Holy smoke! The Popemobile that ferried Pope John Paul II through the thousands of people who thronged to see him in Ireland in 1979 is up for hire.

It hit the road again in Dublin this week, available not just to prayer-lovers but also for debs and hen parties and stag parties.

The little yellow van that Pope John Paul’s faithful loved to see since it was made for him in 1979 vanished from public view in recent years.

Businessman Paddy Dunning inherited it when he acquired the Dublin Wax Museum some years ago from former politician Donie Cassidy.

Dunning said, “It was sitting behind an old curtain with no wheels on it. It seemed a shame not to resurrect it.”

So, the Popemobile was given a makeover - a new Mercedes chassis and enough seats to hold 15 people, including the original straight-backed chair on which the Pope sat which was temporarily moved to Dunning’s mother’s house in Greenhills, Co. Dublin.

He added, “My mother cleaned it and shone it and looked after it. My aunt is a nun in Rome for over 35 years. When she came home, she wanted to see the Pope’s chair and the Popemobile.

“When she was going back, we drove her to the airport in the Popemobile with all my family inside. She was the talk of Rome.”

Dunning is keen to stress that, although partygoers are welcome, the Popemobile will be given due respect.

He insisted, “We want people to enjoy the experience and we will offer discounts for charity and sporting events.”

He wants the Popemobile to be a “Hopemobile” which will travel across all of Ireland celebrating the best of being Irish in recent tough economic times.

The Popemobile, from Tuesday of this week, is for hire from €250 an hour.

The Popemobile cab was made in Cork by Ford for the 1979 papal visit, and was operated by Garda (police) drivers.

A spokeswoman for the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin declined to comment on the vehicle’s latest use.