Continued…from Part I….
End of World War II led to the Cold War and the rise of the various dictators which I had mentioned earlier. The car that each one of them loved without exception was the Mercedes 600. This ultra luxurious and extremely safe car was manufactured from 1963 to 1981. It was a huge car that was offered in a number of body shapes. The short and long wheel base four door sedans, six door limousine and the four door landaulet. Of these cars the four door landaulet was the favourite of all the dictators as they liked to be seen by their subjects. The more paranoid like Pol Pot were scene driven in the six door limousines. Rolls Royce, Bentley, Cadillac Fleetwood 75, Lehmann-Peterson Lincoln, and the Chrysler Imperial Crown counted this car as their competitors, but among the dictators 600 ruled supreme. Only 2,677 of these cars were built over a period of 18 years. The 600 had a separate hydraulic pressure system to power its windows, seats, sun-roof, boot lid, and automatically closing doors. The car needed so much power that Mercedes had to develop a new 6.3 litre V-8 engine only for this car. Most of these cars were armoured to protect their occupants. These heavy land barges were fuel guzzlers where the non-armoured car had fuel consumptions varying from 4.1 to 3.9 kmpl.
The ill-gotten money allowed these men to afford many other exotics. Some of them were automobile buffs and had huge collections. For example, when Saddam Hussein’s palaces were captured, the American troops were faced with a fantastic collection of exotics. Saddam owned a Mercedes Benz 600 Landaulet and a Mercedes Benz Grosser 770, while his sons owned such exotics like numerous Ferraris including a Testarossas, Lamborghini LM002, Porsche 911s, Packards, Cadillacs, Rolls Royces, Nissan 370Z etc. Unfortunately a large number of these beauties were either looted by the locals, destroyed in battle or, for reasons not understood by me, destroyed by American troops. The internet is awash with pictures of the rare Lamborghini LM002 being destroyed by the Americans. For youngsters who think that the Lamborghini Urus is the first SUV from the company, the LM002 was built in the late seventies and eighties and was one of the most rugged and capable off road vehicles in the market.
Muammar Gaddafi, the dictator in Libya owned in addition to a Mercedes 600 SEL, a Volkswagen Beetle from his younger days – even these guys had some sentimental values, a Saroukh el-Jamahiriya or “Libyan Rocket” claimed to have been designed by him, Fiat 500 Castagna EV, Maybach 62, BMW 7 series and what else in desert, a Toyota Lancruiser. The Saroukh el-Jamahiriya car could seat five. It had a 230 HP V6 engine and the nose and tail resembled a rocket. It was launched at the conference of Organization of African Unity in 2009 in Tripoli.
Pol Pot, the ruthless killer of Cambodia was responsible for the death of between 740,000 and 3,000,000 people. The communist comrade forcefully shifted the whole country into villages and forced people to work in fields. He banned education. Being a communist he owned just one Mercedes 600 limousine.
Of all these dictators, I found the father son duo of Kim Jong Il and Kim Jong Un of North Korea most interesting. Both these communist leaders have a penchant for things luxurious. May be they were destined to suffer the capitalist luxuries to protect their people from them. Both father and son have a weakness for obviously what else, the Mercedes. Kim Jong Un owns approximately 100 of them while his father owned a Mercedes S600 Pullman Guard, a 500 SL, Lincoln Continental and of all cars a Chinese Hongqi HQ3. Visitors to North Korea, not a very large breed, tell of most of the Police cars being Mercedes. The reason was that a huge number of these cars were imported as staff cars for the senior bureaucrats and politicians. When these people wanted new cars, the older ones were passed on to the Police. The Hongqi is a Chinese luxury car maker owned by FAW car company. These were the first domestically produced cars. Production started in 1958 and they built cars only for the Chinese elite, so much for communism. The HQ3 is a poor copy of the Mercedes S Class and the Maybach fused together.
Idi Amin Dada was also known as the butcher of Uganda. He ruled Uganda from 1971 to1979. The famous hijacking of an Air France plane to Entebbe in Uganda and forceful rescue of hostages by the Israeli forces took place when Idi Amin was the President. As per human rights groups, he was responsible for the death of between 100,000 and 500,000 Ugandans. This barbarian loved his, what else, the uber luxurious and rare Mercedes 600 six door limousine. He also owned a Citroen SM. This was a high performance coupe manufactured between 1970 and 1975. This car combined the high performance engine of Maserati – then owned by Citroen – with the sophisticated Citroen suspension to build the ultimate Grand Tourismo car.
The list of such tyrants and dictators is very long. So, limiting my excursion I shall end this discussion with a living President. Well, the man I am referring to is the President of Zimbabwe, Mr Robert Gabriel Mugabe. He has been in power since 1987. A number of people have accused Mugabe of having a racist attitude towards white people. The United Kingdom once condemned Mugabe’s authoritarian policies and alleged racist attitudes as being comparable to those of German Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler. Thousands of people are understood to have died under his rule. Robert Mugabe, though a US and UK baiter is driven around in a Rolls Royce Phantom IV. His other cars are, yes again, a Mercedes Benz S 600 Pullman and a Ford Zephyr Mark I which he owned in the fifties. A number of his supporters, searched and located this old car and gifted it to him on his ninetieth birthday.
In addition to the Presidents, Dictators and General Secretaries, the Mercedes 600 was also the favourite of the glitterati from Hollywood, rock stars, business tycoons and Colombian gang lords.
Men seek power for glory and the perceived good life. One of the spoils of being successful in the field one chooses is the access to the luxuries of life. The quality of a Mercedes, the luxuries and features that it offered, the presence that it had on road and the safety and assurance that it provided to these mostly paranoid men was what boosted their ego and attracted them to these cars. This article was only about tyrants, but I would not do justice if I fail to bring out that the Mercedes 600 and its successor the S 600 is the transport of choice for a majority of Kings, Presidents and Prime Ministers from the civilised world including our own President.
I am a submariner mechanical engineer. I served the Indian Navy for 21 years. I am extremely passionate about means of mechanical transport developed by humans that include automobiles, trains, ships, submarines and aircraft. I am particularly passionate about cars and want to share this exciting world with all the people.