WASHINGTON: A 1939 luxury Mercedes limousine used to carry Adolf Hitler around Germany will be auctioned in the US state of Arizona next month - one of only four such models ever built.
Powered by a 7.7-litre supercharged engine capable of exceeding 160 kilometres per hour, the Mercedes-Benz 770K Grosser - known to the world as the "Super Mercedes" - was a potent propaganda symbol of the Third Reich which the Fuhrer rode standing in the front seat.
Billed as "the most historically significant automobile ever offered for public sale," the imposing four-door convertible will be offered to bidders at the Worldwide Auctioneers event in Scottsdale on Jan 17 at the city's annual classic car event.
The car - which carried the number plate 1A 148461 - was used to ferry Hitler on his victory parade through Berlin following the stunning defeat of France, and for a state visit by Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
As the conflict turned in the Allies' favor, it fell into disuse in France and was captured after the war by US forces who, apparently unaware of its provenance, put it into a military police motor pool.
After the war it went briefly to a private owner in Belgium before being sent to the US where it made its way to the Greenville, North Carolina bureau of Veterans of Foreign Wars, which used the car for parades, carrying dignitaries and Gold Star Mothers.
It then changed hands several more times within the US before being sold to a European collector in 2002, then to a Russian billionaire in 2009.
US media reports say it could sell for million of dollars.
Worldwide Auctioneers did not reveal the current owner's identity but it is not thought to have been sold since that time.
"The purpose of this display is absolutely not to glorify Hitler and his destructive policies," the auction house wrote in a post on its website last week.
"It is to show you one of the outstanding cars of the century, built by gifted people, and representing the highest in craftsmanship.
"But it is also as a memorial to the fighting prowess of American soldiers that we take pride in displaying this showpiece of a fallen dictator. And above all, as a reminder that the evil which this car symbolises, must never again be allowed to happen."
It added that 10 per cent of the sale price "will be donated and used to educate how and why the Holocaust happened and how to effectively prevent such atrocities in the future."