What is the worst thing that could happen to your recently acquired ultra-rare 1937 Mercedes 500 K Roadster while bringing it to a foreign country to show it off? While fire and theft certainly top the list here's one we imagine didn't immediately come to mind—getting your car seized by police officers from the foreign country in question.
That is exactly what happened to Dutch car collector Frans van Haren when he shipped the 500 K roadster he purchased at auction last August for a whopping $3.767 million into Germany. Van Haren brought the car into the country to be displayed at the Techno Classica car show in Essen, Germany. While on display at the show, German police seized the car as the result of a claim by a custodian acting in name of the family of the first owner, German industrialist Hans Friedrich Prym.
Although it was believed Prym sold the car to an American soldier in 1945, his heirs claim the rare car—only 392 were made in total, 29 of which were bodied as roadsters—was not sold, but stolen. The car's return to the country where the crime allegedly occurred more than a half century ago was the first opportunity for the car to be seized and the legal matter to actually be resolved.
When the car was sold at RM's Monterey event last year it was noted that the cars "interim history is unknown at this time". Although the car fell short of the auction company's pre-sale estimate of $4-$5 million, judging by what van Haren paid for the car we'd still say the questionable history didn't have a huge impact on the sale price.
Now the 500 K is in the hands of authorities who plan to sort out the issue of who is actually the rightful owner of the car. The matter will be dealt with in German courts in what we're sure will be a long and expensive process for all parties involved, especially Frans van Huren. Although we've experienced and heard about our share of nightmare car ownership experiences, we now consider ourselves lucky to say none of them had to be sorted out in a foreign court system.