Being the leader of the Catholic Church sure has its perks. You get a sovereign city-state in Italy, the adoration of millions across the globe, and occasionally, you get ferried around in your very own Popemobile. There have been several iterations of the pious people-carrier over the years, ranging from an open air Seat Panda all the way to a stretched Lincoln Continental, but a few stick out from the crowd.
Pope Francis is currently on a tour of the United States, and in commemoration, we’d like to count down our top five “Papamobiles” for you here. Compared to the sedia gestatoria — a ceremonial throne held aloft by 12 disciples with poles — we’ve clearly come a long way.
1980 Mercedes-Benz 230 G
Perhaps the most popular vehicle to ever chauffeur the Pope is the Mercedes-Benz G-Class, also known as the G-Wagen or Geländewagen.
Mercedes built this particular version, the 230G, for Pope John Paul II’s visit to Germany in 1980. It was originally outfitted with a removable plastic cupola, but after a failed assassination attempt in 1981, the bodywork was smartly refurnished with bulletproof glazing.
Affectionally nicknamed “Papa G,” the Mercedes came with a high-performance climate control system to keep the Holy Father comfortable, as well as an inner light array to keep him visible. The white and gold “mother-of-pearl” color scheme has become synonymous with the Popemobile ever since.(p: Daimler AG)
1960 Mercedes-Benz 300D
Elegant, distinguished, and commanding, the Mercedes-Benz 300D was the S-Class of ’60s, making it the perfect choice to carry the Christian God’s representative on Earth around the world.
Presented to the papacy as a gift from Mercedes, the 300D was designed as a landaulet, meaning it was equipped with a convertible soft top over the back seats. Like many Popemobiles, the Benz wore a bespoke interior, one with a singular electronically-controlled throne in the back. An inline six-cylinder powered the car, allowing it to reach a top speed of 99 mph.
2012 Renault Kangoo Maxi Z.E.
Pope Benedict XVI was well-known for his environmental concerns, so much so that he many dubbed him the “The Green Pope.” The association was further strengthened when he took delivery of a modified Renault Kangoo Maxi Z.E., an electric van sold in Europe.
The Pope rarely travels anywhere quickly, so the Kangoo’s 60-horsepower electric motor was more than sufficient. It did boast a 105-mile range, though, which was more than enough to carry its four passengers around Pope Benedict’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo, Italy. The van also featured a custom interior, an opening roof, rear-hinged rear doors, and removable rear windows.
2015 Jeep Wrangler
The Bishop of Rome’s current ride is one of the least assuming Popemobiles ever, which reflects Pope Francis’ image as “the everyman Pope.” Although the vehicle’s specs are currently under wraps — and for good reason — it’s expected to be very similar to the Wrangler Francis was driven around in during his July visit to Ecuador.
On that trip, the white off-roader was fitted with a glass roof over the bed area, though the sides remained uncovered. The Pope has famously turned down enclosed and bulletproof vehicles during his tenure, referring to them as “sardine cans” that hinder interaction with his supporters. At the very least, the Jeep is a good choice if Francis decides to hit the all-terrain course.
1979 FSC Star 660
The FSC Star 660 is arguably the most badass Popemobile out there, which is likely as weird to read as it is to type. At any rate, the massive six-wheeler was essentially a converted firetruck, designed with input from Pope John Paul II himself.
The vehicle was used during the religious leader’s 1979 visit to his home nation of Poland, and some saw the commanding Popemobile as a showing of defiance against the Soviets who were in control of the Central European country at the time. Millions upon millions of Poles rallied around the armored flatbed during the tour, giving valuable traction to the Solidarity movement that eventually led to the fall of Communism in Poland. We’re sure the Pope had something to do with it, too.
1964 Lincoln Continental Limousine
Of all the car’s on the list, it’s the Pope’s hot-rod 1964 Lincoln Continental that’s got us thinking unholy thoughts (sorry, Father). Keeping the pimped-out yet papal Landaulet design, the Lincoln was stretched out for the Pope’s visit to New York City. While not as teched-out as the 300D, this Popemobile featured a hand crank that elevated the Pope’s throne about one foot toward the heavens. There’s no word on what boat that second windscreen came from.
1979 Ford Transit
Another trip, another Popemobile – only this time a burly Ford Transit had the papal privilege of escorting his Holiness around the Emerald Isle, which as the history books tell us was the first time a Pope had visited Ireland in, oh… I don’t know …EVER. Rather than a drab black (or local green for that matter) the holy rolling Transit got the official Papal makeover colors of yellow and white.
1982 SEAT Panda Marbella Papamóvil
Spain was awarded the grand honor of hosting John Paul II in 1982, and as a cheeky gesture, the country bestowed upon him the smallest Popemobile ever, the SEAT Panda Papamóvil. Pope Francis would approve.
1982 Range Rover Popemobile
The Pope sure got around in the 1980s – but who didn’t, really? His trip to jolly old England saw Land Rover up its holy game with the first-ever bulletproof enclosure for his Holiness’ trip to the U.K. Sadly, we can’t say for certain whether it protected him from the bland food…
1982 Leyland Popemobile
Range Rover takes the credit for the first bulletproof Popemobile, but it’s Scotland’s Leyland Trucks that deserves recognition for being the most massive. Weighing in at 24 tons, this Popemobile featured the now typical enclosure with the addition of glass room at the top. God help you if you ever got in its way.