The oil magnate, the gardener and the Mercedes-Benz

The oil magnate, the gardener and the Mercedes-Benz

So you think the full glass panoramic roof was first introduced in cars like the Renault Megane or Peugeot 308 stationwagon some fifteen years ago? Wrong! This 1966 Mercedes 600 already had one. It was ordered by an excentric oil magnate from Armenia, named Nubar Gulbenkian.

Mister Gulbenkian made loads of money dealing in oil from Iraq. Being of Armenian descent, he was brought up in the United Kingdom and developed a distinct eccentricity. He was famous for his taste of remarkable cars, like the two London taxi’s that were modified for him in the 1960s, both equipped with Rolls-Royce engines.

False name
The remarkable thing about this Mercedes 600 is that it has been ‘customized’ by coachbuilder Henri Chapron in France. Because when Mr Gulbenkian ordered his car, he insisted on the glass roof, and on several other modifications. The Germans, however, were not pleased at all and refused to give this client what he wanted. So Gulbenkian went to a Mercedes-dealer in France and – assuming a false name – ordered a standard 600. Once that car was delivered, it was immediately sent to Chapron in Paris. And there the car was fitted with all the goodies that Gulbenkian wanted.

The panoramic glass roof was the most important, but also the car had a speedometer and rev counter in the back, so the boss could keep an eye on his chauffeur. The rear seats could fold back into a double bed and the car was upholstered in the finest quality leather, but no wood was used anywhere in the interior.

The gardener
The same specifications we find in the Rolls-Royce Wraith that Gulbenkian ordered ten years before. That car also was equipped with a speedometer in the back and a perspex roof. Gulbenkian had ordered Rolls-Royces before, some of them were quite outlandish.

The Wraith had a perspex roof because it was used mainly at the Cote d’Azur and the same goes for the Mercedes 600. Gulbenkian used that car at his villa in Cannes and when he passed away in 1972, in his testament he had left the Mercedes to the gardener of his villa, who was from Portugal. The gardener took the Mercedes home and stored it for 30 years.

After that the car had three more owners, the last one was Mr Sárraga of Portugal, a prolific car collector. Over the past 30 years, Sárraga has collected a total of 130 classic cars in all sorts and sizes, which are now to be sold by RM Sotheby’s. The Sárraga auction will take place on Sunday, September 21, viewing is possible the day before. Let’s see who is going to take this most remarkable of all Mercedes 600’s home…

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