Here’s a conundrum. Say you accidently stumble upon one of the rarest automobiles ever built – in this case a 1938 Mercedes-Benz cabriolet type B model 320. Only 34 of these cars were ever built and it is the only one manufactured at the Mannheim Mercedes-Benz plant in Mannheim, Germany; a factory later bombed out of existence by Allied aircraft during World War II.
This 1938-era car is even more special, however, as it represented the top of the range ”Mannheim”-car equipped with everything Mercedes could think of at the time – visors, a heater, thicker carpets, a boot scraper, even an “autobahn horn.”
This is the situation Lauritz Lauritzen found himself in when he came upon this Mercedes in a barn back in 1980 – a vehicle in a total state of disrepair, “a complete wreck” in his words. Indeed, it took Lauritzen – himself a skilled Mercedes mechanic - 11 years to restore this car a like-new condition.
And yet he also discovered something else about this 1938 Mercedes-Benz; something extremely disquieting.
Time and neglect alone had not contributed to this car’s broken-down state. Indeed, violent damage to the right rear of the vehicle indicated something far more powerful took this car out of commission.
That “something” turned out to be a grenade; an assassin’s grenade, to be precise.
For this car turned out to be the personal vehicle of one of the most odious people ever to walk the face of the Earth: Reinhard Heydrich, a Nazi general credited with being one of the chief architects of the Holocaust.
Dubbed “the man with the iron heart” by Adolf Hitler, Heydrich was absolutely ruthless and second to only Heinrich Himmler in command of the dreaded SS.
Czech resistance fighters assassinated Heydrich in this very car on May 29, 1942, in the city of Prague, tossing a grenade into a vehicle when they couldn’t get a clean shot at him (though an autopsy later determined that bullets, not grenade shrapnel, are what killed him).
Heydrich’s assassination also touched off a wave of reprisal killings by SS troops in Prague; yet one more horrid chapter in the Nazi’s blood-soaked legacy.
One can only imagine the thoughts turning over in Lauritzen’s mind when he figured out just who had owned this car – a vehicle almost lost to history, as terrible as that history might be, slowly rotting away in barn.
But he decided that past “was no fault of the car” and so spent thousands of hours over 36 years bringing it back to a like-new condition and then keeping it that way; all despite the vehicle’s troubling past.
The car is going to be auctioned off later this month by Auctioneer Finn Campen to begin what Lauritzen calls “the next chapter in its story.”
The question is, if you could afford it, would you become the owner of such a vehicle: a car on the one hand considered “one of the 10 most beautiful Mercedes ever” yet on the other at one time owned by an embodiment of darkest evil.
That’s a tough question to answer.