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Press Information

February 2011

Mercedes-Benz Classic

75 years of popemobile manufacture by Mercedes-Benz

Stuttgart/Rome – Mercedes-Benz has been providing popemobiles since 1930. In the summer of that year, 75 years ago, Pope Pius XI received a

Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 as a present from Daimler-Benz AG. In the following decades, Mercedes-Benz supplied the Vatican with several extensively converted limousines, landaulets and offroaders as official cars for the Holy Father. For three quarters of a century, there have therefore been close relations between the Stuttgart-based automotive brand and the Roman Supreme Pontiff.

The passenger was enthusiastic. It was clear for all to see that Pope Pius XI had enjoyed the one-hour trial run in his new Mercedes-Benz through the Vatican gardens. “A masterpiece of modern engineering,” the Holy Father enthused when he climbed out of the Pullman limousine based on the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460. The elegant car with the three-pointed star on the engine hood had been handed over to him by a Daimler-Benz delegation and was to go down in history in subsequent years – as the first automobile to be regularly used by a pope.

This Mercedes-Benz handed over to Pope Pius XI 75 years ago was nothing less than the beginning of close relations between the Vatican and the Stuttgart-based motor manufacturer. In the decades that followed, Mercedes-Benz regularly presented the Vatican with automobiles which had been extensively converted for the pope. During the last 25 years, television and newspaper photos made the popemobiles based on Mercedes-Benz offroaders from the
G-Class and M-Class particularly well known. Especially the travels of Pope John Paul II made the offroaders, finished in the papal colors mother-of-pearl and gold and fitted with the characteristic glass cupola, famous throughout the world. However, the landaulets and limousines based on the S-Class equally form part of the pope’s public appearances.

The Mercedes-Benz Nürburg and the current papal car, an M-Class with special bodywork, are the cornerstones of the brand history of automobiles from Stuttgart specially manufactured for the Holy Father. The first modern model after World War II was a Mercedes-Benz 300 d – the “Adenauer-Mercedes” – handed over to Pope John XXIII by representatives from Untertürkheim in 1960, 30 years after Pope Pius XI’s trial run in the Nürburg. The

Mercedes-Benz 300 d had been converted into a landaulet with extended wheelbase – with a soft-top above the rear compartment and a hard-top above the front seats.

In 1965, a delegation from Stuttgart handed over a landaulet version of the Mercedes-Benz 600 to Pope Paul VI at the papal summer residence. In the following two years, as many as three cars – model 300 SEL from the 109 series – were supplied. For the visit of Pope John Paul II to Germany in 1980, Mercedes-Benz developed the first popemobile with a transparent superstructure based on an offroader – a converted G-Class car which was given to the Vatican as a present in 1982. In 1985, the Vatican’s fleet was extended by the addition of a special version of the Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL (W 126), followed in 1997 by a long-wheelbase landaulet version of the S 500. In the summer of 2002, finally, DaimlerChrysler presented the Holy Father with a popemobile set up on the proven example of the G-Class, only this time the car was based on the ML 430 from the M-Class.

Tradition and dignity

Starting with the Nürburg, the history of popemobiles from Mercedes-Benz ranges through to the 2002 M-Class, reflecting a relationship between the Holy See and the Stuttgart-based automotive brand, which has developed and thrived through several pontificates. And this relationship has time and again been expressed by the close cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and the Vatican in the design and manufacture of new automobiles for the pope.

The popes themselves have held their Mercedes-Benz cars in high esteem, too. When the M-Class was handed over to Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2002, the Holy Father himself addressed the media with the plea rather not to use “papa-mobile”, the term not being commensurate with the dignity and purpose of these automobiles.

Sedan-chairs and carriages

For many centuries, the popes used carriages and sedan-chairs for journeys, processions and other public appearances. A very special role was played by the Sedia Gestatoria, the papal sedan-chair. It was carried by twelve “palafrenieri” in red uniforms at events of high liturgical significance for large congregations. Its purpose was much the same as that of modern popemobiles with their raised seats: the Holy Father was to be seen also from quite a distance by the faithful at important events, attended by large crowds of guests and spectators.

