The Popemobile is a relativelly recent designation to refer to the vehicle used by the Sovereign Pontiff during pastoral and state visits.
Since 1929, when Pius XI received the first vehicle specially designed for the Pope, and for many years after, the chosen cars were black and normally from the brand Mercedes Benz, changing the model over the years.
Until 1980, the vehicles used by the successor of Peter were outwardly the same from the model series, but featured special characteristics, such as anti-fragmentation glasses, electric chair and air conditioning.
The vehicles always presented the license plate “SCV 1” - Stato della Città del Vaticano (State of the City of the Vatican) and the number 1 symbolizing that it is for the Sovereign Pontiff.
Since 1980, the Popemobile started to be painted in white displaying the arms of the Vatican, and includes a plastic transparent cupola, removable, with air conditioning and illumination, so as to allow the Pope to stand or sit while traveling and to see and be seen by everyone.
In the trips of the Pope, the rule is to send the Popemobile from the Vatican to the place to visit, but this rule was not always followed.
Therefore, since John Paul II, the successive Popes have been using different models of cars, from a small Seat Panda in Spain to busses (Mexico City), a Ferrari Mondial (Maranello, Italy, a truck Leyland (England) and a Ford (Ireland), and even a military truck FSC Star when the Polish Pope visited his home land.
In all these cases, the Secretary of State of the Vatican communicates to the local authorities the required features of the vehicle, beyond the security questions: it must be white, have the coat of arms of the Vatican and a specific red cushion, and the plate SCV 1.
In Portugal, Pope John Paul II used a Portuguese Popemobile: it was an off-road white vehicle of the extinguished brand UMM, used in 1991 to go to Madeira.
The vehicle, that was in Funchal, was also used to carry, in 2009, the Pilgrim Virgin statue of Fatima during its visit to that diocese.
The most unexpected vehicle used by a Pope is an old Renault 4L with more than 300 thousand kilometers that Pope Francis uses to move in Rome.