Popemobile Imperial LeBarons

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From Simo Harkila

I found interesting news in a Finnish Chrysler car importer magazine (dated 1/1966). There is an advertisement picture of a '66 Imperial LeBaron and the text tells " The new 66 Imperial LeBaron stays for popish dignity". And the text goes further: "A new 66 Imperial LeBaron has been delivered to the Vatican recently. The golden keys for the car were given to the Pope while he was visiting the UN headquarters in New York."

The best comes now. I read last fall ('96) of a Finnish technical magazine that the Pope is getting a new Mercedes and the "Limo" from the sixties will be now pensioner.

The Imperial has been on duty for 30 years!

(Here in Europe, especially in Germany, all normal four door cars can be called as limousines. For example the Wartburg from the former Honecker Country (= East Germany) is a limousine).

From Tony Lindsey:

So - The "Popemobile" stories arise again... Here comes story #1: Back in 1986, I attended Chrysler's 60th Anniversary and car-show in Michigan.

(click small images for close-up view)

There was a shiny-black '65 LeBaron on display, and the sign claimed it had belonged to the Pope at one point.

The car had clear-plastic covers over a grey-broadcloth interior.

I took many pictures of the "Popemobile", since it was SOOOO perfect! It even had the Ghia Limousine-style "coachmark" pin-striping.

Story #2: I was at the Napa Valley Imperial Statewide Meet a few years ago (around 1991), and some rich guy showed up late at the show, trailering a black '65 or '66 LeBaron with every detail flawless (same car, as far as I can remember).

It drew quite a curious crowd of Imperial owners as it was carefully unloaded from the trailer. The car was said to be previously owned by the Pope, and evidently the owner was certain that his car would win every possible trophy. Unfortunately, he was a real snob, and he didn't win any popularity contests, so the crowd voted overwhelmingly for other cars. The Popemobile was loaded onto its trailer and disappeared, never to be seen there again.

From Bob:

When I visited the Imperial Palace Car Collection ( world renowned for its Duesenberg collection) the most interesting car to me was a very beautiful triple black 66 LeBaron which the museum credits as having belonged to the Pope. The car appears to have all options including leather and dual air but is not equipped with a vinyl top.The pristine beauty has about 18,000 miles.

The museum also has a real nice 56 Dodge La Femme with factory air - real unique!

You will also see Howard Hughes' '54 New Yorker famous for its $10,000 air filtration system and sealed windows, except for the drivers ( I guess to pay tolls).

The admission is about $7.00 but if you mention Old Cars Weekly, you'll get in for free.

From Tony Lindsey:

Here's something I spotted on page 19 of the March 17, 1997 issue of Newsweek Magazine. It provides a postscript for the ongoing discussion about one of the previous "Popemobiles" we've discussed on the IML - A 1966 Imperial leBaron:

"Finally, a new car!"

- Pope John Paul II, after taking delivery of a Mercedes-Benz convertible limousine, customized with white leather and mobile phones...

Well, what do you expect? They aren't making Imperials any more! 

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