The specially-modified vehicles known as “Popemobiles” can attract as much attention as the pontiff himself, and that’s likely to be the case when Pope Francis makes his first visit to the United States next month.
This is not the first time the Pope has used a Jeep. When he visited Ecuador in July, a four-door Wrangler was the Vatican’s vehicle of choice. That particular Wrangler featured a large bit of scaffolding with a glassed-in front and roof and open sides in place of the stock roll structure. A Toyota Land Cruiser was also used on the South American trip.
It’s unclear whether the U.S. Popemobile will be the same one used in Ecuador, or another one with similar modifications. All Popemobiles feature a prominent center rear seat for the pontiff, with varying levels of enclosure. While many recent vehicles had fully-enclosed glass boxes, Pope Francies reportedly prefers his rides to be as open as possible.
As the only four-door convertible currently on sale in the U.S., the Wrangler Unlimited would seem to suit the Pope’s tastes pretty well. His entourage probably wouldn’t fit into the back of a Mustang convertible.
Mercedes-Benz SUVs have most commonly been used as Popemobiles, but in a somewhat more egalitarian move, Pope Francis also took delivery of a Hyundai Santa Fe Popemobile earlier this year. The Jeep has a similarly down-to-earth vibe, and it’s hard to think of anything more appropriate for a visit to the U.S.
The Vatican motor pool has included a wide variety of vehicles over the years, with pontiffs riding in everything from the aforementioned Mercedes models to a Lincoln Continental, Seat Panda, Range Rover, and even heavy-duty trucks and buses.