His Holiness, the leader of the Catholic church, has ridden in many vehicles on parades to receive well-wishings from parishioners around the world. But the Nissan pickup truck he’s using on the island of Mauritius is one of my new favorites.
We joke about how old the 2019 Nissan Frontier is sometimes, and yeah, the current U.S.-spec version of Nissan’s mid-sized truck look was last fresh for 2005. But in other parts of the world, the automaker’s still running the design that came out before that one.
The current South Africa Nissan truck model, known as the NP300 Hardbody, looks like the Frontier we got stateside in 2001. (Though I originally thought it was the late ’90s–this chunky facelift came a few years into the “D22” body era). The simple design is still going strong over there, being offered up with modest engines and manual transmissions.
The base single-cab trim starts at what exchanges to about $15,000 in American money.
The version the Pope’s riding in probably cost a little more, as it’s been specially upfitted by Mauritian outfits called ABC Motors and ABC Coachworks according to a press release from Nissan’s South African office. But compared to Popemobiles past, the thing looks refreshingly simple. Why hack up a sedan or wagon with a big Pope nest area when you can just mount it on top of a pickup bed like this? That’s just downright sensible engineering.
“Overseen by the Diocese of Mauritius, the work was a first for the company which normally [specializes] in coach and bus building as well as modifying vehicles for police, ambulance and fire-fighting specifications, as well [as] manufacturing canopies for pick-ups.”
Mauritius is not part of South Africa by the way, in case you were confused. It’s its own nation in the Indian Ocean east of Madagascar, with a population of over a million. It is considered part of Africa though, which I had to confirm since it’s so far from the continent–over 1,000 miles from the African mainland, it turns out.
The Mauritia version of SCV1 (the Popemobile’s license plate is an abbreviation of Status Civitatis Vaticanae; Latin for Vatican City State) looks a little more industrial and simplistic than some Popemobiles of the past, but I like it. Men of the cloth are supposed to live humbly, right? This seems a lot more consistent with that than a G-Wagen or a Lamborghini.
Nissan of South Africa says that the vehicle “will be put on permanent display by the diocese as a memento of the pope’s visit to the island” after the pope departs.