Mercedes G-Class Popemobile Turns 40 Years Old This Year

The iconic Popemobile turns 40 years old this year and Mercedes takes a trip down the memory lane to remind us of this very special G-Class.

It was 1980 when Mercedes first provided a specially built G-Class to the Vatican on loan for the Pope’s visit in Germany.

That first modified G-Class, which is now on display at the Mercedes-Benz Museum until September, features a rear bench installed on a continuous floor panel that was raised by 40 cm and protected all around by a transparent dome that was originally made out of perspex.

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The superstructure, which made this specific G-Class 2.8 meters tall, allowed the Pope to remain easily visible for the crowds, both when he was sitting down and standing up. The white Popemobile also features various lights on its sides, floor and roof of the superstructure.

To keep the Pope cool, the car also featured a powerful air-conditioning unit to ensure pleasant temperatures within the dome in the summer and prevent its panes from fogging up in rain and high-humidity conditions.

As you might expect, speed wasn’t a crucial task for the Popemobile, with the original vehicle being powered by a four-cylinder petrol engine with just 102 HP paired to an automatic transmission. Following the assassination attempt in 1981, the pontifical G-Class was updated with bulletproof glazing.

A second vehicle with almost identical features was created in 1982, based on the slightly more powerful 230 GE model which made 125 HP; the newer car could be identified by its number plate -SCV 6- as the original car wore the SCV 7 registration number. The same year Mercedes handed over both vehicles to the Vatican, with the original Popemobile returned to the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection since 2004.

Mercedes has also provided Pope Benedict XVI with a mystic white G 500 in November 2007, featuring an open-top body and a folding windscreen. That G-Class can be used either as a fully-fledged convertible or with a transparent weather-proof section.

The 1980 Mercedes 230 G ‘Popemobile’ wasn’t the company’s first car to be used as a pontifical vehicle; that honor goes back to the 1930 Nürburg 460, featuring a specially designed body. In 1960, the Pope used a Mercedes 300 Landaulet, while in 1965 a 600 Pullman Landaulet was added to the Pontiff’s representative vehicles.

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