Mercedes-Benz builds new armoured Pullman State Limousine
By Mike Hanlon
February 26, 2007
February 27, 2007 Mercedes-Benz is developing a new, armoured luxury limousine designed to carry business tycoons, government ministers, monarchs and heads of state. The new Mercedes-Benz S 600 Guard Pullman Limousine will be based on the extended wheelbase S 600 to provide a level of roominess worthy of its high-ranking occupants. Originally, the term “Pullman” derived from the luxuriously appointed rail cars produced by the American Pullman Palace Car Company before it was borrowed to describe Mercedes-Benz cars with an extra-long wheelbase and an extremely large passenger compartment in the rear. The first Mercedes-Benz to be factory-fitted with armoured protection was the 1928 W 08/460 Nurburg model which was modified to create the first Popemobile for Pope Pius XI in 1930. Similarly, heads of state such as Emperor Wilhelm II and Emperor Hirohito became customers during the thirties with the creation of the 770K, beginning a long lineage of Pullmans which were used to safely transport heads of State. Power is provided by a 5513cc twelve-cylinder biturbo engine with an output of 380kW/517 hp and an impressive peak torque of 830 Nm. The first editions of the new Mercedes-Benz State Limousine are due to be delivered in late 2008 with a full range of options including a fully equipped mobile office, all the communications and entertainment equipment required plus secure, comfortable, individually-styled surroundings for discreet meetings.
Both the chassis and the body are new developments, since simply adding on an extension would not have ensured the required overall stability, given the extra-long wheelbase. These new developments also provide the solid design basis for the installation of the heavy special-protection components. In addition, the new State Limousine features a rear entrance with increased headroom. Behind the partition, there is space for four passengers in the rear compartment with luxurious face-to-face seats in the time-honoured Pullman tradition.
The Mercedes-Benz S 600 Guard Pullman also offers its discerning passengers the highest possible degree of protection against terrorist attacks. The Highest Protection specified for this car is equivalent to resistance level B6/B7, as tested and certified by state-approved organisations. Plus it meets further requirements that are not even stipulated by any standard, as tested by public and independent organisations. Its armour resists military-standard small-arms projectiles and provides protection against fragments from hand grenades and other explosive devices. Additional safety features include run-flat tyres, a self-sealing fuel tank and a fire-extinguishing system.
In order to achieve the highest possible degree of protection, specialists with many years of experience in security technology equip the Pullman Limousine in Sindelfingen, working on the principle of integrated special protection. In effect this means that, rather than retrofitting the protective elements in the doors, rear wall, side panels, roof lining and firewall, etc. of an already finished vehicle, they fully integrate them into the bodyshell. Hence the body structure is further reinforced. The resulting vehicles offer hallmark Mercedes-Benz build quality combined with comprehensive Highest Protection, including in those areas where retrofits would be all but impossible. The basis for this is long-standing, continuous and close cooperation with nationally and internationally recognised security authorities. Over a period of decades, this collaboration has ensured that the production and development expertise of the Mercedes specialists has continued to grow. Their vast experience in the fields of protection technology and ballistics enables them to react to changing requirements in the most effective way possible.
Thanks to seamless integration of the special-protection features, the paint quality and corrosion protection match the high standards of conventional Mercedes-Benz passenger cars. Furthermore, the Pullman Limousines can be serviced at any Mercedes-Benz service outlet world-wide – a key aspect of the comprehensive, uncomplicated high-level service concept.
It goes without saying that every new Mercedes-Benz S 600 Guard Pullman will display its own unique brand of styling thanks to an extensive range of appointments options including a choice of paint finishes, leathers and woods. Even the most unusual of customer requests can be met.
The Mercedes-Benz gifted to Pope Pius XI in 1930 was the beginning of close relations between the Vatican and the Stuttgart-based motor manufacturer. In the decades that followed, Mercedes-Benz regularly presented the Vatican with automobiles which had been extensively converted for the pope. During the last 25 years, television and newspaper photos made the popemobiles based on Mercedes-Benz offroaders from the G-Class and M-Class particularly well known. Especially the travels of Pope John Paul II made the offroaders, finished in the papal colors mother-of-pearl and gold and fitted with the characteristic glass cupola, famous throughout the world. However, the landaulets and limousines based on the S-Class equally form part of the pope’s public appearances.
The Mercedes-Benz Nürburg and the current papal car, an M-Class with special bodywork, are the cornerstones of the brand history of automobiles from Stuttgart specially manufactured for the Holy Father. The first modern model after World War II was a Mercedes-Benz 300 d – the “Adenauer-Mercedes” – handed over to Pope John XXIII by rep-resentatives from Untertürkheim in 1960, 30 years after Pope Pius XI’s trial run in the Nürburg. The Mercedes-Benz 300 d had been converted into a landaulet with extended wheelbase – with a soft-top above the rear compartment and a hard-top above the front seats.