After the invention of the automobile in 1886, it took several decades before the Vatican used a motor vehicle for the pope for the first time. The reason for this was not a reservation against modern engineering but Italian politics. The Papal States had been dissolved when the Italian nation was founded in 1870. King Vittorio Emanuele II had offered Pope Pius IX limited sovereignty which the latter had, however, refused to accept. In the following six decades, the popes did not leave Vatican City out of protest against the unsolved “Roman Question”.

This situation did not change before 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts by Secretary-of-State Pietro Cardinal Gasparri for the Vatican and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini for the Kingdom of Italy. In these contracts, the Vatican recognized Rome as the capital of the Italian nation and in turn, the kingdom recognized the Vatican’s territorial sovereignty in Vatican City and the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. The signing of the Lateran Pacts in 1929 not only gave the pope new weight on the international political stage but also ended the Supreme Pontiff’s confinement to Vatican City, which had lasted almost 60 years.

A Mercedes-Benz for the pope?

For his trips to the summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, but also for other journeys, the Holy Father would now use an automobile in the future more often. Luxurious motor vehicles had already been presented to the Vatican since 1909. During the first quarter of the 20th century, the fleet encompassed vehicles from brands like Fiat, Bianchi, Graham-Paige, Itala, Citroën and others. But the pope would not be chauffeured around in a motor vehicle – he didn’t after all need a car in an area with a size of just 44 hectares (108.7 acres) - small enough to be walked around comfortably in just one hour. Apart from this, neither Pope Pius X (1903 - 1914) nor his successor Benedict XV (1914 - 1922) were known to be particularly interested in the modern engineering of the motor vehicle. Not so Pope Pius XI (1922 - 1939) who was fascinated by the opportunities offered by the motor vehicle and promptly started using the Vatican fleet’s vehicles shortly after the signing of the Lateran Pacts.

And why was the Holy Father not to undertake his travels in a Mercedes-Benz? This was the question asked in the spring of 1929 by Robert Katzenstein, the advertising man of Mercedes-Benz in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. From this question evolved the idea of a limousine individually converted for the pope as a present of Mercedes-Benz for the Vatican. How would the Vatican react to such a present from Germany?

Katzenstein knew Dr. Diego von Bergen, the German ambassador to the Vatican, and presented the idea to him. Von Bergen asked the right people at the Holy See how the Curia would respond to the present of an imposing Mercedes-Benz as an official car for the pope. The answer from Rome turned out to be so encouraging that Katzenstein submitted his proposal to corporate management without delay. The project of a Mercedes-Benz popemobile also met with agreement in Stuttgart and detailed planning began as early as the summer of 1929.

1930 – Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460

The choice of basic car for the popemobile was an easy one. For

Daimler-Benz, no other car would have been more befitting for the Supreme Pontiff than the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 launched in 1928. The limousine from the W 08 series was powered by an eight-cylinder in-line engine with a total displacement of 4622 cc. The engine developed 80 hp at 3400/min and gave the car a top speed of 100 km/h. Contrary to the first 1928 models with high frames, the engineers in Stuttgart opted for a chassis with a modern low frame for the Rome Vehicle, as the project was known internally. The chassis, engine and bodywork were modified for the popemobile only to a very limited extent.

The interior of the Pullman limousine was converted all the more thoroughly, however. All involved were fully aware of the project’s outstanding significance. In Stuttgart, in Mannheim (where the Nürburg was produced) and in Sindelfingen (where the car was converted and furnished), the project of the Nürburg limousine for the Vatican was an order that did not permit compromise in any respect. A noble album put together in 1930 for the handing over of the Nürburg to the pope had this to say: “It was now a question of providing the Holy Father, the Supreme Pontiff of the oldest Christian community, with the most advanced car, with the best car that can be found among the good ones!”

Long time in the making: the creation of a masterpiece

Such perfection takes its time, however. Initially it was planned to hand over the car in winter 1929. But this soon proved to be illusory – it did indeed take a long time to design and manufacture all the detail features of the car, which were individually matched to the pope’s requirements. The black livery, the single seat in the rear with air-cushion upholstery and other detail features had already been agreed when the chassis was taken from Mannheim to Sindelfingen in late fall 1929. In the months to follow, the Special Car Manufacturing department then created the “masterpiece” out of the

Mercedes-Benz Nürburg whose production version was already a highly representative car. “Masterpiece” was eventually the praise lavished by the pope himself on the finished car in the summer of 1930.

