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The Presidents Limo


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Hours after Pearl Harbour was bombed on December 7, 1941, the Secret Service found themselves in a bind.


President Franklin D. Roosevelt was to give his Day of Infamy speech to Congress next Monday and although the trip from the White House to Capitol Hill was short, agents weren't sure how to transport him safely.


At the time, Federal Law prohibited buying any cars that cost more than $750, so they would have to get clearance from Congress to do that and nobody had time for that.


One of the Secret Service members discovered that the US Treasury had seized the bulletproof car from the mobster Al Capone had owned when he was sent to jail in 1931.


Mechanics cleaned it, made sure it was running perfectly and had it ready for the President the next day.


Al Capone's 1928 Cadillac V8 "Al Capone" Town Sedan became the President's Limo in December 1941.


The car was cleaned and checked; each feature of the Caddy thoroughly investigated and checked well into the night of December 7, making sure that it would run properly on the next day for the Commander-in-Chief.


The car ran perfectly. It had been painted black and green to look identical to Chicago's  police cars at the time.


To top it off, the gangster's 1928 Cadillac town sedan had 3000 pounds of armour and inch-thick  bulletproof windows.




It also had a specially installed siren and flashing lights hidden behind the grille along with a police scanner radio.




 Footnote: The car sold at auction in 2012 for $341,000.00.

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This car is currently for sale for US$1M. It's had a very chequered history, having travelled a large part of the world, and having been in U.K. and Canadian ownership. It's had all its armour plating removed.

Despite the very extensive life story of the car (which is repeated twice, thanks to some poor website checking), nothing is mentioned of the use of the Cadillac by President Roosevelt in Dec. 1941.

In fact, the site says the car was under private ownership from 1932. The above "Presidential car" story seems to be fabricated.


As an interesting aside, Cadillac produced the first commercial V8 car engine in 1914, an L-head engine of 314 cu in displacement, producing 70 HP. The engine was re-engineered for 1928 and was enlarged to 341 cu in and produced 90 HP.


I couldn't imagine the performance of a 90 HP V8 hauling around what was probably a car weighing well over 8000lbs (3.6 tonnes), with all the armour-plating and thick bulletproof glass. 






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Onetrack, you have fallen for the greatest con-job in vehicle sales. You are equating performance with horsepower and saying that 90 HP would make a 3.6 tonne car a snail.


Just look at what the car was designed for. It wasn't to be used as a get-away car, like  the '32 Ford, favoured by bank robbers of the time. It was a prestige car, to be used to convey a Big Wheel through his domain. Speed wasn't necessary


These are the specs for the "Capone" car: 342 cu.in L-head V-8, producing 90 bhp attached to a three-speed transmission.


What you have to remember is that Brake Horsepower is a measure of how how rapidly the vehicle can perform work. That depends on how fast the engine is turning (RPM). The real determinate of the ability of an engine to produce energy for work is the Torque. The torque produced by an engine is quite simply the amount of force created by the increase in pressure due to the combustion of the air/fuel mixture in the cylinder. That force is transferred through the connecting rod to the crankshaft via the crankpin. This is a lever system where a Force is applied to a pivot point via a lever


In an engine, that perpendicular distance is a constant for any particular engine. It is the distance between the centre of the crankpin and the centre of the crankshaft. The simplest way to increase the torque produced by an engine is to increase the amount of pressure produced during combustion. You can add more fuel/air mixture, or you can make the volume of the combustion chamber bigger by increasing the bore of the cylinder and hence the area of the crown of the piston. Horsepower is simply how fast you can get the engine to produce torque. The torque doesn’t really matter all that much because it can be easily influenced by gearing. Horsepower is not changed by gearing,


Let’s take a look at the power/torque graphs:



Engine 1 has a power curve that climbs roughly linearly because its torque curve is nearly flat. That is typical of a truck engine. However, Engine 2 has more torque at lower RPMs, so its power curve is bulged upwards. That is typical of a passenger car.  Engine 3 has the same peak torque as Engine 2, but at a higher RPM. That is typical of a "high performance" car


So, with appropriate gearing, an engine that produces 90 HP an quite easily move a 3.6 tonne car at the stately speed at which the Big Wheel would like travel through his domain.


To give a sort of comparison, the Churchill tank in WWII weighed 40 tonnes with a Bedford twin-six petrol engine producing 350 hp (261 kW) at 2,200 rpm giving a maximum speed of 15 mph.


The relationship between horsepower and torque is

HP = (T x RPM)/5250


T = (HP x 5250)/RPM

T = (350 x 5250)/2200

T = 1,837500/2200

T = 835lb-ft






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Yeah, well, we all know that high torque engines are great for "hanging on" under load and keeping up road speed - that's why Mack built their "Maxitorque" truck engines, they produced much more torque than comparable engine capacities of the day. Torque is what you need to maintain speed, when you're hauling heavy mass.

But if you want to get away fast, you need HP ("Brake Horsepower is a measure of how how rapidly the vehicle can perform work). If Formula One race cars needed torque to win, the car designers would build high torque engines for F1 cars.

But they don't, the F1 engines are high HP, relatively low torque engines, because they need to go fast!



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Just for the sake of interest the Merlin XX which powered the Lancaster was rated at 1,240-horsepower (924 kW) at 2,850 rpm in low gear at 10,000 feet and +9 lb boost. It had a two stage supercharger.

Running the numbers, that gives 2284 lbs ft of torque. I think that the props were geared down about 0.4:1

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