In 1965, a delegation from Stuttgart handed over a landaulet version of the Mercedes-Benz 600 to Pope Paul VI at the papal summer residence. In the following two years, as many as three cars – model 300 SEL from the 109 series – were supplied. For the visit of Pope John Paul II to Germany in 1980, Mercedes-Benz developed the first popemobile with a transparent superstructure based on an offroader – a converted G-Class car which was given to the Vatican as a present in 1982. In 1985, the Vatican’s fleet was extended by the addition of a special version of the Mercedes-Benz 500 SEL (W 126), followed in 1997 by a long-wheelbase landaulet version of the S 500. In the summer of 2002, finally, DaimlerChrysler presented the Holy Father with a popemobile set up on the proven example of the G-Class, only this time the car was based on the ML 430 from the M-Class.
Tradition and dignity
Starting with the Nürburg, the history of popemobiles from Mercedes-Benz ranges through to the 2002 M-Class, reflecting a relationship between the Holy See and the Stuttgart-based automotive brand, which has developed and thrived through several pontificates. And this relationship has time and again been expressed by the close cooperation between Mercedes-Benz and the Vatican in the design and manufacture of new automobiles for the pope.
The popes themselves have held their Mercedes-Benz cars in high esteem, too. When the M-Class was handed over to Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2002, the Holy Father himself addressed the media with the plea rather not to use “papa-mobile”, the term not being commensurate with the dignity and purpose of these automobiles. Sedan-chairs and carriages
For many centuries, the popes used carriages and sedan-chairs for journeys, processions and other public appearances. A very special role was played by the Sedia Gestatoria, the papal sedan-chair. It was carried by twelve “palafrenieri” in red uniforms at events of high litur-gical significance for large congregations. Its purpose was much the same as that of modern popemobiles with their raised seats: the Holy Father was to be seen also from quite a distance by the faithful at important events, attended by large crowds of guests and spectators.
After the invention of the automobile in 1886, it took several decades before the Vatican used a motor vehicle for the pope for the first time. The reason for this was not a reservation against modern engineering but Italian politics. The Papal States had been dissolved when the Italian nation was founded in 1870. King Vittorio Emanuele II had offered Pope Pius IX limited sovereignty which the latter had, however, refused to accept. In the following six decades, the popes did not leave Vatican City out of protest against the unsolved “Roman Question”.
This situation did not change before 1929 with the signing of the Lateran Pacts by Secretary-of-State Pietro Cardinal Gasparri for the Vatican and Prime Minister Benito Mussolini for the Kingdom of Italy. In these contracts, the Vatican recognized Rome as the capital of the Italian nation and in turn, the kingdom recognized the Vatican’s territorial sovereignty in Vatican City and the papal summer residence, Castel Gandolfo. The signing of the Lateran Pacts in 1929 not only gave the pope new weight on the international political stage but also ended the Supreme Pontiff’s confinement to Vatican City, which had lasted almost 60 years.
A Mercedes-Benz for the Pope
For his trips to the summer residence, Castel Gandolfo, but also for other journeys, the Holy Father would now use an automobile in the future more often. Luxurious motor vehicles had already been presented to the Vatican since 1909. During the first quarter of the 20th century, the fleet encompassed vehicles from brands like Fiat, Bianchi, Graham-Paige, Itala, Citroën and others. But the pope would not be chauffeured around in a motor vehicle – he didn’t after all need a car in an area with a size of just 44 hectares (108.7 acres) - small enough to be walked around comfortably in just one hour. Apart from this, neither Pope Pius X (1903 - 1914) nor his successor Benedict XV (1914 - 1922) were known to be particularly interested in the modern engineering of the motor vehicle. Not so Pope Pius XI (1922 - 1939) who was fascinated by the opportunities offered by the motor vehicle and promptly started using the Vatican fleet’s vehicles shortly after the signing of the Lateran Pacts.
And why was the Holy Father not to undertake his travels in a Mercedes-Benz? This was the question asked in the spring of 1929 by Robert Katzenstein, the advertising man of Mercedes-Benz in Frankfurt/Main, Germany. From this question evolved the idea of a limousine individually converted for the pope as a present of Mercedes-Benz for the Vatican. How would the Vatican react to such a present from Germany?
Katzenstein knew Dr. Diego von Bergen, the German ambassador to the Vatican, and presented the idea to him. Von Bergen asked the right people at the Holy See how the Curia would respond to the present of an imposing Mercedes-Benz as an official car for the pope. The answer from Rome turned out to be so encouraging that Katzenstein submitted his proposal to corporate management without delay. The project of a Mercedes-Benz popemobile also met with agreement in Stuttgart and detailed planning began as early as the summer of 1929.