Designer of Latest Presidential Limousine Discusses Some (But Not All) of the Project
A few years ago, a supervisor asked Draganel “Dan” Magda, Senior Designer at General Motors’ Cadillac design studio, if he wanted to work on a special project. Magda agreed, not knowing that the special project was a new limousine for the President of the United States. Magda had designed Corvettes and Saturn vehicles for GM, but the specially modified Cadillac presidential limo would be a very different kind of challenge. Magda was born in what is now Serbia in 1956, and shortly thereafter, his father moved the family to Canada to escape Communism. When Magda was ten years old, the family moved to Detroit where he dreamed of being a car designer.
The technical challenges of designing a new presidential limo made the project unlike any other. The limo would have to meet the Secret Service’s specifications as well as federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. Tasked with building a new limo from the wheels and frame on up, Magda also had to contend with cost considerations, which had him rummaging around in the Cadillac parts bin for lighting units and other parts that would meet specs without the need for retooling. Necessity compelled him to use many existing Cadillac Escalade parts for lighting with slight modifications.
He cannot provide many specifics about the presidential limousine, and he was not privy to the composition of many of the limo’s features, but it is widely speculated that the limousine employs GM’s largest and most heavy-duty power train and SUV platform. He does know that the limo’s glass is several inches thick and the body panels are probably made from composite material.
The secrecy and other demands of the project meant he had to perform all the design work by using a three-eighths scale model, which required meticulous attention to detail, before measuring the model with a laser and sending it to the digital sculptors. Magda has never been allowed to see the finished product, but did see a prototype.
“I was overwhelmed by the size and scale of it,” Magda said. “It just has a very intimidating presence.”
Sadly, GM laid him off during downsizing shortly after the completion of the project, but he has found a new job, and he is excited about the new opportunity to use his design skills.
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