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Goering's convertible surfaces in U.S.

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A museum vistior photographes a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster at the Allure of the Automobile exhibit Friday, June , 10, 2011, at the Portland Art Museum, in Portland, Ore.  The Allure of the Automobile examines the golden age of automotive design by celebrating some of the world's finest cars from the 1930s to the early 1960s. During this era of brilliantly designed automobiles, engineering combined with artistry and craftsmanship to produce objects of unparalleled beauty. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

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A museum vistior photographes a 1937 Mercedes-Benz 540K Special Roadster at the Allure of the Automobile exhibit Friday, June , 10, 2011, at the Portland Art Museum, in Portland, Ore. The Allure of the Automobile examines the golden age of automotive design by celebrating some of the world's finest cars from the 1930s to the early 1960s. During this era of brilliantly designed automobiles, engineering combined with artistry and craftsmanship to produce objects of unparalleled beauty. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A classic Mercedes-Benz dating back to the 1930s is currently being restored in North Carolina. Its owners claim it once belonged to the infamous Nazi official Hermann Goering.

The Mercedes-Benz 540K cabriolet is an absolute rarity, with fewer than 200 manufactured before 1939. Now, one of the huge, eight-cylinder convertibles has turned up in North Carolina. "The car is worth several million dollars," says David Rathbun, one of its current owners. The steep price is not only due to its rare status, but also to its alleged historical background.

Goering was the commander-in-chief of Second World War Germany's Luftwaffe. He was also responsible for the construction of several concentration camps. According to its owners, Goering used the vehicle during Nazi parades, which is why the car has several special features: Not only is its back seat longer than usual, the car also has a small platform on the passenger side, where Goering was able to stand during rallies.

There are documents confirming the story: a letter from Daimler dated Sept. 30, 1953 states that a car with the same serial number "was sold to Reichsmarschall Goering on July 21, 1941." Rathbun, who buys and sells vintage cars alongside his business partner Steve Saffer, had the documents sent to the States from the Mercendes-Benz archives.

According to Rathbun, further U.S. military documents reveal the story of the car's journey across the Atlantic. It seems the vehicle was confiscated by the U.S. Army near Hitler's residence in the Bavarian Alps just days before the war ended. U.S. Army Colonel John A. Heintges subsequently used it as his own private vehicle.

The convertible soon changed ownership again, the documents reveal, with another high-ranking member of the U.S. military having it shipped to Texas several years later. From 1958 onwards, the car was owned by a man named Dick Taylor in North Carolina. It was by chance that Rathbun and his partner became aware of the car and its unique history, they say, and it wasn't until May they were able to locate Taylor and negotiate a deal. Rathbun refused to reveal the purchasing price.

-- Der Spiegel

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 31, 2013 D6

History

Updated on Saturday, August 31, 2013 at 1:51 PM CDT: Spelling of Goering corrected

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