If you manage to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis during his visit to Washington this month, chances are you’ll also see the “popemobile.” For decades, pontiffs have used the motor vehicle-display case hybrid for conveyance at home and abroad.
Many different car models have been transformed for this purpose over the years, including autos made by Mercedes-Benz. It’s no surprise, however, that the famously down-to-earth Pope Francis chose something a little more rugged for his first-ever visit to the States. The Vatican announced in August that the pope will be traveling in a modified Jeep Wrangler during the September trip. His itinerary includes three days in Washington, followed by visits to New York and Philadelphia. The Jeep Wrangler will serve as the popemobile in all three cities.
This vehicle will be similar to the one Francis used during a visit to Ecuador earlier this year, according to a statement released by the Vatican press office.
The popemobile has traditionally been encased in bulletproof glass ever since the 1981 attempted assassination of John Paul II. But as we’ve seen time and time again, there is nothing traditional about this pope. The Jeep Wrangler used in Ecuador was open on both sides, allowing Pope Francis to feel closer to the people who flooded the streets to see him. “It’s true that anything could happen,” he said in a 2014 interview, “but let’s face it, at my age, I don’t have much to lose.”
The new popemobiles (there are reserves on hand in case one malfunctions) have already been shipped to Washington and are in the care of the Secret Service. Jeep Wrangler manufacturer Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has not released any details about what this version of the famous car will look like. We reached out to a Jeep representative as well as a Secret Service spokesperson for more information. Both directed us to the Vatican press office, which in turn referred us back to its earlier statement. So this popemobile remains mysterious for now, but hopefully you’ll have a chance to see it for yourself when the pope arrives on September 22.