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Home » Archives » March 2013 » Holy Citroën! It's the Popemobile!

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Holy Citroën! It's the Popemobile!

With all the news about the newly elected pope, a few things caught my attention.

Citroën makes a big deal out of it's cars' associations with famous people, including Popes. In a despicable attempt to capitalize on the Papal election (You know, kinda like this article), a currently running advert shows Citroën Engineers "cleaning up" the black smoke emanating from the Sistine Chapel. Frankly it's an ad that is stupid on so many levels that I don't have time to cover it here.

White_Smoke_ad (16k image)
Image from Citroen Advertisement

In another advert, this one from 2009, the 1970's Citroën Popemobile -- A fantastic car based on a lengthened, convertible Citroën SM is shown briefly.
Citroen-SM-37 (44k image)
Original Photo Credit unknown. This is not actually from the Citroen Advert, but it is the same car and scene.

But Citroën's history of Popemobile's goes back farther than that. In 1930, André Citroën donated a beautiful, customized Citroën to the Vatican.

papa-auto (74k image)
Photo: Vatican Insider

Made by Citroën Italia, It was called the Citroën "Lictoria Sex". OK - before you get all upset about me writing "Sex" in an article about the pope, "Sex" is Latin for the number Six. It had a 6 cylinder engine, and was based on the Citroen C6 of the time -- Hence the reference to the number 6.

It only actually transported the Pope outside of the Vatican on one occasion -- Pope Pius XI in 1936. When it was "discovered" in storage in 1992, it had only 159 km on it. Why was it used so little? Remember that as late as 1978, the Pope was typically carried on a chair during public appearances. Common use of a Popemobile is a more modern practice. The Citroën Lictoria Six (I'm going to take the liberty of modernizing or "Englishizing" the name) is currently on display in the Vatican Museum.

There is some debate as to whether this was the first Popemobile (the term did not exist at the time). In researching this article, I found reference to a Mercedes that was the first Popemobile, and in fact out of all the different vehicles that have served to carry The Pontif, most are indeed Mercedes; however, I found no reference to a Popemobile prior to 1930. Was André Citroën attempting to counter Mercedes marketing move of donating a car to the Pope, or was it the other way around?

Blessed_HYs (88k image)
Photo: Keystone/Getty Images

Not only have Citroëns carried the Pope, but they have also carried his blessings. In this picture from 1966 Pope Paul VI blesses a number of Citroën HY vans that were then donated to India. There are at least 10 Citroën HY Vans in that picture, likely more were present. Except for some rust issues, these things were pretty hearty vehicles. It's likely that some are still out there. Think about that Citronistas and collectors -- Wouldn't you like a Citroën HY van that was blessed by the Pope?!