It’s the safest vehicle in the world and if it ever gets in an accident, the body shop that fixes it will get a blessing from the Vatican. At Anderson Behel, Santa Clara’s premier body shop, we’d love the opportunity to work on an iconic car like the Popemobile (pictured) but it is always in Rome, so it’s not likely.
The Popemobile (Italian: Papamobile) is an informal name for the specially designed motor vehicles used by the Pope during outdoor public appearances without having to employ the antiquated and often impractical act of meeting the public. The Popemobile was designed to allow the Pope to be more visible when greeting large crowds. Over the years, 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.
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 its presidential limousines. 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. 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 as a base, but the Popemobile was built by the Thibault Fire Engine Company in Pierreville, Canada. During the papal visit to the United States in September 1987, a pair of Mercedes-Benz 230 G Popemobiles were flown to Washington, D.C. and modified by the Secret Service to provide access to the Papal compartment from the driver's cabin, a design that continued to be used after the trip. One of these vehicles has been retired and is currently on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany.