buying: Billionaire Denies Buying Hitler’s Mercedes, Threatens to Sue Aussie Gov’t

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Reports claim billionaire Clive Palmer, leader of the freshly revived right-wing United Australia Party, has purchased a 1939 Mercedes-Benz 770K with extraordinarily evil lineage from an American auction house. The car in question is supposedly one of Adolf Hitler's custom-ordered armored limousines that Mercedes built specifically for the fascist dictator. This has caught the attention of Australian officials across multiple levels of government who are now seeking to block the Benz's importation. Palmer, for his part, denies buying the car at all, and has announced legal action against members of the Australian government for saying he has.

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The Mercedes-Benz 770K, a coachbuilt car colloquially known as a "Großer Mercedes" (literally Greater Mercedes), rose to prominence in the late '30s and early '40s as the personal vehicle of choice for leaders and commanders of many Axis powers. The specific model Palmer allegedly purchased, an armored dark-blue Grosser Offener Tourenwagen, is pictured with Hitler himself riding in it as part of a victory parade for the fall of France in 1940. While the auction house selling the car reportedly sought buyers who would use the car as an educational tool, it also remained unsold at auction as of 2018 as it failed to meet its $15 million reserve price, which priced it out of the range of most museums.

Clive Palmer © Cole Bennetts/Getty Images Clive Palmer

Despite the auction house's claim that the Mercedes was "the most historically significant automobile ever offered for public sale," most historians agree that the car itself is of dubious historical value, as Hitler rode in a variety of different Mercedes Benzes during the Nazi Party's reign. Additionally, the coachbuilt Mercedes cars of Nazi Germany were relatively unremarkable in style for the era, but they were defacto art projects of the state that sought to glamorize fascism, which is a further argument against museum display. And frequently, Mercedes' cars were built with slave labor as the regime's partnership with the company grew deeper--which is, again, a questionable practice to immortalize with vehicular preservation.

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In short, it's not really a car worth buying for $3,000 if you need a vehicle to run errands; at $15 million, it's an unjustifiable proposition for even the most avid WWII history buff.

Regardless of the car's true owner, Palmer himself is no stranger to political controversy, as his United Australia Party (UAP) is a resurrection of a decades-old right-wing splinter faction name with no proven link to the original party, despite his claims to the contrary. The party itself is accused by some of abusing Australia's preferential voting system to swing votes to the right-wing Liberal party. A significant number of the candidates the UAP did support in the most recent elections, furthermore, are vehemently anti-vaccination and have spread thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories regarding the pandemic and subsequent medical community response.

With this as the backdrop, Australia's Courier Mail reported last week that Palmer had bought the Mercedes, and left-wing Labor Party politicians have already sought to block its importation via any means possible. The car is purportedly from the collection of a Russian billionaire, which under current Ukrainian conflict-related embargoes, would be forbidden, and Australia has strict regulations regarding the importation of classic cars that may still contain asbestos (generally in clutch or brake components). The current Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews, has said, "If an individual contravenes our sanctions regime, there will be serious consequences under Australian law." Although, with the seller, buyer, and current status of the car still in question, no formal action has been taken.

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Palmer, for his part, initially said through a spokesperson that he "hasn't bought Adolf Hitler's car" and has tweeted that reports he has are simply "fake news."

He then followed this up with a tweet from a spokesperson that he would be taking legal action against the Home Affairs Minister for "spreading the outrageous fake news". For now, it appears, the fate of the 770K is unclear and its new owner is uncertain, although the Courier Mail has not offered any updates since the original publication of its story purporting Palmer purchased it. I will say, I would be interested who, exactly, thinks that buying a Nazi limousine for millions of dollars from a Russian billionaire in 2022 is a good idea.

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