Official state cars are more than just a means of transport for a country’s presidents, prime ministers and royal families. They are an armoured automotive display of strength, of opulence and often a symbol of support for their own car industry. It’s not surprising that America opts for Cadillac, Germany takes Mercedes Benz and Sweden uses Volvo. Countries without a national car company tend to choose an executive car from a manufacturer that has one or more of its construction factories in their nation or other strong diplomatic ties.
It’s fascinating to see which vehicles are driven by our global leaders; some are a solid, hefty block of motoring metal but others are a bit more unusual or less stuffy. The following ten cars are a mixture of archetypal grandeur and off-beat bewilderment.
United States of America
Famously nicknamed ‘The Beast’; yes the vehicle that grounded itself in Ireland this May, is a six metre monster with its own air supply. A 6.5 L Diesel engine generates enough power to eventually haul this weighty car to 60 mph but at tank emptying rate of 8 mpg.
The Jaguar XJ is David Cameron’s Prime Ministerial chariot. Surprisingly voted as the Scottish Luxury Car of the Year ahead of rival BMW 5 series and the Audi A8, it’s reassuring to see an ‘English’ car still car of choice in our country. The XJ is a worthy champion with its 5 Litre V8 powerplant and a gorgeous body assembled in Birmingham.
Continuing the association of Russian car company, ZiL, with the line of their leaders including Gorbachev and Yeltsin is a revitalised model by Slava Sahakian which possesses a longer wheelbase and a more comfortable and spacious interior. While this is all well and good, the final model looks reassuringly traditional but a little bit drab. The ZiL company will celebrate its centenary in 2016.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad recently auctioned off his 1977 Peugeot 504 saloon at a charity auction with proceeds to benefit a low-income housing cooperative. The money earned from the sale at international auction will be given to the Mehr Housing. Who would buy the vehicle remains open to debate.
Controversial Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, hit the headlines yet again when he agreed the delivery of 19 brand new executive Maserati Quattroportes despite hard financial times. The first Maserati Quattroporte initiated the prestigious line back in the 1960s when Prince Karim Aga Khan placed a special bespoke order.
People’s Republic of China
President Hu Jintao is not averse to technological advancements. His background is in the sciences; he graduated from the Water Conservancy Engineering Department and left university with an engineering degree. Supporting his motor industry Hu is chauffeured in a FAW Hongqi HQE V12 luxury vehicle. It made its first appearance at the President’s troop review for the People’s Republic of China National Day 60th anniversary celebration.
Sultanate of Brunei
Famous for their love of gold, the Sultan of Brunei and his son also have the largest collection of cars in the world. It’s not 20, 30 or even 100. The Sultan’s collection is approaching 5,000. Combining his predilection for gold and cars it’s only to be expected that he runs a gold plated Rolls Royce – seriously.
The Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, has access to one of the most affordable and value for money executive vehicles that money can buy. The Proton Waja (king) was sold as the Impian in this country until its replacement in 2008. PM Pazak drives an armoured long wheel base version of the Lotus engineered Waja.
Laura Chinchilla, president of Ecuador since February last year having garnered 47% of the vote, has an elegant V8 Lincoln Town Car as her state vehicle. The stretch limo version is the longest car in the western hemisphere at 5.5 metres.
Despite the end of Gaddafi and his long reign, his very own personally designed state car is a remarkable-looking machine and one of the sleekest. It was Gaddafi’s own concern over road safety that spawned his answer to the problem. The Saroukh el-Jamahiriya, or ‘Libyan Rocket’, is a five seater sports car with a 230 bhp V6 engine. According to insiders it’s supposed to be the ‘safest car produced anywhere’.
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