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Dear Prewar Editor:
Some cars have a history that takes real detective work to unravel, and others are easier when they have been driven by famous racing drivers and the history books record every detail. But the car being offered at Retromobile in February by RM Auctions has links with power, politics, sex and execution.
(editorial note: the author strongly advises against using Google Images to find photos of Claretta Petacci)
When Benito Mussolini wanted to give his mistress a gift in 1939, he turned to Alfa Romeo and chose a 6C 2500 Sport Berlinetta with stunning coachwork by Touring. The lucky lady was Claretta Petacci , the daughter of a Vatican doctor, and had first met Mussolini when she was just 19 and he was 48. It was in 1936 that she became his principal and permanent concubine and was entitled to bodyguards, a chauffeur and quarters at the Palazzo Venezia.
The car's stunning lines befitted a lady who also had beautiful curves. Its 6C 2500cc motor beneath the long bonnet emitting that glorious growl with a fancy flourish at the rear on the wheel spats.
Their passionate love affair was to last until the bitter end when Claretta elected to stay by Mussolini’s side when they were captured during an attempted escape to Spain in the Alfa Romeo. They were both executed and the car was seized by the Italian authorities before being sold to an American Army Air Corps Officer who shipped it to the States.
It was once saved from a US scrapyard for $300 in the 1960s but eventually ended up in the hands of an owner who had it properly and lovingly restored and Claretta’s original chauffeur flew to America with his wife to verify the car was the one bought by Mussolini. Sure enough, he recognised his old tool-kit in the boot.
I shall travel to Paris in february and enjoy having a close look at this car with such a fascinating history and perhaps raise a glass to the special lady who enjoyed it for just a few short years.
Text Robin Batchelor. Pictures courtesy RM Auctions.
We know Daniel Rapley for years. We always have a chat when we meet up at Hershey and he seems capable to cough up some interesting project cars from time to time. Unfortunately those are slightly newer than the fine motors depicted above when the Rapley family was still doing business in Ashburton, New Zealand. Daniel writes: My great grandfather owned a motorcar. I have attached a photo showing two cars outside his collar and harness shop. Can you help identifying the two cars?
editor: well Daniel, let's start with the car on the left with a man behind it of whom we think it must be mr. Rapley. A nice sporty two seater 1901? 1902 ? with a low bonnet. The personal weather gear of driver and/or passenger is left in the seats. We're sure our readers will come up with some ideas. The motorcar on the right seems to be french. Renault, Daracq maybe?
This time it's not the automobile we are talking about. It's us who are stuck! You may remember the East-Indies Mercedes Mystery we wrote about in 2011. The Mercedes was owned by a Mr. Tan Tjoan Keng from the Dutch East Indies, who had this Mercedes made by a special department of Mercedes under the management of Hermann Ahrens, who was in charge of the design department for the development of "Spezialbau" and "Stromliniën" (coachbuilding and aerodynamics). Our article fueled the interest of the grandson of Mr. Tan Tjoan Keng and prompted him to start a thorough research on the car. So far, original drawings and photos from the Ahrens archive have come to light and it is now known that Mr. Tan Tjoan Keng and his Mercedes went from Stuttgart via Spain, North Africa, Turkey to Eastern Europe. In 1938 the Mercedes was shipped to Indonesia. After the war, Mr. Tan -and presumably his car- returned by ship back to the Netherlands. From there the history of the Mercedes becomes unclear. It was last seen in 1949 when offered for sale in a Dutch magazine, and again in another advert dating from 1951. This is the last trace of the car and now we're stuck. It is unlikely that the Mercedes still exists, but not entirely impossible. Who knows, it could linger in a collection like the one recently unearthed by Artcurial. Mr. Tan's grandson -and we of course- would very much like to know more. Can you help?
(Text Rutger Booy)
We're never early with our new calendar. For the simple reason we like to be very complete. And complete it is with 110 photos and 123 junior pilots from 18 countries in it with a wide variety of US and European built cars, yet we must say, there is an abundacy of young Bugatti owners this year ! We were swamped in photos, even more than with the previous Proper Cars True Ladies calendars. We got the impression that most of the vintage car world wanted to see the photos in of their offspring printed in the 2015 set-up "A New Generation Taking The Wheel" . So it was a tough job to select which photos would come in, and which not. We're quite happy with the result and hope you like it as much as we do. Here a preview of one month starring Adele with a Wander and a second with young Richard at the wheel of a Model T Speedster.
For those who want to order, it is simple. Everybody who sent a photo which is showing up in the calendar will get it home. For further orders the Cost are US$ 10 or Euro 10 depending on the mailing address you are using. You can use Paypal or Creditcard. See under Read More for full information.
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