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Pope Francis proves not all celebrities have lavish car collections. In fact, many people might believe he rides only inside the popemobile. Since the 1960s, these unique vehicles have kept the Catholic Church’s leaders safe during public appearances.

Pope Francis seems to like his sustainable popemobile options, but he also has some personal vehicles. One is a 1984 Renault 4L that looks like a fossil by modern standards. Pope Francis could have any personal chariot he desired, so what makes his Reanult special?

History of the popemobile

Pope Francis in the popemobile on September 14, 2021, in Presov, Slovakia | Zuzana Gogova/Getty Images

Nowadays, we can recognize a popemobile based on its bulletproof glass and elevated seat. In the ’60s, popemobiles looked more like regular cars, and some even had open-air cabins. That changed in 1981 after an assassination attempt against Pope John Paul II.

In addition to bulletproof glass, armored bodies became more common for these vehicles. The interiors of popemobiles were also modified to make public viewing events easier for these holy men. The pope can now use steps to reach his elevated seat and get down safely using a handrail.

However, Smithsonian Magazine reports many popes have shied away from the bubble-like restrictions of these popemobiles whenever possible. As you can imagine, it hardly looks dignified when you’re being driven around in a fishbowl on wheels. 

Some popes, such as Pope Francis I, also say these restrictions place emotional barriers between themselves and their followers. The current Pope Francis reportedly stays out of claustrophobic popemobiles whenever possible, even referring to them as “sardine cans.”

Popemobiles also aren’t just based on one vehicle. Though most have been modified Mercedes-Benz models, Ford and Land Rover have also supplied popemobiles. During Pope Francis’ initial public appearances, he used a Mercedes-Benz M-Class as his popemobile.

We have since learned that Pope Francis prefers simple and greener vehicles. Fitting to his beliefs in climate change, he has been seen inside pope-standard Kia Soul and Toyota Mirai vehicles. His popemobile fleet also includes rugged models such as a Jeep Wrangler, a Ford Ranger, and a Nissan Frontier.

Pope Francis’ old yet cherished 1984 Renault 4L

Pope Francis Renault 4L
Pope Francis next to his Renault 4L at the Vatican | MAURIX/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images)

Renault manufactured the tiny economy car from 1961 to 1994, but the 4L’s design hardly ever received a modern makeover. Pope Francis’ 1984 example is particularly dated, though it’s still going strong after 170,000 miles.

It packs a four-stroke engine that makes around 34 hp and 55 lb-ft of torque, paired with a three-speed manual, Autoevolution reports. It’s as slow as it seems, but such a leisurely pace probably suits Pope Francis just fine. It also features five doors and a hatchback, so it was a versatile car for families in its day.

How did Pope Francis acquire his Renault alternative to the popemobile?

Pope Francis reportedly had a Renault 4, but his 4L was a gift from a priest, Father Zocca. He was the one who put most of the miles on the car, primarily for charity events.

One of Pope Francis’ speeches, in which he praised the qualities of living a simple life, inspired Father Zocca. So he wrote a letter to the pope, insisting that he accept the Renault 4L as a gift. After many attempts from the priest, Pope Francis eventually accepted the offer.

Father Zocca personally delivered the car during his visit to the Vatican in 2013.

Pope Francis says he drives his Renault 4L whenever possible if he’s not riding in a popemobile. Though it doesn’t look like a remarkable car by today’s standards, it fits the ideals of His Holiness.


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