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A Vehicle Purpose Built For A Saint

Friday, 25th April 2014

A Lancashire Museum offers visitors the chance to stand in the same spot as Pope John Paul II, when he visited the UK in 1982. John Paul II will be declared a saint on Sunday 27 April 2014.

The British Commercial Vehicle Museum, in Leyland, holds in it’s safe keeping the actual “Popemobile” vehicle that ensured the safe transportation of Pope John Paul II, when he visited the United Kingdom in 1982 for his 5 day Pastoral Trip. Pope Francis is due to canonize John Paul at the Vatican on April 27 2014.

Popemobile or Papamobile in Italian, is an informal name given to the specially designed motor vehicles used by the Catholic Pope during outdoor public appearances. The Popemobile was purpose built by Lancashire Manufacturer British Leyland. Designed by Ogle Design of Letchworth, their brief was that the Pope should be clearly visible to very large crowds of up to one million plus. The Popemobile weighs 24 tons, it has bullet proof glass and under-floor armour and the body design incorporates low ballistic material, which will repel small firearms.  The Leyland Constructor Chassis was chosen for it’s renown “off-road” capability and acceleration, if an emergency arose.

Roger Bullough, a volunteer at the museum, worked at British Leyland and oversaw the build process of the Popemobile in the Leyland factory.  Roger says-

“The whole project was completed within six weeks and to a very tight schedule with workers at Leyland Trucks working 24 hours a day for 7 days. The cost of the project, to the best of my knowledge is unknown.   There were many people involved in the project and they came from different areas of the industry, including pattern makers, fibre glass moulders, upholsters, decals makers and the design team.” 

"The vehicles were operated by the Home Office Special Branch during the Pope's four day visit but were transported around the United Kingdom to the Pope's venues by Leyland Trucks."

Museum Manager Keith Moyes says- 

"The Popemobile is a popular exhibit at the museum, both with school children and adults. Visitors are amazed that they can stand in the actual spot in the Popemobile vehicle where Pope John Paul II stood in 1982. It is wonderful news that he is being declared a Saint and we hope more people will now visit the museum to experience the vehicle."

Notes to Editor

There were actually two Popemobiles constructed on truck chassis, that were built to cover the logistics of the Pope’s visit to the UK in 1982. The British Commercial Vehicle Museum in Leyland today houses the best preserved Popemobile as part of its popular public historic vehicle collection. The other has had a very checkered history, travelling to Africa, being sold and resold, and repaired.

The Museum is open from April to 2 November 2014 on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and bank holidays from 10 am to 4.30 pm. During July and August 2014 the museum is also open on Thursdays. School and adult groups can visit at other times, by prior arrangement.

Entry to the Museum Adults: £6.50
 Children: £4.00 (4-15 years) Children under 4: Free. Family Tickets are available at £17.00 (2 Adults and up to 3 Children) Annual Membership
Adults: £17.00
 Family: £34.00 (2 Adults and up to 3 Children) (*an additional charge may be made for Special Events)

The British Commercial Vehicle Museum King Street, Leyland,
Lancashire PR25 2LE
Tel: +(44) 01772 451011

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01772 426450.