Brazil's Lula arrives at inauguration in style in 1952 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith

Worth more than $200,000 in today's money, the luxurious convertible was used in Sunday's ceremony

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Brazil’s President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva may be a man of the people but at his inauguration on Sunday afternoon, he arrived in stately style in his official 1952 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith convertible.

The classic soft-top car, which features an L6 engine with a capacity of 4,257cc and HJ Mulliner coachwork, has been used for presidential inaugurations for 50 years.

But there was speculation that Mr da Silva, popularly known as Lula in Brazil, would shun the ostentatious display for something more understated.

Mr da Silva's wife, sociologist Rosangela, said it was “quite an old car”, and suggested it had been damaged by her husband’s predecessor, the right-wing Jair Bolsonaro.

However, the presidential palace quickly clarified before the ceremony that the Rolls-Royce was in mint condition and ready for the ceremony, which was attended by tens of thousands of Mr da Silva's supporters.

“The workers of the presidential garage love the car,” Jose Penteado Vignoli, who co-authored a history of the ceremonial vehicle, told The Times newspaper. “They respect it. They start it up every week and take it out in the sun.”

Mr Vignoli said that Mr da Silva may have toyed with the idea of a different vehicle to the one he travelled in during his previous two inauguration ceremonies in order to be less ostentatious.

“They want to give the impression they are one of ‘the people’, and ‘the people’ don’t go in a Rolls-Royce,” he told the paper.

However, it wasn’t just the message that the car might send that caused concern. Before the ceremony, officials said that the president-elect may be transported in a more secure vehicle for safety reasons.

Mr da Silva is taking over a divided nation where passions are running high.

A man carrying a knife and explosives was arrested by police as he tried to enter the crowds gathering to watch the inauguration.

Meanwhile, diehard Bolsonaro supporters have staged protests and called on the army to block Mr da Silva’s return.

However, in the end, Mr da Silva waved from the open top of the classic car as he drove through the streets of Brasilia to be sworn in on Sunday.

While the president’s day-to-day official car is an armoured version of the 2019 Ford Fusion Hybrid, the 1952 Rolls-Royce Silver Wraith is used for special occasions.

Two versions of the vehicle — the other a hard-top version — were bought in 1953, causing great controversy over the cost despite having been given as gifts by wealthy friends of dictatorial leader and self-styled man of the people, President Getulio Vargas, at a cost of £7,540 (more than $200,000 in today’s money).

However, Mr Vargas did not use the vehicle a lot as he killed himself amid a political crisis in August 1954.

What followed was then a period of confusion over the ownership, with his estate claiming the vehicles as personal property — although they were used for the inauguration of President Juscelino Kubitschek in 1956.

A resolution was stuck in 1957 with the family whereby they kept the hardtop version and the Brazilian state took the convertible car.

Since then, it has been used for inaugurations, Independence Day celebrations and other state functions. It can be seen on the streets around Planalto Palace in Brasilia on the first Sunday of each month.

Updated: January 02, 2023, 9:28 AM
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