10 mind numbing cars used by heads of state

By Moses Karomo 

Heads of State are a privileged lot – they often have the power, wealth, and influence to drive whichever car they please. Some have used the opportunity to acquire the finest and rarest vehicles in the motoring world.

Here are 10 mind-numbing cars used by heads of state:


Emperor Naruhito: Toyota Century

The 126th Emperor of Japan – the Japanese royal family has reportedly ruled since 600 BC, making it the oldest running monarchy in the world – rides in a modified Toyota Century. The Toyota Century is a handcrafted luxury model common among Japan’s elite – and, allegedly, Yakuza top brass. It’s powered by a 5.0-liter V-8 hybrid powertrain plucked from the fourth-gen Lexus LS.

Toyota produces just 50 Century cars per month. It’s, therefore, a unique and rare car.


Narendra Modi: Mercedes Maybach S650


India’s Prime Minister swapped a Toyota Land Cruiser and Range Rover Vogue for a Mercedes Maybach S650 in late 2021. It’s propelled by a twin-turbo V-12 engine churning out 621 horsepower and 738 pound-feet. PM Modi’s Maybach S560 needs every one of those horses considering the extra weight of the security reinforcements.

The Guard variant that Modi drives arrived with the following modifications:

  • A bulletproof armor capable of repelling sustained fire
  • Explosion resistance
  • Protection against gas attacks
  • Rocket-attack resistance


Sultan of Brunei: Golden Rolls-Royce Silver Spirit


The Sultan of Brunei loves luxury cars. Perhaps his most impressive luxury artifact is his royal carriage: a gold-plated Rolls-Royce Silver Spur II. The vehicle, in all its majesty, is lined with 24-karat gold and is worth an estimated $14 million.

The elongated vehicle is based on a Rolls-Royce Silver Spur II. The vehicle’s modifications certainly add considerable weight, perhaps increasing the burden on the 6.8-liter 226-horsepower engine at the front.


President Joe Biden: The Beast


The U.S. doesn’t take the security of its President lightly. Indeed, President Biden is one of the most protected people on the placement. He rides in a modified Cadillac aptly titled ‘The Beast’. The true extent of the vehicle’s security modifications is unclear: the Secret Service keeps some of the vehicle’s details close to its chest.

The Beast’s alleged security features include:

  • Shotguns, rocket-propelled grenades, and tear gas canisters
  • Eight-inch armor plating and five-inch thick windows
  • Protection against gas attacks
  • Run-flat puncture-resistant tires
  • Rigged door handles
  • Night vision equipment
  • Blast and bulletproof fuel tank


King Charles III: Bentley State Limousine


To celebrate 50 years of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, Bentley delivered two limos specially made for the Queen’s transport. Bentley based the two special vehicles on the Bentley Arnage R. The Queen, her husband, and her chauffeur presented ideas to Bentley on how to build a car suited to the Queen’s duties.

King Charles III inherited the Bentley State Limousines following the Queen’s death.


Xi Jinping: Hongqi L5


The Chinese equivalent of a Rolls-Royce is the Hongqi L5. Given the resemblance between the cars, the Hongqi’s designers likely borrowed some design cues from Rolls-Royce. Hongqi updated the L5 in 2023, adding more chrome to the exterior, debuting new alloys, and lengthening the grille. Inside, the Hongqi blends digital and analog, with three massive screens and many physical buttons lining the dash.


Gabriel Boric: 1966 Ford Galaxie XL


The 1966 Ford Galaxie XL used by Chilean leader Gabriel Boric arrived in the country in the mid-1960s by order of the British Royal Family. Queen Elizabeth used it during her tour of the country and left it behind.

Upon President Salvador Allende’s election as President in 1970, he designated the Ford Galaxie XL as the official presidential car, ditching the previously-used horse-drawn carriage.

Since then, Chile’s heads of state have used the Galaxie XL.


Pope: Popemobile


Pope Paul VI pioneered the Popemobile in the 1960s, using a modified Lincoln Lehmann-Peterson to greet crowds in New York. The Popemobile didn’t have much in terms of security apparatus. That changed when, riding in a Fiat Campagnola Popemobile into a crowded St. Peter’s Square, Pope John Paul II was shot by Mehmet Ali Agca. The assassination attempt prompted the Vatican hierarchy to fortify the Popemobile against attack.

The needs and preferences of a Pope also influence the vehicle’s design. For instance, Pope Benedict XVI used a modified Mercedes Benz M-Class SUV with a hydraulic seat in the back which elevated the Pope when he needed to be seen.


King Filipe VI: Rolls-Royce Phantom IV


Rolls-Royce only sold the Phantom IV to heads of state and the British Royal Family. The manufacturer only made 18 Phantom IVs, making it one of the rarest cars in the world. Three of the 18 – two limos and a cabriolet – were delivered to General Francisco Franco. The vehicle featured several security features, including armor plating and bulletproof windows.

King Filipe IV inherited the Phantom IVs when he ascended to the throne in June 2014. He used the Cabriolet variant during his 2004 wedding to Letizia Ortiz and on his coronation ten years later.

(Courtesy: Top Speed)

Images courtesy of CarScoop, HT Auto, Naija Car News, DriveSpark, The Telegraph, The Federal News, Chili web, ABC News and 2Luxury2

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