Fame and notoriety within the automotive world isn’t achieved solely by energy and worth alone; generally a car enters the general public consciousness for causes unrelated to exclusivity or motoring panache.

Which is why almost everybody is aware of of the existence of a specific white, 102-horsepower Mercedes-Benz. The automaker actually hasn’t forgotten, taking time lately to reminisce about that SUV’s improvement some 40 years in the past this summer season.

It was a car identified the world over, although it doubtless wouldn’t have turn into as iconic if a barrage of 9mm rounds had discovered barely totally different marks.

Sure, we’re speaking concerning the modified 1980 Mercedes-Benz 230 G created solely to be used by a sure resident of the Vatican. Whereas prior popes used a menagerie of official autos, often German in origin, Pope John Paul II was a way more accessible pontiff than people who got here earlier than. A brand new car was wanted — one tailored to get the top of the Catholic church as near crowds as attainable, in a really seen method, whereas additionally offering safety from the weather (and later, from different issues).


As soon as upon a time, the G-Class was not fairly as luxurious and prestigious a car as it’s in the present day, however the mannequin chosen because the car for the newly elected Pope was actually a step above his different trip. That may be the open-top Fiat Campagnola 4×Four used just for forays by Vatican Metropolis and St. Peter’s Sq..

It was in that car that John Paul II met with a hail of gunfire launched from a would-be Turkish murderer.

Recovering from his wounds, John Paul II grew to become the most-traveled pope in historical past, and  the specifically outfitted G-Wagon, immediately nicknamed the Popemobile, was at all times alongside for the trip. Although the plexiglass shelter initially designed for the car (to be used throughout an upcoming November 1980 journey to West Germany) was completely suited to preserving rain away, the tried assassination noticed it swapped for a bulletproof dome. Inside it, John Paul sat on a platform raised 40 cm above the car’s typical flooring top, illuminated, if crucial, by an array of lights.


Anybody who’s ever handled an non-tinted sunroof with no sliding shade is aware of the key downside to such a setup: summer season heating. To forestall the bubble-topped G-Wagen from succeeding the place Mehmet Ali Ağca failed, the car’s already weak 2.3-liter four-cylinder needed to help a potent air-con unit. Upgrades occurred in 1983 and 1985.

A second, very related car joined the unique Popemobile in 1982, although this one boasted 125 horsepower. The primary of the 2 autos, created initially as a loaner, was formally handed over that yr.

Mercedes-Benz mum or dad Daimler displayed a sometimes German enthusiasm for pointless technical geekery in describing a car that’s been a museum piece since 2004, describing the 1980 Popemobile in a fashion that implies one may be capable to decide one up on the vendor tonight.

“The automated transmission and a very comfy chassis and suspension assure a clean trip, even in difficult terrain.” Word the current tense.

No, you possibly can’t get into a brand new 230 G nowadays (bummer), however you can go to the car on the “G-Schichten” (G tales) particular exhibition on the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart till September.


[Images: Pixfly/Shutterstock, Daimler]