Real popemobile on the auction block

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week The car also comes with possible papal possessions: carved wooden rosary beads, a box of wooden matches, a candy tin and a dashboard medallion bearing the likeness of St. Maria Goretti, the patron of youth, young women, purity and victims of rape. And just imagine the stories behind those dings and scratches. “It appears to me he was a pretty bad driver,” auction employee Rick Limpp said as he wiped fingerprints from a chrome bumper that shows obvious hammer marks from repairs. Kruse likes to imagine Cardinal Karol Wojtyla driving around Poland before he became pope in 1978, and later dressing in commoners’ clothing to head into the Italian mountains for rest, relaxation and reflection. That was before a 1981 assassination attempt prompted Vatican security officials to put the brakes on solo papal drives into the countryside. “No one would know it was him. Who would?” said Rita Bauman, another Kruse employee who was posting photos of the pope, the car and the Vatican around the otherwise undistinguished vehicle. “I think it was a clever disguise.” Kruse, based in Auburn, Ind., said he thought the car might fetch as much as $3 million in the auction. That would be considerably more that the $1,200 Kruse has said it might sell for on a used car lot, and almost 30 times the $102,000 that Illinois businessman Jim Rich paid the last time Kruse auctioned the pope’s car in 1996. Rich, of Sugar Grove, Ill., went to Rome to accept the keys from the pontiff. Rich was traveling to Las Vegas on Friday and planning to hand over the keys to a new owner today. Rich’s attempt to auction the car in June – shortly after Pope John Paul II’s death – was postponed due to a bankruptcy and ownership dispute between Rich and his father. The Escort, not to be confused with the bullet-resistant glass “popemobile” that became famous during John Paul II’s world tours, spent several years on display at Rich’s restaurant in Sugar Grove. It has been kept since June at the Kruse Automotive and Carriage Museum in Auburn. “While the car is a very inexpensive car,” Kruse said, “there’s a story that goes with it.”160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! If it hadn’t once been owned by Pope John Paul II, this light blue 1975 Ford Escort GL wouldn’t attract a second glance. There are too many nicks and dents, and too few frills on the boxy four-door sedan up for auction today in a Las Vegas casino showroom. It has no hubcaps, no air conditioning, no radio. The engine built 30 years ago at a Ford plant in Cologne, Germany, won’t even start. But just imagine the pope – whose hands blessed millions all over the world – clutching the padded steering wheel and downshifting while flooring the gas pedal and praying the little 1.1-liter engine would crest a steep Italian hill. “Christ had a donkey,” auctioneer Dean Kruse said as workers prepped and polished the car for sale at the Las Vegas Hilton. “This was a humble car for a humble man.” last_img

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