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Pope’s Ford Escort featured in August auction


Pope John Paul Ford Escort
Pope John Paul II was forced to stop driving his car after an assassination attempt in 1981 (Image: RM Sotheby's)

This 1976 Ford Escort 1100 GL Sedan once belonged to Pope John Paul II.

It’s set to become one of the most valuable Ford Escorts ever sold when it crosses the block at RM Sotheby’s Auburn Fall sale on August 30 to September 2.

The estimate is $150,000-300,000. That may look a little low, considering this car last sold for $690,000 in 2005, but that’s primarily because John Paul II died in 2005. There have been two other Popes in the intervening years and demand is usually highest for the current leader of the church.

The buyer in 2005 was Texan lawyer and car collector John O’Quinn. A Chicagoan restaurateur acquired it directly from John Paul II for $106,000 in a charity auction in 1996 but was forced to sell it due to bankruptcy.

In recent years we’ve seen something of a trend for Papal cars at auction, although typically these are provided by companies for the Pope to bless and then sold for good causes. The most recent example was a Lamborghini Huracan painted in Vatican City colours (it made $861,575 in May this year). A Harley-Davidson sold for $327,000 in 2014.

Cars that the Pope actually used are far rarer, however that is no guarantee of value. Those high results for non-used examples in part reflect the sale’s charitable angle.

The auction house writes of this example: “His Holiness bought this Ford Escort GL new in 1975 when he was still Cardinal Wyzynski, but continued to drive the car after becoming Pope in 1978.

“With no hubcaps, air-conditioning or radio, the pontiff delighted in the anonymity this modest sedan afforded him as he drove around Rome dressed in ordinary clothing.”

The car is still very much in working order, thanks in part to John Paul’s careful driving. The pontiff only hit 60,000 miles in this car during the six years he drove it, using it mainly for jaunts into the mountains. He stopped in 1981, after he was wounded in an assassination attempt in St Peter’s Square in Vatican City.

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