The Popemobile

The Popemobile, is an informal name for the specially and certainly the most eminent vehicle in the world, it transports the Pope to his numerous destinations and outdoor appearances.

Uncovered Popemobiles are most frequently used for events inside Saint Peter’s Square. The vehicles are designed to protect the Pope at the same time as allowing him to be visible to the crowds.

Ever since the beginning of the 20th century, many automotive manufacturers have fashioned specially designed vehicles for the Pope. The Ford Motor Company produced a series of cars based on their presidential Limos. The custom built 1964 Lehmann-Peterson was used by Pope Paul VI in his 1965 New York visit and reused in 1970 in Bogotá. Later, Pope Paul VI used a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman-Landaulet. Though the term Popemobile did not come into widespread usage until the pontificate of Pope John Paul II.

The first time Pope John Paul II traveled to his home country the white painted vehicle (one of two made) was based on the Polish mark FCS Star, a small truck from a firm in Starachowice with a speed of six kilometer’s per hour; a Ford Transit truck was transformed in 1979 for Pope John Paul II’s first visit to the UK, bigger than the one used today in the Vatican; yet another is a modified Mercedes-Benz with a small windowed “room” in the back where the Pope sits. A converted 230 G Geländewagen was built for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Germany in 1980. One of the current models is in fact based on an M-Class sports-utility vehicle built in the United States. The ML430-based Popemobile was presented to John Paul II in June 2002.

Following the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981 by Mehmet Ali Agca, the Popemobile was fitted with bulletproof glass on four sides. On the other hand, it was sometimes driven with open windows.

For the duration of the Pope’s visit to Canada in 1984, a customized GMC Sierra was used. It was later used for the 1998 papal visit to Cuba and was displayed at the Canada Museum of Science and Technology in 2005.

Several vehicles used for the Pope’s overseas visits stay in the host country and were reused on his following visits. The Mexican Papamóvil, for instance, was brought out into the public during John Paul II’s funeral. In the same way, the Philippines automobile manufacturer Francisco Motors produced the custom Popemobile for the 1995 Papal visit. It was paid for by voluntary contributions from the private sector, and as with the Irish vehicle had bulletproof windows, bombproof parts, and it was inspected by the Swiss Guards with triumph of been accepted.

When John Paul II died, this Popemobile was briefly borrowed by parish officials of the Quiapo Church for display. It became an immediate pilgrimage site to ordinary Filipino devotees who could not afford to go to the Vatican for the Pope’s burial ceremonies.

In 2002, Pope John Paul II requested that the media discontinue referring to the car as the Popemobile, saying that the term is “undignified”. However, the fashionable appeal of the vehicle remains. In 2006, an armor-plated Popemobile used by John Paul II during his visit to Britain in 1982 was sold at auction for £37,000 ($70,500). A Mercedes-Benz 230 G Popemobile (one of two built) has been retired and is at present on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart Germany.

The first papal vehicle, a Nurberg 460 Pullman limousine, was made for Pope Pius XI back in 1930 by Mercedes Benz, which has traditionally supplied vehicles to the Vatican. Now, whenever the current Pope wants a new car, the automaker will pull out all stops to construct a new vehicle “specially converted for use by the Holy Father,” says the company, meaning they’re designed to operate at low speeds and provide a seat for the Pope to sit in comfortably. Of course, it can go faster, too: the papal handlers can shift their passenger from zero to 60 in less than eight seconds, but the drivers probably won’t exceed 10 mph along parade routes. That slow speed will give the Pope enough time to interact with the crowds hoping for a glimpse of him and his car.

The vehicle registration plate of the Popemobile reads “SCV 1”. “SCV” stands for Stato della Città del Vaticano, which is Italian for the Vatican City State (literal translation: “State of the City of the Vatican “).

German car manufacturers like Volkswagen, Audi and BMW are already lining up at the Vatican in order to secure contracts to build the car that will be used by Benedict XVI during his international trips: the beloved Popemobile. Until now Mercedes has supplied the Popemobile, but other companies are stepping up with their own models for the new Pope.

With a new Pope in office, automobile companies around the world are wooing the Vatican for the contract to deliver Benedict XVI his new Popemobile.

“It would be an honor for any car-maker to transport the Holy Father,” an Audi spokesman said. BMW would be “pleased if the Pope were to choose one of our armoured limousines,” a spokeswomen for Audi’s Bavarian competitor assured. And Volkswagen, wants to start negotiations with the Vatican.


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