words by Carol King
The van used to drive Pope John Paul II around during his 1979 visit to Ireland has been turned into a party bus available for hire by brides-to-be.
The 15-seater Popemobile is a refitted Ford Transit van made in Cork by Ford for the papal visit. It includes the chair the pontiff used huge crowds flocked to see him more than 30 years ago. Irish music-recording entrepreneur and owner of Grouse Lodge Studios, Paddy Dunning, acquired the iconic vehicle a few years ago after he bought the National Wax Museum in Dublin. He told the BBC: “it was sitting behind an old curtain with no wheels on it. It seemed a shame not to resurrect it.”
Dunning has since given it a makeover, adding a Mercedes framework and an extra 14 seats. He is making the famous van available for hire, which is suitable for hen and stag nights, sporting events, charity functions and even weddings. Dunning told ‘The Irish Sun’: “Whoever wants to hire it can do so as long as they respect it and we will have our own driver. We’re going to pick rock bands up from the airport in it.”
Already people have shown interest, saying: “One girl has already booked it for her wedding. And there’s a group looking to go up to Knock in it for a religious outing.”
The businessman told ‘The Irish Times’ that he would like to see the vehicle transformed from a Popemobile to a ‘Hopemobile’ and taken on a tour of Ireland: “We’d like to go around the 32 counties and build a collection of stories of local heroes, either business people or local community achievers.”