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Was "Popemobile" First Used to Describe a Bronco That Ford Modified for the 1979 Papal Visit to the US?

Posted August 11, 2020 12:00 AM by dstrohl
Pathfinder Tags: Bronco Ford

In 2002, Pope John Paul II pleaded with the media to, for heaven's sake, stop calling the vehicles he rode around in the "popemobile." It was "undignified," he said. Did the media comply? No, because we like catchy names for things, and popemobile is short and distinctive. Also, by that time the term had been in use for nearly a quarter century, after it apparently originated with a trio of second third-generation Broncos that Ford modified for Pope John Paul II himself.

Somehow, it took 50 years for somebody to coin that unofficial term for the vehicles that the pope rides around in. While plenty of popemobile histories point to the Nürburg 460 that Mercedes-Benz gave to Pius XI in 1930 as the first popemobile, as the Washington Post noted in its divine illustrated history of popemobiles, the Vatican garage already had a number of cars by 1929--among them a Fiat 525 and an Isotta-Fraschini Type 8--and the first automobile that a pope rode in when traveling outside the Vatican walls that year was a 1929 Graham-Paige Type 837.

Plenty of other popemobiles followed, and while many of them came from Mercedes-Benz, Ford Motor Company also supplied a few, including the 1964 Lincoln Continental that ferried Pope Paul VI around New York City for the first visit by a sitting pope to the U.S. in 1965. Looking to continue the tradition, Ford brass decided to provide another vehicle for Pope John Paul II's 1979 visit to the U.S.

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Re: Was "Popemobile" First Used to Describe a Bronco That Ford Modified for the 1979 Papal Visit to the US?

08/12/2020 6:10 AM

Not the first use of the term in 2002. I was standing in the crowd in Liverpool in 1982 when the Pope was driven along Hope Street from the Anglican cathedral to the Catholic cathedral in his open top, specially constructed "Popemobile". I do not think that was the first occasion a vehicle with that name had been used. There appear to have been several model over the years. The more recent ones usually have papal thrones enclosed in bullet proof glass.

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