March 20th, 2013
09:32 AM ET
9 years ago

Presidential limo breaks down ahead of Obama's arrival

Jerusalem (CNN) – An official limousine awaiting President Barack Obama's arrival in Israel malfunctioned Wednesday but the Secret Service now says the reason for the mechanical problem had nothing to do with the type of fuel used, as first reported.

"The appropriate gas was put in the car," Ed Donovan, spokesman for the Secret Service, told CNN.

Citing an official in the region, CNN reported, as did other media outlets, that the vehicle had been filled with gasoline instead of diesel fuel. At the time, the Secret Service did not waive reporters off the idea that the car had the wrong fuel.

Donovan said the vehicle actually doesn't have a diesel engine and runs on unleaded gasoline. The Secret Service is generally tight-lipped about details of the president's limousine, otherwise known as "The Beast."

Because the vehicle was built on a Chevrolet Kodiak chassis, whose engine runs on diesel fuel, it was believed that the limo also ran on diesel.

The Secret Service says the diagnostics are still ongoing.

However, an Israeli official adamantly stands by the story that the limousine was filled with the wrong type of fuel.

The limo failed to start, and required towing in Jerusalem at 10 a.m. local time. Obama, who landed in Tel Aviv around noon, was not in the country at the time the limo was towed. A second presidential limo was brought to transport Obama.

"We experienced mechanical trouble with one of the cars," Donovan told a pool reporter traveling with Obama earlier Wednesday. "We don't know the cause."

"That's why we bring different multiple vehicles," Donovan said.

The tow truck company owner who picked up the limo said the U.S. consulate called him to tow the vehicle in Jerusalem because it wouldn't start.

Multiple official vehicles are typically flown ahead of time to destinations where Obama is visiting. On his trip to the Mideast, Obama will stop in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in Israel, Ramallah in the West Bank, and will visit with Jordan's King Abdullah in that nation.

The presidential limousine is a specially built Cadillac that's estimated to weigh 8 tons. There are multiple, identical copies that are used to transport Obama around Washington and on his trips out of town.

The car reportedly features inches of armor and bulletproof glass, doors and windows that seal shut in the event of a gas attack, and special shocks to absorb blasts.

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this report.

Filed under: Israel • President Obama
soundoff (230 Responses)
  1. Malory Archer

    Yay..another Obama success story.

    March 20, 2013 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  2. Joe

    Hope they had their AAA card with them.

    March 20, 2013 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  3. jldub

    Dominican mama, try putting gasoline in your diesel powered Mercedes or Toyota and see how far down the road you get before you start bashing American automobiles.

    March 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  4. Ken Knerr

    With sequestration, there is no money to pay a mechanic to fix it.

    March 20, 2013 12:19 pm at 12:19 pm |
  5. lance

    Oh Mercedes is going to LOVE this publicity-LOL!

    March 20, 2013 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  6. RIchards Long

    It's the damn Sequester's fault!!! If you did not let it go through, we could have run proper maintenance on the Presidential Limo and Hussien would not look like a total idiot. It's all your fault! All of you!!!
    Wait... Highly paid driver (who did not get hit with a furlow like other federal employees) put the wrong type of gas in the tank?! The comedy writes itself... to bad we are ultimately the punchline.

    March 20, 2013 12:27 pm at 12:27 pm |
  7. Liz G

    This happened to President George Bush in June of 2007 in Rome. We happened to be walking the same street when the limo stalled out. The Polizia started screaming at people to run causing a panic.

    March 20, 2013 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  8. jon

    I'm amazed the limo driver forgot it takes diesel, how do you forget that? Although most people probably didn't know the presidential limo took diesel, I thought being a cadillac it used regular gasoline. Must be a rookie? What rookie drives for the president? They have to practice on less important people like Boehner first.

    March 20, 2013 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  9. Jim970

    Maybe he could ride in TowTruck 1.

    March 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  10. us_1776

    The fuel filler says DIESEL ONLY.

    It can't be any more plain.

    Time to send this driver back to school.


    March 20, 2013 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  11. Meki60

    he should hasve taken the bus, hey what happened to the 2 super-buses he had manufactured at several $M?

