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How Armored Cars Work


Famous Armored Vehicles
The Mercedes-Benz G500 "Popemobile"
The Mercedes-Benz G500 "Popemobile"
Courtesy of Mercedes-Benz

In 1930, Mercedes-Benz presented Pope Pius XI with its first papal vehicle, a Nurburg 460. In the eight decades since, we've come to know these armored vehicles with the white interior as "Popemobiles" (the Vatican doesn't like that name, but everyone else seems to).

These days, Pope Benedict XVI has a small fleet of armored Mercedes-Benzes at his disposal. The most recent was a Mercedes-Benz G500 modified SUV, presented to the Pope in December 2007. The Vatican requested that a Popemobile be created for nice weather, so Mercedes fit the G500 with folding windshield and handrails, as the Pope would be standing for better visibility. The SUV is finished in Vatican Mystic White, as all the Popemobiles are, with red carpet steps at the rear for Pope Benedict's entry and exit.

There's not much that can be said about President Obama's official limousine. That's because the Secret Service lives up to its name when it comes to the president's security. We do, however, know that it's a truck-based Cadillac presented to the president in 2009 and christened at his inaugural parade. We also know that the rear seat is a mobile office, and that security was extremely tight even during the building and testing process.

Armored cars are used even by fictional characters, like Dr. Cullen in the Twilight series of vampire books, who drives a Mercedes-Benz S-Class Guard. The Guard cars aren't available from Mercedes in the United States, but they come with a driver training program, which we can assume Dr. Cullen took advantage of. The car is so heavy that the driving dynamics change. Mercedes promises to teach drivers -- often professional chauffeurs -- "how to make optimum use of their cars in every situation." Even, presumably, highly dangerous ones.

Let's look into the future of armored cars on the next page.


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