The Popemobile is a one of a kind car that very few people will get to ride on. Each Popemobile is different, and as Jalopnik reports, the latest Popemobile to grace the earth is based on a Nissan pickup truck. Here’s a brief overview of the Pope’s latest ride.
Popemobiles are at their core, a simple idea. They’re cars that drive the Pope around. At first, they had a more utilitarian purpose, as the Pope used to be physically carried around by actual people. This practice stopped in 1978 according to the Smithsonian Magazine and was replaced by the Popemobile.
However, Popes wanted to experience a closeness with their flock and that couldn’t be replicated by just sitting in the backseat of a car. So, Popemobiles started to look like what everybody knows a Popemobile will look like. The Vatican started cutting out the back portion of cars and putting a seat there for the Pope to sit on.
Then in 1981, an assassin tried to assassinate the Pope while he was on his Popemobile. In response, the Vatican added bullet-resistant glass surrounding the Pope’s seat and this became standard for a modern Popemobile. However, that added weight to the car and it also forced additional changes to the car, as a regular car’s suspension couldn’t handle the additional weight of the bullet-resistant glass.
A practical Popemobile
Compared to the other contemporary Popemobiles, the latest Popemobile is built on the body of a pickup truck. For reference, The body of a Fiat 500L and a Jeep Wrangler were used very recently by the current Pope for his other Popemobiles.
The pickup truck that was used was a South African version of the 2001 Nissan Frontier, according to Jalopnik. It’s called the NP300 Hardbody and it costs about $15,000. Make no mistake though, the Hardbody is not a truck from 2001, and it has plenty of modern features.
Namely, the Hardbody has an anti-lock braking system, a smart anti-theft system, as well as an optional roll bar. The Hardbody also offers two engine choices, a 2.4-liter 141-hp gasoline engine or a 2.5-liter 131-hp diesel engine. Both engines have plenty of torque that’ll allow the Hardbody to reliably haul cargo.
On top of that, the Hardbody’s flatbed provides the Vatican with a good space for the Pope’s chair as well as the bullet-resistant glass. This means that the Vatican doesn’t have to carve up a car to fit those features on it. It’s unknown if any additional work had to be done under the hood to facilitate the extra weight, but given the fact that it’s a sturdy truck, minimal work was probably needed.
Furthermore, it’s worth mentioning that the Hardbody, despite being based on an old design, is built in Africa by Nissan. According to Jalopnik, the Hardbody is selling pretty well in the continent, and the Vatican became one of its latest customers.
One time only
Like many other Popemobiles, this will likely be the last time that the Pope will ride around on this Nissan pickup truck. It was a specially customized vehicle from ABC Motors and ABC Coachworks, both of whom are Mauritian companies. This pickup truck Popemobile was built for the Pope’s visit to Mauritius, an island country that’s actually over 1,000 miles away from the African continent.
Although the Hardbody has a starting price tag of $15,000, this Popemobile probably cost more than that. But given how little work seemed necessary for the Hardbody, it probably didn’t set the Vatican back too much.
The diocese of Mauritius will put this special Popemobile in permanent public display in remembrance of the Pope’s visit to the island.