Even before Ford debuts the latest iteration on July 13, the Ford Bronco is one of the iconic SUVs of all time. Ford recently invited a small number of journalists to their archives inside their Engineering Lab in Dearborn, where they got to peak at some of the coolest historical materials related to the Bronco and its run as Ford’s off-roading hero. Perhaps the most interesting thing to come from this event however, was information related to the Bronco Popemobile.
We may associate the Popemobile today with a large encasement of bulletproof glass, but they were once open topped vehicles. According to one report from The New York Times, it also wasn’t uncommon for the Pope to be chauffeured in capable 4×4 vehicles. When it came time for Pope John Paul II to visit Chicago in 1979, Ford was given the task to create a series of three Bronco-based Popemobiles, according to Eric Weiner of Hagerty. The off-roader was later approved for use by the Vatican, and would carry the Pope through a number of large U.S. cities including New York and Chicago.
Ford still has the original renderings of the holy off-roader in their archives, and it is an unsurprising spartan compared to what Pope Francis rolls around in today. Ford says the Bronco Popemobile featured a Wimbledon White paint job, which was set off by Wedgewood Blue interior finishes. Considering the 1980 Bronco featured a removable rear roof section, it’s likely that the extent of the Papal modifications simply involved placing some seating and a handrail back there for stability.
While we aren’t aware of any secret Popemobile plans for the upcoming reborn Ford Bronco, it is not an entirely outrageous proposition. When Pope Francis visited the United States in 2015, he was driven around in a modified Jeep Wrangler. If Ford is truly gunning to take the off-roading crown from the all-mighty Wrangler, why not try and get some help from a higher power.