The seats for the driver and co-driver were covered with black leather, while the throne-chair for the Holy Father in the rear of the Nürburg was covered with fine silk-brocade. An item of special artistic quality was the interior roof lining: the dove, symbolizing the Holy Spirit, had been designed by Father Cornelius, the Benedictine order’s expert for parament embroidery at Beuron monastery. The embroiderers at a Benedictine convent then executed the design using the finest materials. Matching the embroidery, the designers selected fine wood and metals for the appointments of the popemobile.

Modern materials were, by contrast, used by the builders of the popemobile for the windows. Instead of the “select crystal mirror glass” originally planned for use, Kinon safety glass, non-splintering and tinted to protect against the hot Italian sun, was chosen for the windows. Kinon glass was an early laminated material for car glazing, consisting of two glass panes with sheeting in-between. The current state of the art was also reflected by the signaling system for the passenger. Using a control panel, the pope was able to give instructions concerning speed and destination to his driver.

The masterpiece was finally completed in the spring of 1930: burr walnut, brocade, the Holy Ghost embroidery in the roof lining, the imposing papal throne-chair – all these features combined into an impressive entity in this special Mercedes-Benz. The creators of the Rome Vehicle proudly presented the result of their work in Vienna and Stuttgart before they set off to Italy. And don’t you believe that the car was carried to the Vatican on a transporter for the handing-over ceremony. The Mercedes-Benz Nürburg drove to the Eternal City under its own steam.

On the day of the hand-over, the car, weighing in at almost two-and-a-half tons, was once again photographed: outside Castel Sant'Angelo, in St. Peter’s Square, with St. Peter’s Basilica as a backdrop. On these historical photos, the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg is shown with the registration number SCV 4. The handing-over of the car to the pope was also documented. Pius XI thoroughly inspected the car before he went on a “lengthy ride through the Vatican gardens” with the visitors from Stuttgart, as the proud and contented Mercedes-Benz advertising department was able to report about the event. Having covered the long-distance run from Stuttgart to Rome, the pope’s trial drive was an easy exercise for the new papal Mercedes.

As a memento of the handing-over ceremony, an album was compiled with the Holy Father’s coat of arms and Mercedes-Benz’ three-pointed star in a laurel wreath on the cover. The text inside came to the following conclusion: “And this is how one of the most perfected accomplishments has been created that our age of highly advanced engineering and refined taste is capable of producing: the papal limousine for the twentieth century, the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 8. Manufactured out of the finest materials, by experienced German workers, completed with all the care of a value tradition cultivated over decades. A symbol of outstanding technical achievement, presented at its new home, Vatican City!”

Return to Stuttgart

After having covered some 40,000 kilometers, the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg retired from active fleet service to be displayed, together with other extraordinary papal vehicles, in the Vatican’s museum. Whereas the car’s frame and sheet-metal parts were still in good condition after many years in use, the wooden trim and interior appointment required competent restoration to retain the unique car’s original condition 50 years after its manufacture. Therefore, the Nürburg returned to Stuttgart in 1983, where Daimler-Benz lavishly restored the historical car in the museum’s workshop in Fellbach. And like the manufacture of the one-off car in 1929/1930, the restoration work took over a year.

In the fall of 1984, the historical Mercedes-Benz was handed back to Pope John Paul II by Hans-Jürgen Hinrichs, member of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG, in the Vatican. And quite in the tradition of Pius XI, the pope had himself chauffeured through the Vatican gardens for a trial run in the restored Nürburg 460. Since then, the popemobile has been displayed again in the Vatican’s historical museum. The Mercedes-Benz Nürburg is a highlight of the collection in the Museo delle Carrozze, exhibiting the popes’ carriages, sedan-chairs and automobiles.

1960 – Mercedes-Benz 300 d landaulet

Thirty years after the handing over of the Rome Vehicle, Mercedes-Benz renewed its relations with the Holy See by presenting the pope with a modern automobile. This car from the contemporary model range was a Mercedes-Benz 300 d (W 189 series) with extended wheelbase. It was handed over in winter 1960 to Pope John XXIII in the coach houses of the papal fleet.

