Mercedes-Benz 230 G Popemobile

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 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.

The G-Class cars developed 100 hp from the four-cylinder engine with a 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.

Source: Mercedes-Benz press

Gallery: Mercedes-Benz 230 G Popemobile