The refurbished 1979 popemobile has been unveiled alongside a new waxwork of Pope Francis in Dublin ahead of the papal visit to Ireland this week.
The restored popemobile, which was used to transport St John Paul II during the last papal visit to the country, will be used to bring people to and from the closing mass in Phoenix Park to make money for charity.
Pope Francis arrives in the capital on Saturday for a 36-hour visit to the country. Almost half a million people are expected to make their way to Phoenix Park for the closing Mass on Sunday.
Crowds gathered at O’Connell Street bridge for the unveiling by Dublin’s National Waxworks Plus Museum on Thursday before the popemobile took to the streets with waxworks of three popes on board.
The Pope Francis waxwork was completed with just days to go to papal visit, while the waxwork of St John Paul II has been restored after being damaged in the Father Ted Room last year.
National Waxworks Museum Plus general manager Ed Coleman said it was a dream come true to see the popemobile unveiled and drive through the streets of Dublin.
“The popemobile is still in the hearts of the Irish public after all these years,” Mr Coleman said.
“People still ask at the museum where is the popemobile – they want to see it.”
An estimated 2.7 million people saw St John Paul II during his three-day tour.
Built ahead of the last visit by a pope, the 20 foot long vehicle was designed to resemble a Roman chariot and it has the papal crest on the exterior. It had to have space to hold the pope and 15 of his entourage.
It was originally a D-Series Ford but was upgraded to a Mercedes Benz truck before it was completed, and was on display at the museum until 2006 when it was removed for restoration.
Mr Coleman said the restoration involved the vehicle being painstakingly dismantled before being put back together again.
“They had no blueprint, it was a massive project…it took years to complete,” he said.
The vehicle has now been re-named ‘The Hope Mobile’ and it will be used to assist Irish charities in their fundraising efforts.
Mr Coleman said they wanted to use the vehicle for good causes.
“Despite many requests to lease the vehicle for various social events, its use has – and always will – be prioritised for causes that benefit those who need help the most,” Mr Coleman said.
A fundraising campaign across all 32 counties on the island of Ireland will begin after the pope’s visit.
Picture: A newly unveiled wax work of Pope Francis aboard a newly refurbished original 1979 popemobile belonging to the National Wax Museum Plus passes the GPO on O’Connell Street ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Ireland. (Brian Lawless/PA).