Despite the winter weather, the Holy Father was thus able to admire the car’s complete appointments including the soft-top mechanism. Unlike the 1930 limousine, the Vatican’s second Mercedes-Benz had been given a landaulet bodywork. This type of bodywork – with a hard-top above the front seats and a soft-top above the rear seats – was the classic choice for representative, chauffeur-driven limousines. The wheelbase was extended by 450 millimeters to give the car an overall length of 5.6 meters. And as compared to the production cars, the Mercedes-Benz 300 d was also slightly higher.

The popemobile was powered by the production engine of the W 189. The six-cylinder in-line unit with a total displacement of three liters developed 160 hp which were transmitted to the road by a three-speed automatic. When required, the popemobile was capable of dashing along at a top speed of 160 km/h, but most of the time, the car rolled along at a dignified pace on official occasions. Then the side windows in the rear could be removed completely with the soft-top opened, and stored in specially installed brackets in the trunk. Unlike the removable rear windows, the partition window between the front and rear compartments and the front-door windows were electrically operated. The locks for the soft-top mechanism were accessible from the driver’s seat, and the soft-top itself could be opened and closed in just a few seconds. Upon opening the rear doors, running boards were automatically extended from underneath the vehicle floor to facilitate the pope’s boarding and alighting.

During the handing-over ceremony, Pope John XXIII went into the relations between the Vatican and Mercedes-Benz since 1930 and blessed the car before setting out on a first trial run which left him totally enthusiastic about the car’s appointments. The layout of the seats in the rear corresponded to that of the Rome Vehicle of 1930, with a throne-chair for the Supreme Pontiff arranged in the direction of travel and two folding seats for the pope’s escorts at the partition from the front seats. But while Pope Pius XI merely had had a panel with seven ivory switches to convey a few commands to his driver, the papal chair in the Mercedes-Benz 300 d was surrounded by controls for the air conditioning, two-way radio and other functions.

The pope’s seat was electrically adjustable for reach as well as for backrest angle. For Pope John XIII, however, it was important to be chauffeured in the new popemobile not only in a seated position. Sturdy grab handles were fitted to the partition of the 300 d to support the pope when standing upright in the car and blessing the faithful on the move. After a short trial run in the Cortile di San Damaso, the Holy Father praised the exemplary way in which his wishes concerning a car with soft-top and removable side windows in the rear had been fulfilled.

1965 – Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman landaulet

In response to this praise, landaulet bodywork was also chosen for the next Mercedes-Benz for the pope. The Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 and the 300 d had served several popes, among other things for trips to the summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. And it was to this place that Pope Paul VI invited a high-ranking delegation from Daimler-Benz in the fall of 1965 for the handing-over of a new popemobile – a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman landaulet – to the Vatican. The special version of this representative limousine for the Vatican had been created in a cooperative effort of the Sindelfingen-based test and production departments.

Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Daimler-Benz AG Dr. Hermann Josef Abs, chairman of the Board of Management Walter Hitzinger, members of the Board of Management Professor Fritz Nallinger and Arnold Wychodil, Director Karl Wilfert and three members of staff from the Daimler-Benz plant in Sindelfingen had accompanied the four-door landaulet to Italy. Together with representatives of Mercedes-Benz Italy, the guests from Stuttgart handed over the automotive present to the pope.

This special car for the Vatican was based on the Mercedes-Benz 600 from the W 100 series with long wheelbase (3900 millimeters). Compared to the production version, the equipment had been modified extensively. The rear doors were 256 millimeters wider and directly adjoined the front doors. And the rear doors were also given new controls so as to be easier to reach from the pope’s centrally arranged individual seat. The roof of the Pullman landaulet was raised by 70 millimeters to provide adequate headroom. This had become necessary because the vehicle floor was level in the rear with the transmission tunnel vanishing underneath.

The Holy Father was enthusiastic about the W 100’s high technical standard. “The name Mercedes has become a byword for German diligence and German efficiency throughout the world. This is why your gift is all the more appreciated by us,” Paul VI praised the automotive engineering feat from Stuttgart (mind the sovereign’s pluralis majestatis!). The car‘s special equipment included, among other things, a cooling system, two-way radio for communication with the driver and a multiply-adjustable single seat in the rear. For the pope’s escorts, however, there were still only folding seats facing rearward.

