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In a tradition started 82 years ago
Pope Benedict XVI presented with the new
Mercedes-Benz M-Class based Popemobile

Mercedes-Benz M-Class based Popemobile, 2012.

The new Popemobile with the significantly extended dome.

Bechara Aboul-Nasr, 12 Dec. 2012: Maintaining a tradition it started in 1930, German luxury car brand Mercedes-Benz presented last Friday its latest Popemobile to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican.

The Popemobile is used by the head of the Catholic Church in public appearances both at home and abroad, giving him the opportunity to get as close as possible to the public with the necessary safety protection.

His Holiness with Dieter Zetsche aboard the new Popemobile.

As His Holiness continues the Papal tradition of visiting Christian communities, even in unstable political climates sometimes, such as His visit last September to Lebanon, the country of the Christ's first miracle (the wedding at Cana, South Lebanon), the Stuttgart-based automaker has reduced the overall height of the vehicle by a few centimetres to facilitate frequent transport of the modified M-Class by air, while at the same time improving the internal standing height.

It was Dr Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler AG and Head of Mercedes-Benz Cars, who personally handed over the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, specifically produced for the Pope and fitted with the latest technological highlights in a special-purpose body.

1st Popemobile, the Nürburg 460 Pullman Saloon (picture in front of the Castel Sant’ Angelo, in Rome).

Popemobile, the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 Pullman Saloon, interior (1930).

1930 Nürburg 460 Pullman (picture in front of the Castel Sant’ Angelo, Rome) with parament embroidery inside.

Based on the current M-Class, the new Popemobile features a new interior design, with the dome significantly extended (compared to the previous Mercedes-Benz Popemobile) to improve space and entry access, in addition to considerably larger glass panels in the viewing area, with large illuminated roof lining.

Naturally, the throne, which is the central design feature in the interior, bears the embroidered coat of arms of the Holy Father. As with the preceding model, the body of the new Popemobile is painted in diamond white.

Mercedes-Benz says that work on the new Popemobile began some nine months ago, and it was designed and produced inhouse.

The German car brand added that it has been providing vehicles for the trips and official appearances of the successive leaders of the Catholic Church for more than 80 years now. The first Mercedes-Benz for a Pope was a Nürburg 460 Pullman Saloon, provided for Pope Pius XI in 1930.

Mercedes-Benz 300 d Landaulet for Pope John XXIII: front-side view.

Mercedes-Benz 300 d Landaulet for Pope John XXIII: roof and doors open.

1960 Popemobile: Mercedes-Benz 300 d Landaulet with a 450-millimeter longer wheelbase and a single seat in the rear.

In the 1960s, Pope John XXIII received a 300d Landaulet in the guise of a Cabriolet (opposite two pictures).

Later, Pope Paul VI first made use of a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman Landaulet, followed by a 300 SEL.

From the 1980s, Pope John Paul II initially travelled in a modified G-Class, also designated as a "Popemobile", to the celebrations in St. Peter's Square.

From 2002, Pope John Paul II mostly made use of the previous Popemobile, which Benedict XVI has also used up until today.

In 2007, Mercedes-Benz also presented Pope Benedict XVI with a G-Class based (special G 500 Guard) Popemobile, equipped with a folding windscreen and hand-rails.

With such a history behind them, Popemobiles do "retire" but they can be viewed as part of the collections on display at both the Vatican and the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.

1966 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL Popemobile with the landaulet body.

1966 Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL Popemobile (landaulet body).

Besides Mercedes-Benz, French car maker Renault has also presented the Vatican with two exclusively designed and built Renault Kangoo Maxi Z.E. electric vehicles (more details and pictures can be reached from the preceding link).

The vehicles were handed over to His Holiness by Renault’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn, during a visit to the Pope’s summer residence in Castel Gandolfo.

The 1980 Popemobile, based on the Mercedes-Benz 230 G.

The 1980 Popemobile, based on the Mercedes-Benz 230 G.

The first Kangoo Maxi Z.E. electric vehicle is an ecological version of the Popemobile for use when the Pope is travelling at his summer residence, with the Papal coat of arms depicted on the doors.

The second Kangoo electric vehicle is for use by the Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City, and both cars were converted in association with Renault's coachbuilder Gruau.


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