Apart from acting as the official state car used by a head of state they also serve as a powerful symbol of the automotive industry for the country they represent and as such the contract to supply is highly sought after by the manufacturers.
Some countries choose from a range such as France where the president may drive a Renault or PSA Peugeot Citroën. German dignitaries choose to represent all the major German manufacturers: BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, drawing from a range supplied by each manufacturer.
In Australia the Prime Minister, senior cabinet ministers and all Members of Parliament are driven to their official functions in either a luxury Holden or Ford.
Called Commonwealth Cars or COMCAR’s, in 2010 they celebrated 100 years of service to the Australian Government. They have been inextricably linked to key events in Australian political history such as the 1966 shooting of Federal Opposition Leader Arthur Calwell. A more regal use is the transport of Heads of State and official visitors such as the visit by the US President Lyndon Johnson, also in 1966.
One factor common to all state cars is the need for security with armour plating often a standard extra in their design. Rather than creating a military appearance, the security and design needs have to be blended to combine with the ‘graceful’ look that any state car has to project as they carry their VIP cargo on official business. Often the state cars are transported ahead if the head of state is making a visit overseas.
The need for a graceful look is important with British royalty, as is evident with the Queen. It creates a sense of event and pageantry for waiting crowds or media that ‘someone important’ is about to arrive.
American presidents have the need for a similar sense of presence as they travel down the boulevards of any US city in their Cadillac or Lincoln with the bonnet flags fluttering amidst the motorcade that accompanies.
The famous Lincoln embedded in the minds of many is of course that which took JFK and the First Lady on that fatal trip in Dallas on 22 November 1963. Travelling in an open-top convertible the President and Jackie Kennedy took the 10 mile trip through downtown Dallas before the assassination at 12.30pm that shook the world and changed the course of history.
Since then bullet protected cars for the US president are a standard feature, as is the case in most official state cars.