A court in Hamburg Germany has ruled the 1935 Mercedes-Benz 500 K Roadster that was seized by authorities earlier this year rightfully belongs to the heirs of the car's first owner, German industrialist Hans Friedrich Prym.
The car—one of 29 500 K roadster built—was impounded by German officials last month, less than a year after Dutch car collector Frans van Haren purchased the car at auction for $3.76 million. In a decision that we imagine van Haren regrets quite a bit, he brought the car back to Germany to be displayed at the Techno Classica car show in Essen.
While the car was on display at the show German officials decided to seize the car and figure out who was the car's rightful owner. The 500 K had not been in Germany since 1945, which is why officials took the car's return as their opportunity to sort out the matter so many years later.
The unofficial story that went along with the Mercedes had always been it was purchased by an American soldier and shipped to this country back in 1945. As Bloomberg explains, the Pryms and now the German courts believe a rather different story about how the car left Germany.
Prym's Mercedes disappeared in 1945, while he was serving a prison sentence handed to him by the Allies. His estate was used as a base for U.S. troops serving under General Maurice Rose at the beginning of the march into Germany. Stolberg was one of the first places in Germany to be conquered. The caretaker who looked after Prym's car, Franz Wagemann, was away for a few days when it vanished.
This past week the German courts ruled in favor of Prym's grandchildren stating there was no proof the American Troops were entitled to take the car. The German court also ruled that despite the fact there is a 30 year statute of limitation on crimes such as this one, because the car has been out of the country since it was taken the statute has not yet expired.
Although it is certainly cause for celebration in the Prym family, Frans van Haren stands to lose the car and the nearly four million dollars he spent purchasing it. When the 500 K sold through RM Auctions last August in Monterey, CA it was advertised with an unknown history prior to the 1970s. 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.
Frans van Haren has not yet announced whether he plans to appeal the decisions, but something tells us this will likely not be last we hear about this rare and expensive Mercedes-Benz.