It's official: A car that has carried the pope is worth four times as much as a car that has not carried the pope.
Bidding for the shiny, black Fiat 500L that carried Pope Francis around Philadelphia in September began just after 9 p.m. Friday, at the Philadelphia Auto Show's Black Tie Tailgate at the Pennsylvania Convention Center.
About 100 people filled the auction room, including Mayor Jim Kenney, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, and Bobby Hill, the 14-year-old singer who was a hit at the Festival of Families. Before bidding began, organizers showed a video of the car and its famous passenger, to get the bidders' mouths watering.
The opening bid: $35,000. In less than a minute it was up to $55,000. $70,000. $80,000. $81,000. The auctioneer, Max Spann, offered to throw in the cardboard cutout of Pope Francis. That did it.
"Sold for $82K to the gentleman way in the back!"
— Brian X. McCrone (@BrianXMcCrone) January 30, 2016
After 11 minutes and 19 bidders, the winning bid went to both a local guy and a car guy: Michael Chapman of Chapman Auto Dealers. He says he'll put it on display at his dealership in Horsham.
The reason is obvious: "I'm a Chrysler dealer," he says.
Bidding underway. "Historic evening of biblical proportions," Auctioneer says.— Brian X. McCrone (@BrianXMcCrone) January 30, 2016
"You won't get a ticket in this car." Auctioneer says— Brian X. McCrone (@BrianXMcCrone) January 30, 2016
The car retails for about $20,000 new. This one, of course, was used.No idea how much this Fiat 500L is going go sell for, but sticker price is about $20K. Pope-use not included. pic.twitter.com/sayBLkkBSd— Brian X. McCrone (@BrianXMcCrone) January 30, 2016
Fiat Chrysler Automobiles reached out to the archdiocese in December to donate the two cars, which the Secret Service had returned to the company after the pope's visit to the World Meeting of Families in September.
Half of the proceeds from the auction will go to the Catholic Charities Appeal to help the homeless and poor. The other half will be split among Mercy Hospice, Casa Del Carmen and the Archdiocese of Philadelphia's special education schools.
“What a magnificent spirit of generosity we witnessed this evening,” Auxiliary Bishop John J. McIntyre said in a statement. “This incredible outcome allows us to spread Pope Francis’ message of love and care in a concrete way by supporting the charitable works of the Archdiocese."
The second Fiat used by Francis in Philadelphia will remain on display at the auto show, which runs through Feb. 7 at the Convention Center. That car may be auctioned off later, said Archdiocese spokesman Ken Gavin.
A Harley-Davidson motorcycle briefly owned and signed by the pontiff -- a gift from a Davidson descendant -- sold for $327,000 at a Paris auction in 2014.
Staff writers Brian X. McCrone, Julia Terruso and Dana DiFilippo contributed to this report.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/real-time/Opening-bid-for-Popes-Fiat-.html#7LJMIdMazqd4DFPA.99