipate the additional load from a guinness or two.

it’s not just thick, it’s heavy.

that’s what happens when you engineer for lite beer.

Dirk Praet May 26, 2011 7:43 PM

-10 for the idiots responsible for this limo. Anyone who knows anything about cars should be perfectly aware of the fact that unless properly vetted by Q, this is exactly the sort of MFU you can expect when designing special purpose vehicles.

Security-wise, it just goes to show once again that no matter how much time, effort and money you throw at something, there will always be some minor glitch or vulnerability to render it absolutely useless.

GW May 26, 2011 10:01 PM

“the car which got in trouble in Dublin was an earlier model, not the model delivered to the President on Jan 20, 2009”

Aha! It’s Bush’s fault.

There’s nothing that can’t be blamed on GW; whether that be global warming, God’s will, or George W.

Todd May 26, 2011 10:28 PM


Yes, you are 100% correct Dirk. The back up limo getting stuck proves that the whole limo and security concept is “absolutely useless”.

alo May 27, 2011 1:46 AM

But has the new “Beast” (2009 model) been used at all after the 2009 Inauguration?

All clips I have seen have been od the previous (2005?) model.

Is there possibly some even more serious flaw in the 2009 model?

Thomas May 27, 2011 2:15 AM

“Is there possibly some even more serious flaw in the 2009 model?”

On-board computers ‘upgraded’ to Vista?

John May 27, 2011 2:59 AM

While you where all watching that, the President left on a cycle via another exit.

Dirk Praet May 27, 2011 3:21 AM

@ Todd

That’s not what I said. Let me rephrase it: anything has a flaw or vulnerability that when hit or exploited renders the entire thing useless. Which is an entirely different statement than drawing the conclusion that from a security angle POTUS and family may just as well take a tour through Ireland on their bicycles.

Paeniteo May 27, 2011 3:50 AM

@karrde: “I still wonder what the backup plans are for vehicle trouble.”

In this particular case, they transported the president by helicopter afterwards.

There’s a longer video of the same scene around that shows how a big bus is moved in front of the embassy entrance, blocking all sight from the spectators. Presumably to allow a safe exit from the vehicle.

BF Skinner May 27, 2011 7:20 AM

@Jack ” M60 tank just skid around on a short ramp ”

During WWII, during I think the Battle of the Bulge, ice covered roads gave the shermans no traction and they slide down a hill. There’s video of it kicking around. Scary that much tonnage with no breaks but what it hits.

Frisbee May 27, 2011 9:35 AM

Here is a longer video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3BvABn7L_So

What’s interesting are the security protocols the Secret Service follow after the incident. For instance, they bring in the press bus (I think that’s what it is) to block the view and provide cover. Everyone appears to have an assigned role (or receive instructions over the ear piece) and they smoothly move to their station.

For lack of traction in a bad situation, check out the 5:00 minute mark of this video:

Charlie Prima May 27, 2011 10:45 AM

The Emperor needs some Praetorians who know how to quickly handle a high center without dismounting.

When that happens out here in the provinces, your buddy rams you over the tree stump/rock/obstacle from behind, then backs up and veers around the obstacle. You both drive away. No dismount necessary.

I trained martial arts in Austin, TX with some of the Secret Service agents protecting GWB during his first presidential run. It takes a special kind of creepy psycho to do that job. They aren’t practical minded people. Their celebrity worship is religious in intensity.

pseudanon May 31, 2011 4:09 AM

David vs. Goliath. Who is Goliath?

The frontal armour of the King Tiger is reported to have withstood every single round ever fired upon it.
Infantry with bazookas on the Western Front made short work of the giant

2.)Star Trek – Fiction.
combine your phasors together at the
weak spot.

3.)France: Maginot Line never breached.
Germans go around it.

4.)China: Great Wall never breached.
The Gates to Genghis Khan are flung open
due to ‘collaboration.’

What a crash rang through the valley as Goliath’s heavy armor struck the ground! Then David hurried to the place where the giant lay, and took Goliath’s own sword and cut off his head.

… took G’s own ‘planes’ and cut off
his ‘twin tower’ head.

5.)GM went bankrupt. GM Hummer. Tendency to get stuck in the sand –
the non-military vehicles. The military
ones have heavy armor and also tend to
roll over maybe??

Jonadab May 31, 2011 1:52 PM

I still wonder what the backup
plans are for vehicle trouble.

Ultimately, in a real emergency, you call in the fastest available military evac.

I imagine there are also lesser measures that can be taken in more mundane situations (or when you perceive no significant danger), but when all else fails you send in half a dozen choppers, carrying ground troops, escorted by several fighters and maybe a couple of slower, more highly-maneuverable planes (like A-10s), and you try to avoid giving anyone a clear unobstructed view of exactly which chopper the big guy gets into, and you get the VIP out of dodge first, make your apologies to the locals second, and figure out what went wrong later in the post-mortem.

That goes for any first-world head of government, but it goes double for the US President, both because he’s a more likely target than average and also because we are especially able to spare the resources to do such things.

This incident doesn’t look to me like an attack, though. It looks like somebody was careless when planning the car’s route. A limo (any limo) is not designed for arbitrary terrain. It’s designed for flat pavement.

And, of course, if the President wasn’t even on board, then that reduces the urgency of the situation quite markedly.

jahman June 15, 2011 8:02 PM

President Obama’s limo was not “immobilized by a steep grade”, did not “break an axle”, the “front suspension did not give out”, nor was there any other sort of breakdown or malfunction.

All that happened is due to the incline the limo bottomed-out and was caught by the iron flange that secures the two halves of the gate. That’s the clank you hear in the video.

An unfortunate incident, nothing more, nothing less. Sorry to disappoint.

Jake in Jerusalem June 16, 2011 10:23 AM

I haven’t been on this site in a long time but where have the PROFESSIONALS gone? Such silly comments… The US isn’t going to send attack helicopters into Ireland to rescue the Pres from a stuck Cadillac…

Where I am, there are armored diplomatic vehicles everywhere. I see them all the time. I am deliberately not going to describe them. However, the people responsible for getting VIPs, both local and foreign, from A to B safely know how to do so. For POTUS visits, whether overseas or in NYC, there can be DOZENS of vehicles in the motorcade, including SEVERAL apparently identical limos. It’s not easy at all to figure out which car is carrying the Pres. I have seen decoy Presidential helicopters in use, too, so that when landing, you still don’t know which one is carrying him/her. Not rocket science. Even third-worlders do it this way. I once saw 2 identical choppers take off and 3 land – figure THAT one out!

(Incidentally, when the POTUS travels to several countries in a row, the whole redundant chopper/limo story is replicated simultaneously in several different countries so that the Pres doesn’t have to wait for his fleet of limos to arrive together with AF1. I’m sure that it’s a giant operation of orchestration.)

As for the bump, with a wheelbase too long and a ground clearance too small, this can happen. It should’ve been checked beforehand. Somebody goofed. Anyways, I’d rather push my Ford than drive a GM. 🙂

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