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Archive for Sunday, October 30, 2005

Pope John Paul II’s car sells for $690,000

October 30, 2005

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— A light blue 1975 Ford Escort GL once owned by Pope John Paul II sold for $690,000 Saturday to a multimillionaire lawyer who said he plans to put it in a museum he wants to build in his hometown.

"To me, it's a piece of history," said John O'Quinn, 62, a Baptist from Houston who said he has a collection of about 600 vehicles. "What a great human being Pope John Paul was."

Built 30 years ago at a Ford plant in Cologne, Germany, the car sold Saturday in what auctioneer Dean Kruse said was original papal condition - no hubcaps, no air conditioning, no radio, but with several nicks and dents.

"The car will never be driven," said O'Quinn, who said that at least temporarily it will be warehoused with his other cars.

O'Quinn, a personal injury lawyer who made a fortune in a multibillion dollar Texas tobacco settlement, outbid at least seven other would-be buyers.

The seller, Jim Rich, 41, of Sugar Grove, Ill., became emotional about giving up the car to pay bankruptcy debts to his father.

Rich bought the car for $102,000 at an auction in 1996, and said he promised the pope when he received the keys he would display the vehicle proudly at his Chicago West restaurant and never part with it.

Standing with holes in his shoes and holding a buttonless blue blazer together at the front with his left hand, he pulled a food stamp card from his wallet and said he had been using it for about nine months to buy groceries.

"The pope would think this is something I should do under extraordinary circumstances," he said.

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