Those attending the inauguration of Barack Obama in Washington DC on 20 January will also see the first ever African-American president’s official ride – a new, custom-built Cadillac limousine.

The car replaces the DTS-based presidential limousine delivered to George W Bush in 2004.

For mostly functional reasons, such as optimal outward visibility, the latest car is slightly more upright than its predecessor but much the same size.

The rear passenger area includes an extensive executive compartment with ample seating space, outward visibility and mobile office features.

Cadillac, understandably, did not detail the car’s security features but US reports have said the presidential limousines have the most sophisticated communications systems available plus extensive security measures including bullet-resistant glass and body panels, run-flat tyres and armour-protected body, under-body and mechanical components that can withstand a substantial bomb blast.

An embroidered presidential seal is positioned in the centre of the rear seat back panel, as well as on each rear door trim panel. Presidential seals are on the exterior rear doors. The US flag is placed on the right front fender, and the presidential standard is located on the left front fender when the president travels in the vehicle. LED spotlights illuminate the flags at night.

“Cadillac is honoured to again provide a new presidential limousine,” said Mark McNabb, North America vice president, Cadillac/premium channel.

“This is a great American tradition that we’re delighted to renew with an all-new car.”

President Woodrow Wilson was one of the first commanders in chief to use a Cadillac and many – but not all – of his successors have followed suit.

Ford’s Lincoln Continental line was a popular alternative in the 1960s and John F Kennedy was assassinated in one of his – the last open-top car used by a US president – in Dallas in 1963. That car was subsequently sometimes used by Kennedy’s successor Lyndon Baines Johnson and is now in a US museum, just-auto understands.

Cadillac’s government car role began during World War I, when many of its engines and vehicles were transferred to military and government service because of their superior durability and power.

Wilson rode through the streets of Boston during a World War I victory parade in 1919. A 1928 Cadillac town car was used in the Calvin Coolidge administration.

In 1938, two Cadillac convertibles, dubbed the Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth, were delivered to the US government. Named after famous Cunard ocean liners of the time, the vehicles were 21.5ft long, weighed 7,660lbs and had a full ammunition arsenal, two-way radios and heavy-duty generators. The two ‘queens’ served presidents Franklin D Roosevelt, Harry S Truman and Dwight D Eisenhower.

President Eisenhower, known as a car fan, rode in one of the first Cadillac Eldorado models produced during his 1953 inaugural parade.

In 1956, the Queen Mary II and Queen Elizabeth II convertibles replaced the original series. The vehicles were slightly smaller, but like their predecessors, were fully armoured and featured state-of-the art communications. Moreover, the vehicles were fitted with narrow rims inside the tyre in case the tyres were shot out. The pair served Eisenhower and also Kennedy and Johnson. Both vehicles were retired in 1968.

The Ronald W. Reagan administration had a 1983 Cadillac Fleetwood limousine while a Fleetwood Brougham – Presidential Series was delivered to the William J Clinton administration in 1993.

Unlike previous models that typically were Cadillac cars adapted and modified by independent limousine companies, the 1993 Presidential Brougham was designed, developed and manufactured totally within General Motors and Cadillac. This included an extensive set of security measures to maintain confidentiality, a process that continues today.

The 1983 Fleetwood limousine is now in the Reagan presidential library and museum in Simi Valley, California, while the 1993 Cadillac Fleetwood Brougham is at the Clinton presidential centre in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Cadillac has produced two presidential limousines this decade that remain in service. The first was a Deville Presidential model delivered to George W Bush in 2001 and he received the new DTS Presidential model three years later. This was the first application of a new design launched later that year for the production DTS full-size sedan.