Today, the Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman landaulet with the legendary registration SCV 1 is displayed in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Untertürkheim. The registration SCV stands for “Stato della Città del Vaticano” and the number one identifies the pope’s official car at any one time.

1966 – Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL landaulet

The proven landaulet principle was adopted for another car for the Holy See as early as one year after the handing over of the Mercedes-Benz 600 to Pope Paul VI. This time, the basis for the car was the W 109 series. The Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL sedan with standard wheelbase (2850 millimeters) was converted into a popemobile with a single seat that was adjustable toward the right to provide space for an escort on a folding seat at the partition.

This car was used parallel to the landaulet from the W 100 series for a long time. The appointments of the 300 SEL were not quite as luxurious as those of the Mercedes-Benz 600 and did not include air conditioning, for instance, but the car was retrofitted with armoring in 1981.

1967 – Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL

The two limousines from the W 109 series supplied by Mercedes-Benz to the Vatican in spring 1967 were 650 millimeters longer than the production version. The 300 SEL Pullman limousines had wider doors in the rear and occasional seats in the direction of travel. Unlike the landaulets, the two six-seater cars with a 3500-millimeter wheelbase were not used for official occasions but, first and foremost, as means of transport for the Vatican’s high-ranking guests.

1980 – Mercedes-Benz 230 G with special superstructure

This vehicle was the epitome of the popemobile for many years: the

Mercedes-Benz 230 G in mother-of-pearl livery accompanied Pope John Paul II on his numerous travels throughout the world. Mercedes-Benz made the car available to the pope for the latter’s visit to Germany in late fall 1980 – initially on loan.

The G-Class (460 series/G 23) with long wheelbase was chosen as the basis because this popemobile also had to be capable of coping off the normal roads. In the design of the bodywork, the Mercedes-Benz development engineers broke new ground because classic bodywork designs such as the landaulet could hardly be combined with the basic offroader. Hence, Mercedes-Benz created a popemobile with a high transparent cupola made of plastic, under which the pope traveled either seated or standing. The cupola had been designed so as to be removable in fine weather but after the attempt on Pope John Paul II’s life in 1981, the plastic cupola remained in place at all times for security reasons

A high-performance automatic climate control system for the rear of the popemobile created agreeable temperatures in the Holy Father’s compartment in the summer and prevented the cupola from misting up in rainy weather and in conditions of high air humidity. In addition, spotlights were recessed into the sides, floor and roof of the cupola to shed indirect and direct light on the pope so as to make him easily visible also in the dark.

As in the Mercedes-Benz landaulets, the floor in the rear was raised. Whereas this measure merely covered the transmission tunnel in the passenger cars, the floor in the G-Class was raised by as much as 40 centimeters, thereby creating a veritable platform for the pope and his seat. Underneath this platform, batteries were accommodated which continuously fed the car’s extensive electric system independently of the generator. Among other things, the electric system operated the running boards whose steps were extended to make boarding and alighting easier for the Supreme Pontiff.

The G-Class with its two-level superstructure out of transparent plastic was the first popemobile designed in an entirely new form language. Alongside the cupola, this included the installation of a wall-to-wall seat bench in the rear rather than a throne-chair – a detail feature Pope John Paul II had insisted on. But not only the bodywork distinguished the new popemobile from the Vatican’s traditional state limousines: the G-Class was not painted black but in the pope’s colors, white and gold. The mother-of-pearl livery was complemented by anodized gold-colored decorative trim and brass sections. In the interior, the specialists in Sindelfingen used white wool velour and white leather.

In the spring of 1982, Mercedes-Benz gave the G-Class manufactured in 1980 as a present to the Vatican for the papal fleet. And a second identical car was built for the Holy Father. The more recent popemobile based on the

Mercedes-Benz 230 GE (460 series/GE 23) had the registration SCV 6, while its somewhat older twin, based on the 230 G, usually had the registration SCV 7.

