Aaron Widmar
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What Make and Model Is the Popemobile Car?

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Mercedes-Benz M-Class Popemobile car model

What model is the Popemobile?
Photo: Wikipedia via CC

Whether you’ve seen images of the real thing or watched it parodied by Family Guy or Cars 2, you probably know what the iconic Popemobile looks like–that heavy-duty white truck with the glass riding case used by the Catholic Pope when making public appearances.

Ever wondered what vehicle model the Popemobile is and where it came from?

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The History and Model(s) of the Popemobile

The first Popemobile appeared in 1930 when Daimler-Benz gave Pope Pius XI a limousine version of the Nürburg 460 Pullman. After being impressed, his holiness established close ties with the automaker. Over the years, Mercedes-Benz has supplied the Vatican with numerous modified vehicles for holy transportation, including a 230 G, G-Class (G500), 300D, 600 Pullman Landaulet, 300SEL, and ML430 SUV.

The most recognizable Popemobile is the Mercedes-Benz M-Class sport utility vehicle used by Pope Benedict XVI and sometimes Pope Francis. It has a bomb-proof case with its own oxygen supply, and it weighs three tons. After Pope John Paul II was wounded by an assassin while riding in a Fiat Campagnola, the Popemobiles feature bulletproof glass cases.

Every country the Pope visits supplies the Church with a specially-outfitted vehicle, so the global papal fleet includes more than 50 vehicles. These include such diverse models as a Cadillac Deville, a Ferrari Mondial, a Seat Marbella, an Audi A8, a GMC Sierra, and a Kia Sorento.

From time to time, Pope Francis drives himself around in a stick-shift 1984 Renault 4 with over 180,000 miles on it–which he received as a gift.

For a bit of papal humor, check out the license plate on the Popemobile, which says “SCV-1.” It stands for status civitatis Vaticanae, which is Latin for “State of the Vatican City.” You can guess who #1 stands for.

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Aaron is unashamed to be a native Clevelander and the proud driver of a 1995 Saturn SC-2 (knock on wood). He gleefully utilizes his background in theater, literature, and communication to dramatically recite his own articles to nearby youth. Mr. Widmar happily resides in Dayton, Ohio with his magnificent wife, Vicki, but is often on the road with her exploring new destinations. Aaron has high aspirations for his writing career but often gets distracted pondering the profound nature of the human condition and forgets what he was writing… See more articles by Aaron.