The "Popemobile" is an informal name for the specially designed motor vehicles used by the Pope during outdoor public appearances. The Popemobile was designed to allow the Pope to be more visible when greeting large crowds. There have been many different designs for Popemobiles since Pope John Paul II first used a modified truck to greet the crowds on his first trip to Poland as Pope.

Some Popemobiles are open air, while others have bulletproof glass to enclose the Pope. Some allow the Pope to sit, while others are designed to accommodate the Pope standing. The variety of Popemobiles allows the Vatican to select a vehicle appropriate for each usage depending upon the level of security needed and distance and speed of travel. 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.


Since the beginning of the 20th century, many automotive manufacturers have produced 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 was reused in 1970 in Bogotá. Later, Paul VI used a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman-Landaulet. However the term "Popemobile" did not come into common 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 kilometres per hour; a Ford Transit truck was converted in 1979 for Pope John Paul II's first visit to 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 John Paul II's visit to Germany in 1980. [ [http://www.museum-mercedes-benz.com/?lang=en Mercedes-Benz Museum - section C4 Gallery of Celebrities - 1980 230 G Popemobile] ] One of the current models is actually 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. [ [http://wwwsg.daimlerchrysler.com/SD7DEV/GMS/TEMPLATES/GMS_PRESS_RELEASE/0,2941,0-1-68597-1-1-text-0,00.html 2002 – Mercedes-Benz ML 430 with special bodywork] ]

Following the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981, the Popemobile was fitted with bulletproof glass on four sides. However, it was sometimes driven with open windows. During the Pope's visit to Canada in 1984, a modified GMC Sierra was used. It was subsequently 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 remain in the host country and were reused on his subsequent visits. The Mexican "Papamóvil", for example, was brought out into the public during John Paul II's funeral. Similarly, the Philippines automobile manufacturer Francisco Motors produced the custom Popemobile for the 1995 Papal visit. It was funded 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 success. When John Paul II died, this Popemobile was briefly borrowed by parish officials of the Quiapo Church for display. It became an instant 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 stop referring to the car as the Popemobile, saying that the term is "undignified". [ [http://www.cbc.ca/world/story/2007/06/06/Popemobile-benedict.html CBC News] ] However, the popular 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 currently on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.

Current usage

The Popemobile most often used by Pope Benedict XVI when traveling abroad is a modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class sport utility vehicle with a special glass-enclosed "room" that has been built into the back of the vehicle. The Pope enters through a rear door and ascends several steps. After the Pope sits in his chair, it is elevated up into the glass "room" by a hydraulic lift, allowing the Pope to be more easily seen. In addition to the driver, there is room for one passenger (usually a security agent) in the front of vehicle. The glass-enclosed rear of the vehicle also has room for two papal aides who can sit in the area in front of the Pope's elevated chair. The vehicle's security features include bulletproof glass windows and roof and reinforced, armored side panels and undercarriage.

Uncovered Popemobiles are most commonly used for events within Saint Peter's Square. On June 6, 2007, a German man tried to jump into Pope Benedict XVI's uncovered Popemobile as the pontiff began his general audience. The Pope was not hurt and did not even appear to notice that the 27 year-old man had jumped over the protective barrier in the square and had grabbed onto the white Fiat Popemobile as it drove by. At least eight security officers who were trailing the vehicle as it moved slowly through the square grabbed the man and wrestled him to the ground. The man was interrogated by Vatican police and then taken to a hospital for "psychiatric treatment". [ [http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Man_tries_to_breach_Pope_Benedict_XVI_security/articleshow/2104073.cms Times of India] ]



External links

* [http://www.papamobilesite.com Popemobile photos]

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