The $300,000 Popemobile’s Buyer Is a Sinner

The road to redemption leads through a Fiat 500L.

Crazy, crazy loot was thrown down last night for a Fiat 500L—and all because the buttock impressions left on its rear seat were of the holy variety. The little wagon that ferried Francis through New York during the pontiff’s visit last September was auctioned on Thursday night by, and the price of papal provenance will boggle your mind: To buyer Miles Nadal, it was worth the equivalent of a Ferrari 488 GTB.

The winning bid rang in at $300,000, far surpassing the heat brought by an all but identical 500L used by Francis in Philadelphia. That car, which sold for $82,000 in January, may now be fairly considered a papal Fiat 500L well bought.

Proceeds from the sale of the New York car are destined for a number of Catholic charities. The Archdiocese of New York, which offered the Fiat, also bundled a letter of confirmation noting, with corroboration by the Secret Service, that the 500L indeed was used by Pope Francis (née Jorge) in New York. Nadal also gets to collect the car from New York Archdiocese Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who, if so asked, will bless the little beast.

AP Photo/Marco Ugarte

The Archdiocese didn’t exactly lock the car behind glass in the intervening seven months since Francis’s visit. St. Patrick’s Day revelers spotted it on March 17 processing down Fifth Avenue after it received an inspection by Cardinal Dolan at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Corroborating the New York Daily News’ initial report, which cited the $300,000 figure based on real-time monitoring of the auction, Charitybuzz announced in a press release on Friday that the 500L gaveled for the same price. New owner Nadal has what might be charitably described as a colorful background.

A New York businessman and philanthropist, Nadal was under investigation last year by the SEC for suspicious appropriation of funds from the branding agency he co-founded, MDC Partners. Having stepped down as CEO and chairman in July, Nadal has been working to make right by MDC and its shareholders, repaying as much as $21 million.

Did we mention Nadal is an unrepentant gearhead, with over 130 cars and motorcycles in his garage, including this Gulf-liveried McLaren P1?

So, for a guy like this, the $300,000 Popemobile was actually a cost-effective form of reputation rehabilitation. Savvy, my child, savvy.