A second-hand Volkswagen Golf once owned by Pope Benedict sold for 188,938 euros ($244,800) to a U.S. buyer in frenzied online bidding, a spokeswoman for eBay in Germany said Thursday.

A bidder registered as "Golden Palace Casino" but known to eBay got the gray metallic 1999 Volkswagen Golf when the online auction ended at 7:30 p.m., eBay spokeswoman Daphne Rauch said.

"The winning bidder is someone who has often purchased unusual items in the past," said Rauch, adding the bidder was from Austin, Texas.

The price doubled in the last 24 hours, she said. There were 8.4 million visits to the Web site during the 10-day auction.

Bidding was frenzied in the final minutes Thursday -- the Christian holiday of Ascension.

"I've never seen anything like it," said Rauch, who added the buyer must appear in person to pick up the car.

The seller is Benjamin Halbe, 21, from the town of Olpe in western Germany. He bought the car from a local dealer in January for 10,000 euros. The minimum bid was 9,999 euros. Earlier bids as high as 1 million euros were not serious.

The manual car has 75,000 kms (47,000 miles) on the clock, air conditioning, anti-theft equipment and alarms.

It was first registered in March 1999 to Joseph Ratzinger, a Cardinal from Germany before becoming Pope Benedict even though it is unclear whether Ratzinger ever had a driver's license.

Ratzinger's private secretary sold the car in January to a car dealer, who then sold the car to Halbe without going into details about the previous owner.

Halbe has been quoted in newspapers as saying the dealer told him the car had a "heavenly ride." He later looked at the registration papers and saw it had belonged to Ratzinger, who until last month was a name not many Germans had heard of.

Halbe included a copy of the registration in the auction that showed the car belonged to "Josef Kardinal Ratzinger" and had registration plate: "CD 140 XG." The address was listed as "Citta del Vaticano."


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