Popemobiles In Historical Perspective

The car below is the Mercedes donated by Mercedes to Pope Pius XI. Custom built for His Holiness.

Mercedes Nuerburg 1930. Custom buit for Pope Pius XI. Donated by Mercedes.

Mercedes Nuerburg 1930. Custom buit for Pope Pius XI. Donated by Mercedes.

Far from considering the gift a horror for Renaissance Princes, Pope Pius XI received the car personally.

Yes, that one is the Pope... You Renaissance Prince, you...!

Yes, that one is the Pope… You Renaissance Prince, you…!

After the historic Concordate with Italy in 1929, Graham Paige, a now-forgotten US car producer, donated this splendid example to, again, Pope Pius XI. The gift was, I suppose, gracefully and gratefully  accepted. The car was also clearly not sold to give the money to the poor.


Graham Paige 837, donated by the firm.

Graham Paige 837, donated by the firm.


Not yet anything concerning Pope Pius XII.

If you have links to photos of the Pope in a Vatican car (not the guest car he used in Germany, say) please post in the comment section.


Pope John XXIII used a magnificent, breathtakingly beautiful Mercedes 300 Landaulet. The cost of even the standard version was prohibitive, this Landaulet’s must have been stratospheric.

Pope John XXIII in one of his Renaissance Prince moments...

Pope John XXIII in one of his “Renaissance Prince” moments…


Pope Paul VI also wasn’t particularly shy (or perhaps there was no poverty back then; one of the two). The leading car is the Mercedes 300 Landaulet we already know, but all the other cars are Mercedes sedans. Not very favela-friendly, then…


Spectacular Mercedes motorcade.

Rome: spectacular Mercedes motorcade.


Later, Paul VI switched to another Renaissance-like creation, and another custom built Mercedes Landaulet; this time, of the Model 600.

Pope Paul VI Mercedes 600 Landaulet

This car is just a show-stopper. I have seen in the flesh the standard version of it. A miracle of elegance, class and beauty. A fitting car for a Pope. Below is a photo of this wonderful vehicle in action


Tsk.. Tsk... what is next, a Beethoven concert?

Tsk, tsk… what is next, a Beethoven concert?


In the following years, Landaulet seemed to fall a bit from grace (for security reasons, I suppose), but the Vatican was equipped, thanks to Mercedes, with some rather impressive vehicles besides the usual and not very kingly white Papamobiles.

The one below is a Mercedes S500, with armour and glass rooftop. A platform allowed the Pope to comfortably but halfway securely greet the masses. The car has been in used until the present days. It is not known that its use ever caused widespread protests amongst the present poor. We are here in the Eighties.


Bishops must stay out...

Bishops must stay out…


A more expensive, rather impressive custom built example for more relaxed occasions is the one below: this is another Landaulet, though of a less spectacular sort than the Mercedes 300 and 600. The Mercedes S is the following version to the one above. We are here already in the Nineties.

Custom Built Spectacular

Custom Built, too…

The last couple of decades have seen the use of some of the present vehicles, but with – due to the omnipresent security concerns – the massive use of those familiar white 4×4 meant to let the Pope resemble a fish in the acquarium. I never liked those vehicles, and they won’t be allowed to be pictured here.

Fast forward to 2013.

This is the bishop of Rome’s latest vehicle.


This is a five years old (note the front: this isn’t the latest model) Ford Focus. In order to stress the splendour of the Church, it is a hatchback. We are not told if it has air-con.

Bishop Francis would be appalled at knowing that Pope Pius IX, one of the most notorious “Renaissance Princes” of the XIX century, had his own train car.

I say! Shameless!

I say! Shameless!


Allow me to conclude this little gallery with my personal suggestion for an appropriate vehicle for the Bishop of Rome, one that would allow him to stress the importance of poverty, to put the accent on the preservation of the environment, and to resonate with the poor of the Argentinian pampas…


Forget the landaulets! Emissions are completely organic...!

Forget the landaulets! Emissions are completely organic…!


I allow myself to suggest the name for this revolutionary change of mobility perspective:





Posted on July 17, 2013, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 10 Comments.

  1. The Vicar of Christ should ride in nothing less than what man’s God given brain can imagine and create–exquisitely engineered and designed with a angel on the shoulder of the artist (such as what the Mercedes vehicles demonstrates).

    • Yes! Yes! Yes!

      Can you imagine such a self-centred John XXZiII as to say to Mercedes “thanks but your exquisite 300d Landaulet is something for Renaissance Princes, please the it back”.

      The bishop of Rome is truly in love with his own humbleness.


  2. While I understand and appreciate the concept of choosing a humble car (and I agree with it in most situations) I find that it is most likely inappropriate for the Pope (in other words, that IMHO).

    But, what do I know? I am just someone who loves the Church and wants to see it survive…

  3. I remember reading somewhere recently that when Christ rode the donkey into Jerusalem, that far from being an expression of solidarity with the destitute it symbolized the Davidic line, a true regal messiah. So even though we see a humility there it still conveyed the dignity associated with the promised messiah as heir to the Davidic Covenant.
    I think we are going to see much more of this downplaying of the dignity of the Papacy leading to an ever greater paralysis of the office and the terrible damage it will cause. Strangely enough, it may be that divine Providence will use this troubled Papacy as a way of bringing the present failed ecclesiastical establishment crashing down and so making room for a return to authentic tradition. I pray and hope that God will bless his Church with a figure like Gregory the Great, or any of the other great popes who were fearless in their love for and defence of the Catholic Faith.

    • Yes, entering Jerusalem on a colt was one of the ways the Messiah so eagerly awaited would have made himself known. The people of Jerusalem knew it, hence the enthusiastic welcome. Far from being an act of self-abasement, Jesus’ triumphal entry was an act of Divine baldness and majesty.


  4. vermontcrank1

    Dear Mundabor. Touche!!!

    You have hit on a fantastic idea. Seriously, if Pope Francis will not ride on a colt or a donkey how can he say he is for the poor or that he is the Vicar of Christ – well, ok, he doesn’t say that but you have NAILED IT!!!

  5. radjalemagnifique

    Great post! I have been grinning from the beginning to the … end!

    And if we didn’t know already that you’re an Italian, this passion for beautiful cars would have betrayed you!

    Radja le Magnifique

  6. Isn’t a pope supposed to accept such extravagant–and beautiful–gifts as though they were given to Christ Himself (which they are)–receiving them in gratitude as Christ accepted the generous gift of the woman who poured costly ointment on his feet?
    When popes are too concerned about what people think of him (not Christ), it’s because they don’t think often (if at all) of what God thinks of them or of what God deserves. Is anything too good for God?
    Pope Francis is so preoccupied with how he appears to others; the ass is symbolic not so much of his seeming humility as it is of his denigration of the papacy to curry favor with the world. It reminds of one of Aesop’s fables–the one about the man with a small son and an ass who tries to please those he encounters on the way–all of whom have something negative to say about who’s riding and who’s not. In the end, the man tries to carry the ass instead and ends up dropping it in the river (I think that’s how it goes). So in his eagerness to please everyone, he loses something of much greater value to himself and his son.

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