The G-Class cars developed 100 hp and 125 hp, respectively, from their four-cylinder engines with 2.3-liter displacement. An automatic transmission transferred engine power to the road. The car - 4392 millimeters long, 1950 millimeters wide and some 2800 millimeters high – was given a particularly comfortable springing for the pope to be safe and protected against vibrations even off the normal road. In 1983 and 1985, the equipment of the G-Class cars was modified by Mercedes-Benz to meet the Vatican’s more stringent safety requirements.

For the pope’s visit to Austria in 1983, a specific exterior detail feature of the car was modified in that the Mercedes star on the radiator grill was replaced by the Puch badge. It was, after all, under this brand name that the G-Class, a joint product of Mercedes-Benz and Magna Steyr, was marketed in Austria. The Mercedes-Benz concept of an offroader with transparent safety superstructure was adopted in subsequent years by other manufacturers to make locally manufactured vehicles available to the pope on his travels.

1985 – Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL

Despite the media presence of the new popemobile, John Paul II continued to use classic limousines and landaulets as well. A photo of his first outing after his election in 1978 showed the new pope in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL landaulet from the W 109 series.

From the summer of 1985 onward, the pope was able to choose between landaulet and limousine because Mercedes-Benz had given John Paul II an armored Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL (V 126 series) as a present. Prof. Dr. Werner Breitschwerdt, chairman of the Board of Management of Daimler-Benz AG, handed over the car in a metallic black livery to the Holy Father in a private audience.

The dimensions of the new car, replacing the Mercedes-Benz 600 from 1965 as the pope’s official car, differed substantially from the production version. The limousine was given a 200-millimeter longer wheelbase and a 30-millimeter higher roof. In the rear, the car had a single seat for the pope and two folding seats vis-à-vis. Hence, the arrangement of the seats in the new 500 SEL corresponded exactly to that of the Mercedes-Benz Nürburg handed over 55 years earlier.

Unlike the 1930 car, the limousine provided the pope with the possibility of showing himself in public despite the armoring. To this end, a 100-millimeter longer sunroof was installed ahead of the rear seat. And underneath the sunroof, the popemobile creators installed two small platforms operated by electric motors. These platforms could be raised to the level of the transmission tunnel, thereby creating a level platform that was clearly above the floor to improve standing height. To protect the pope against slip stream, a shield made of six-millimeter-thick polycarbonate could be extended in front of the sunroof.

With the sunroof opened and the shield extended, the limousine drove no faster than 30 km/h. With the sunroof closed, the car, with its permissible gross weight of over three tons (unladen weight: 2673 kilograms) had a top speed of 160 km/h. Pope Benedict XVI was seen in this limousine on his first official outings in Rome after his election in 2005.

1997 – Mercedes-Benz S 500 landaulet with long wheelbase

Mercedes-Benz succeeded in combining venerable tradition and advanced engineering in a landaulet based on S-Class model S 500 with long wheelbase (V 140 series) which was handed over to the Vatican in 1997. Pope John Paul II personally took delivery of the car and had himself informed about the technical details of the one-off car highly inquisitively. And in view of the extensive conversion, the delegation from Mercedes-Benz had plenty to explain to him.

On the basis of the S-Class with long wheelbase, a landaulet with electro-hydraulically operated soft-top was created, giving the Holy Father in his single seat particularly generous space. As a result, Pope John Paul II had nothing but praise when the car was handed over. As in the two older papal landaulets from Mercedes-Benz, two folding occasional seats were mounted to the rear side of the partition opposite the white upholstered chair. The car’s designers had given the seat a particularly long vertical adjustment travel of 500 millimeters, allowing the pope to get up more easily. In addition, the landaulet’s soft-top was designed to have a 50-millimeter higher roof than the production car in closed condition.

The S 500 landaulet had a V8 engine with a displacement of five liters, an output of 320 hp and a five-speed automatic transmission. The special equipment of the new popemobile included not only the landaulet body with soft-top and grab handles, the single seat, the communication system and a partition but also a St. Mary icon integrated in the paneling of the partition from the driver’s compartment.

