Date registered: Jul 2008
Vehicle: 1976 W116 - 280S / 1994 W140 - S320
Location: Jundiai - Brazil
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Mercedes cars & Dictators
Last night I watched "The Last King of Scotland" about the rise of Idi Amin and the fall of Uganda. As I was watching I noticed a number of MBs, namely the presidential 600 pullman, his doctor's 'Pagoda', a c111 flashes across the screen and also a W109 can be seen a couple of times.
That started me thinking, "Why do dictators prefer MBs over other marques?"
Here's a good article I found on the web!
Why do dictators always drive big flashy cars?
Hitler may have dreamed up the VW Beetle but he chose to be driven around in massive Benzes.
Lenin was a Rolls-Royce man but after World War II Stalin ordered a gargantuan ZIS 110, a Russian rip-off of a Packard 180 sedan.
Argentinian despot Juan Peron (and his dodgy wife Eva) showed a bent for Cadillacs and Packards.
In the Mao era, China’s elite prowled around in massive Red Flag limousines. When he wasn’t busy garnering 130 per cent of the popular vote, President Marcos of the Philippines was conveyed in a Mercedes-Benz 600 Pullman, as was Yugoslavia’s Tito and Romania’s Ceausescu (though Ceausescu also had a 1974 Buick Electra).
Spain’s Generalissimo Franco was a Benz man too, with a six-wheel G4.
What about President Gaddafi? He usually chooses an armoured and stretched S-Class Merc.
However, Libyan officials recently announced that their Great Leader had personally shaped the design of a new car known as the Rocket.
It might look like it was sketched by Homer Simpson but the Rocket is apparently ‘‘further proof that the Libyan revolution is built on the happiness of man’’. It is also ‘‘the world’s safest car’’, though that might be because it is usually surrounded by guards with machine guns.
The Rocket is a substantial 5.5metres long.
Even if one disregards cruel comments about phallic objects, there is clearly a connection between big and flash cars and leaders who won’t brook dissent. Even those supreme rulers, presidents for life and monarchs who don’t try to design cars certainly like to buy them. Details of the Sultan of Brunei’s car collection are closely guarded but by some estimates runs into the thousands.
None of your common muck, either. We’re talking hundreds of Rollers, Ferraris and Bentleys for starters. Some of them are bespoke designs that cost millions apiece.
In the Sultan’s defence, though, he has a large family and they can’t be expected to use Brunei’s rather miserable public transport system.
Religious and spiritual leaders don’t mind a showy set of wheels either. Before the introduction of the fish tank-like modern Popemobile, His Holiness was conveyed in presidential-style limousines built by Mercedes and Ford (the latter being the massive Lincoln-based Lehmann-Peterson).
Remember the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the Indian mystic who convinced thousands of Westerners to dress in orange and liberate themselves from monogamy and other silly vestiges of their repressive upbringings? The Bhagwan wasn’t quite a head of state, though he presided over a largely self-contained ‘‘city’’ in Oregon.
Before he was arrested and exported from the US in 1985, he had acquired more than 90 Rolls-Royces, mainly Silver Spirits and Silver Spurs.
These he used only for short drives, usually around his compound to be waved at by his devoted followers.
Why so many? Bhagwan didn’t like to use the same one twice, according to the recent book Breaking the Spell by Australian Jane Stork.
‘‘When he owned a car in every colour and combination made, he had a paint shop built in his garage and had new cars painted in unique colours and designs before he ever drove them. Only he drove them and then only to go for his daily drive.’’
Stork adds that Baghwan was such a terrible driver that a back-up vehicle followed discretely behind ‘‘to pull him out of ditches’’.
North Korea’s Kim Jong-il has a weakness for Benzes and, less obviously, Nissans. More bizarrely, the Stalinist state supposedly transports its top echelons in local copies of the SsangYong Chairman.
Why anyone would copy the SsangYong Chairman is hard to divine. It’s a little like being a Billy Joel impersonator. It doesn’t matter how much work you put into it, or how well you do it, the best you can ever be is as good as Billy Joel.
What do you make of the eccentric choices of our best-known dictators? And what would you drive if you could successfully pull off a military coup in Australia?
Posted on October 1, 2009 5:44 PM
More suggestions please!