    March 20, 2013 12:38 pm at 12:38 pm |
  12. Sniffit

    "Yeah when you do all that air transporting of limos for vacations, golf outings and the occasional diplomatic trips, the gas tanks can condense water from the cold temperature and effect the performance of the vehicle. Nice to see our tax dollars being used for govt purposes this time."

    Meanwhile, back on planet Erf, CNN published an article clearly explaining that it was nothing more than a silly mistake of the person filing thegas tank using gas instead of the required diesel.

    March 20, 2013 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  13. Pander Bear

    Amazing. Some guy makes a mistake and right wingers immediately try to pin the blame on Obama. You are all so truly pathetic.

    March 20, 2013 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  14. TexasBob

    Now this is definately an OOPS moment

    March 20, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  15. Rudy NYC

    Thor wrote:

    The diesel hole is bigger than the gas hole, so the gas nozzle is smaller than the diesel nozzle. That means the gas nozzle will fit very well into the diesel hole. Simple mistake if you are not accustomed to it. It was a new design vehicle. And yes... the driver is highly trained to drive and shoot and kill. Not necessarily to fuel.
    While everything that you're saying may be true, it has absolutely nothing to do with what occurred. One, the vehicle is in a diferent country with different standards. You assume that they pulled up to the local Exxon/Mobil and fueled up. Nope.

    Two, the Secret Service typically brings their own fuel for supplying the vehicles, so as that they are not dependent upon local resources in the event of an emergency. You don't want to be dependent upon some local gas station, which you would have to hunt down and pray that it is open, if you have to run for it.

    March 20, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  16. Phineas

    For all you mechanics out there, how much damage could using the wrong fuel, as is purportedly the case here, cause that engine? They mentioned a "no start," but of course didn't say weather it was driven at all during after the alleged fuel mix up.

    And what might they do as a remedy? Simply siphon the gas out of the car and refill it, or are there other diagnostics (especially since this is POTUS's transport) that have to be done prior to starting it?

    March 20, 2013 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  17. win486

    My mercedes takes gasoline but those that take diesel have a different size hole for the tank and the nozzel won't fit in a gasoline hole for the tank. I guess Caddie makes them differently.

    March 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  18. Elario

    That's what you get when you drive a Government Motors vehicle. They should go back to driving Lincolns! I'm sure the repairs will go out for bid and Obama will pay a few million dollars for repairs any sane person would spend maybe $500 for; but HEY! His 2nd limo is more important than an Easter Egg hunt!

    March 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  19. Dominican mama 4 Obama


    For all you mechanics out there, how much damage could using the wrong fuel, as is purportedly the case here, cause that engine? They mentioned a "no start," but of course didn't say weather it was driven at all during after the alleged fuel mix up.
    The damage could be extensive. It could irreperably damage the engine.
    The rule of thumb in this type of situation is doing exactly what they did: DON'T DRIVE IT, TOW IT!!

    Mercedes Benz by the way was cool with the free advertising!!

    March 20, 2013 12:54 pm at 12:54 pm |
  20. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    That should've been "IRREPARABLY".

    March 20, 2013 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  21. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    This episode is reminiscent of the "accident" in Paris, when the limo grounded out and had gotten stuck in a gated driveway
    Exactly. Something about the car being too big for the street/driveway it was on, or something to that effect.
    European streets are renowned for their narrowness., but this incident, again,was nothing if not some fool not paying attention to what the f he was doing.
    Pardon my bluntness and shortness, but really, we're on page 5 of comments on this non-story. There has got to be something else happenning someplace else.
    I'm going to go out and find it!......

    March 20, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  22. devldog1986

    Not only do we have a clueless POTUS but a driver to boot!

    March 20, 2013 01:02 pm at 1:02 pm |
  23. Nothing At All

    Somebody will be looking for a new job.

    March 20, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  24. Shawn

    I thought they always brought another "beast" as a backup/decoy vehicle. Did that one get the wrong fuel as well? Did this driver just get the gig yesterday? WTH was the driver doing fueling the "beast" anyways. I am sure that there are multiple motor pool personnel that are responsible for just making sure the vehicles are properly serviced.

    March 20, 2013 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. Wes

    The uhbama will probably blame the sequester.

    March 20, 2013 01:15 pm at 1:15 pm |
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