2002 – Mercedes-Benz ML 430 with special bodywork

At the World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002, Pope John Paul II traveled for the first time in the new popemobile on the basis of the Mercedes-Benz M-Class, which had been presented to him by DaimlerChrysler AG a little earlier. The special body of the car (W 163 series) was modeled on its predecessors on

G-Class chassis. However, the cupola on the M-Class was no longer squared. For the first draft of a popemobile on the basis of the G-Class, this compact cube made of advanced plastic (not armored glass, as is often assumed) had simply suggested itself because the cupola was easy to remove from the chassis of the converted offroader when required.

At the time the new M-Class was provided, however, using the car without protective panes had been out of the question for quite a while. Therefore, the Mercedes-Benz designers created a special superstructure whose sides extend far upwards behind the front doors, thereby providing an elegant frame for the large windows surrounding the pope’s seat. With its V8 engine with a displacement of 4.3 liters and an output of 272 hp, the ML 430 was adequately powered to serve as the basic car for the new popemobile. And like its G-Class predecessors, the papal M-Class was given a mother-of-pearl finish and white interior appointments.

Technical data

Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 (W 08)
Year of production: 1929/1930
Bodywork: Pullman limousine
Engine: Eight-cylinder in-line
Displacement: 4.6 liters
Output: 80 hp (59 kW)
Transmission: Four-speed manual
Wheelbase: 3670 millimeters
Length: 5380 millimeters
Width: 1820 millimeters
Height: 1820 millimeters
Unladen weight: 2300 kilograms

Mercedes-Benz 300 d (W 189)
Year of production: 1960
Bodywork: Landaulet
Engine: Six-cylinder in-line
Displacement: 3.0 liters
Output: 160 hp (118 kW)
Transmission: Automatic
Wheelbase: 3800 millimeters (extended by 450 millimeters)
Length: 5640 millimeters
Width: 1955 millimeters
Height: 1720 millimeters

Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman landaulet (W 100)
Year of production: 1965
Bodywork: Landaulet, long wheelbase
Engine: V8
Displacement: 6.3 liters
Output: 250 hp (184 kW)
Transmission: Automatic
Wheelbase: 3900 millimeters
Length: 6240 millimeters
Width: 1950 millimeters
Height: 1580 millimeters

Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL (W 109)
Year of production: 1966
Bodywork: Landaulet
Engine: Six-cylinder in-line
Displacement: 2.8 liters
Output: 170 hp (125 kW)
Transmission: Automatic
Wheelbase: 2850 millimeters
Length: 5000 millimeters
Width: 1810 millimeters

Mercedes-Benz 300 SEL (W 109)
Year of production: 1967
Bodywork: Limousine
Engine: Six-cylinder in-line
Displacement: 2.8 liters
Output: 170 hp (125 kW)
Wheelbase: 3500 millimeters (extended by 650 millimeters)

Mercedes-Benz 230 G and 230 GE (460/G 23)
Year of production: 1980
Bodywork: Special superstructure
Engine: Four-cylinder in-line
Displacement: 2.3 liters
Output: 230 G: 100 hp (74 kW); 230 GE: 125 hp (92 kW)
Transmission: Automatic
Wheelbase: 2850 millimeters
Length: 4392 millimeters
Width: 1950 millimeters
Height: 2800 millimeters
Unladen weight: 3000 kilograms

Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL (V 126)
Year of production: 1985
Bodywork: Armored limousine
Engine: V8
Displacement: 5 liters
Output: 240 hp (176 kW)
Transmission: Automatic
Wheelbase: 3270 millimeters (extended by 200 millimeters)
Length: 5335 millimeters
Width: 1820 millimeters
Height: 1470 millimeters
Unladen weight: 2673 kilograms

Mercedes-Benz S 500, long wheelbase (V 140)
Year of production: 1997
Bodywork: Landaulet
Engine: V8
Displacement: 5 liters
Output: 320 hp (235 kW)
Transmission: Automatic
Wheelbase: 3140 millimeters
Length: 5213 millimeters
Width: 1886 millimeters
Height: 1526 millimeters
Unladen weight: 2305 kilograms

Mercedes-Benz ML 430 (W 163)
Year of production: 2002
Bodywork: Special superstructure
Engine: V8
Displacement: 4.3 liters
Output: 272 hp (200 kW)
Transmission: Automatic

Further information from Mercedes-Benz is available on the internet at: and

Daimler Communications, 70546 Stuttgart/Germany
Mercedes-Benz – A Daimler Brand

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