Popemobile with out-of-this-world provenance goes to auction later this week
By Jack Martin
August 16, 2011
The greater share of the value of any significant collector car is in the provenance - who sat in the seat before you, and experienced the same vehicle, can make a massive difference to the price the car commands.
What then of a car that was built for and used by Pope Paul VI? It was subsequently the centre of numerous other ticker tape parades with dozens of dignitaries, most notably the first astronauts to orbit the moon (Apollo 8's Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders), the first astronauts to set foot on the moon (Apollo 11's Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, plus Command Module Pilot Michael Collins) plus Apollo 13's Lovell, Mattingly and Haise and Apollo 15's Scott, Worden and Irwin, President Lyndon LBJ Johnson and VP Hubert Humphrey.
The 21-foot long Lehmann-Peterson Lincoln Continental goes to auction later this week (August 19) at the annual auction of Exceptional Motorcars and Motorcycles at Quail Lodge, along with this Tiger-hunting Rolls Royce built for a Maharaja.
The vehicle began life as a 1964 Lincoln Continental Limousine (Chassis no. 4Y82N406266) and was the first prototype stretched Lincoln built by specialist Lincoln Continental coachbuilders, Lehmann-Peterson. The company's purpose built stretched limos were owned or used by America's glitterati of the sixties - Elvis had one, LBJ had a personal one in addition to several official vice-president and presidential vehicles, Nixon had one, as did Sophia Loren, Liz Taylor, the Beatles ad infinitum.
An extensive collection of images, press releases and other information on this particular car can be found on the former Lehman-Peterson site.
In short, the Popemobile was built in 1965 at the special request of the Vatican to Ford Motor Company to convey Pope Paul VI through New York to address the United Nations on World Peace.
The stretched wheelbase is a massive 160" with an overall length of nearly 21 feet. Exterior step plates and handrails for security, additional interior seating for aides and prelates, a special seat for the Pontiff that can be raised and lowered, supplemental interior lighting, public address system, auxiliary power from a bank of seven batteries were only a few of the many detail changes.
With such an out-of-this-world provenance, it's difficult to get an accurate guide to what the car might bring. It will almost certainly become part of a collection or a museum piece, and Bonhams, which will auction the vehicle, has an estimate of between US$250,000 and US$350,000 on the car.