We know from a reliable source that the heartfelt cry “Oh Lord, won’t you buy me a Mercedes-Benz” from 1970 didn’t come from the head of the Catholic Church. That’s because popes have been riding in star-brand cars since 1930. Back then, Pope Pius XI, received a Mercedes-Benz Nürburg 460 as a gift from Daimler-Benz AG. It marked the beginning of a now almost 90-year relationship, which has probably lasted longer than every Christian marriage that has ever been concluded.
The first modern model to be delivered after World War II was a Mercedes-Benz 300 d, the same as used by German Chancellor Adenauer. Representatives from the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim plant presented the vehicle to Pope John XXIII in 1960. The car in question was a landaulet, which is a type of vehicle that has a convertible top for the rear and a fixed roof for the front seats. For the German tour of Pope John Paul II in 1980, Mercedes-Benz developed the first pope vehicle to feature a transparent superstructure. The vehicle was a converted G-Class off-roader, which was presented to the Vatican as a gift in 1982. The raised seat position enabled the Holy Father to get a better view and come into closer contact with the people during his public appearances. Since then, these types of vehicles have colloquially been referred to as “popemobiles.” The pope himself wasn’t very happy about this name, because it wasn’t in keeping with the dignity and purpose of these automobiles.
However, in the summer of 2002, DaimlerChrysler presented the Holy Father with a popemobile based on an M-Class 430. It was a custom-made vehicle, which was later also used by John Paul’s successor, Pope Benedict XVI. A converted M-Class, which is now known as the GLE, can also be found in the vehicle fleet of Pope Francis. This popemobile was presented by former Daimler CEO Dieter Zetsche in person. And because even back then, traffic in Rome tended to stand still rather than flow, the pope also received a smart e-bike, which is as sporty as it is environmentally friendly. No matter which kind of vehicle or even which vehicle brand the pope is relying on, we wish him a safe journey — urbi et orbi: in Rome and in all the countries he visits.