Last August, this 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Roadster, one of 29 built, sold for $3.8 million at an auction in California. Today, it sits in a German impound yard after the heirs of its first owner claimed it was wrongly taken from their family by U.S. soldiers after World War II. Some cars you just never forget.
There's little dispute about the early history of this roadster, a top-of-the-line car for Mercedes in its pre-war heyday, capable of 160 hp from its straight-eight engine, and the centerpiece of Mercedes' display at the 1935 Berlin Motor Show. Following the show, records show it was sold to one Hans Friedrich Prym -- the inventor of the clothing snap, whose family remains in the fastening business today.
At the time of its sale last year by RM Auctions, the car's history went blurry until the 1970s. But after collector Frans von Haren bought the car and returned it to Germany for resale earlier this year, the descendants of Prym sued in German court, claiming American soliders stationed on the Prym family estate had swiped the car at the end of World War II.
According to Bloomberg, Prym had been imprisoned by Allied forces and the car's caretaker away from the estate a few days when the Mercedes disappeared. Under German law, the 30-year statue of limitations for theft only starts when the stolen property returns to German soil.
A court ruled Prym's family has a right to reclaim the car, far from the first piece of war treasure repatriated over the years. The Pryms should consider themselves far luckier than other wealthy families of the age, such as the heirs of Louis Renault, who have sued for reparations after the French government took the entire Renault automaking business from the family following WWII.