Note: The following is one of a series of articles looking at events in the history of Bulloch County.
Robert Klara's book, “The Devil's Mercedes: The Bizarre and Disturbing Adventures of Hitler's Limousine in America” (2017) tells of America's fascination with the vehicle that was Hitler's carriage.
Klara tells how the car wasn't the same as when Hitler had ridden in it. First of all, "the limousine's terrifying siren, so evocative of the Nazi police state, had been installed after the war by a Swedish brewery owner."
The "reproduction Fuhrer Standards hooked (onto) this 770k" were added after the war." And, the "Berlin Victory Parade of 1942" banner didn’t belong on the 770K, which "been whisked to Finland (in) 1941."
What's more, the claims made, such as Hitler having travelled to the Mercedes plant to "personally test the armor by firing a pistol at it," and that this "was his getaway car" ranged from dubious to ridiculous."
On April 12, 1951, it was announced in the Bulloch Herald that a very special vehicle would be on display for one day only in front of the Bulloch County Courthouse.”
It was a 1942/3 Grosser Mercedes (or Grand Mercedes) Series II 770-K touring sedan, the most expensive vehicle Mercedes had ever built at that time.
A museum researcher in Germany later authenticated this car as one of Hitler’s own, through chassis, engine, paint and modification records, and the discovery of the original actual license plate.
This five-ton vehicle, built between 1930 and 1943, had a top speed of 102 miles per hour. It also had a 70-gallon gas tank, which was essential, as the vehicle only got three miles per gallon.
Its armoring included windows which were a specially-constructed 1 ½-inch-thick bullet-proof glass, and its body had 1/2 inch--thick steel plates built into its entire frame.
The history of this vehicle was very interesting: found by the troops of the U.S. 20th Armored Division near Berchtesgaden loaded on a railway flat-car, it was said to have been Hermann Goering’s state car.
Restored by a liberated Dutch forced-laborer in Laufen who had been imprisoned at the Oflag-VII-C German P.O.W. camp at Laufen Castle in Western Bavaria, it was repainted in Army green, and shipped to the U.S.
In addition to Hitler, they were driven by his top lieutenants Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich. These cars were also to carry Pope Pius IX and Japan’s Emperor Hirohito.
Hitler also ordered several of these custom-built automobiles for his most-important allies, men such as Benito Mussolini of Italy, Marshal Antonescu of Romania and Field Marshal Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim of Finland.
According to Commander E.L. Claxton, Post Commander of Bulloch County’s Dexter Allen American Legion Post #90, the car would be available for public inspection in Statesboro on April 16.
It would be located directly in front of the Sea Island Bank Building. Hitler’s limo had been captured by the Free French Forces on May 7, 1945. There were bullet marks on the front left window from a failed ambush.
Since the war, surviving examples of the 770s showed up in the most unexpected of places. For instance, Field Marshal Mannerheim’s car was featured in the 1951 classic “The Desert Fox: The Story of Rommel.”
In Scottsdale, Arizona, in 2018, a “Mercedes 770 Grosser Offener Tourenwagen,” which had originally been seized by the government of France at the end of WWII, was being bought and sold numerous times.
Built according to Hitler and his private bodyguard SS officer Erich Kempka specifications, it was one of five such vehicles known to exist, three of whom were owned by private individuals.
The highest bid was $7 million, but the offer may have been, at least at first, refused. The “anonymous” bidder, if he bought the car, would have to donate 10% of the purchase price to the Simon Wiesenthal Museum.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history who provides a brief look each week at the area's past. Email him at email@example.com.