I read yesterday that 2 new popemobiles had been delivered to London by Mercedes-Benz for use during Pope Benedict XVI's 1st official visit to the U.K. That prompted a look at earlier papal vehicles. For nearly 1,000 years, popes have been carried on a ceremonial sedan chair known as the sedia gestatoria, From the 17th c. until the early 19th c., popes rode in a landau carriage equipped with a throne, such as the gran gala berlin (1st image) preserved in the Vatican Museum. After the invention of the automobile, Pope Pius XI ushered in a new age of papal transportation, with a fleet of motorized popemobiles: the 1929 Graham Paige limousine (2nd image) with a gold-appointed and silk-upholstered interior by American coach-builder LeBaron, the Nurberg style Mercedes-Benz, and the Italian-made Citroën Lictoria. In the 1960s, the papal vehicle was upgraded to the Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman and the 300 SEL Landaulet (3rd image), which were equipped with a folding top, oversized rear doors, and an extra 2 3/4" of head room. The cabin could seat 6 and had a throne that slid to the side mechanically. Prior to the 1981 assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II, most popemobiles used for outdoor public appearances were open-air cars, like the Cadillac (4th image). Papal vehicles have traditionally been supplied by Mercedes-Benz, but limos and modified trucks have also been supplied by Ford and Chevrolet.
This year, the pope will travel in a 5.0 liter V8 modified Mercedes-Benz M-Class "green petrol" SUV (5th image) which is outfitted with run-flat tires, can go from 0 to 60mph in 6 seconds, and has a maximum speed of 160mph. The cabin area is bulletproof, with 3" thick composite plastic glass, and has its own air supply to withstand a chemical or biological attack. The undercarriage is plated with bomb-proof steel. The vehicle seats 5, with a power-assisted seat for the pontiff. It weighs 5 tons and cost £200,000.