As we all know, Nelson Mandela passed away yesterday. What's less well known is the Mercedes-Benz S-Class that was built specially for him. And by "specially" I mean it was built largely by hand, on worker's own time, with parts donated by Mercedes.

The workers at Mercedes-Benz' East London, South Africa plant wanted to this to commemorate Mandela's release from prison in 1990. The workers were part of one of the first black labor unions in South Africa, and Mercedes-Benz, long known for their progressive attitudes in South Africa, was the first local automotive company to recognize a black labor organization at all.

The Story Of The Special Mercedes S-Class Made For Nelson Mandela

Benz donated the parts, the workers (of NUMSA – National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa) donated their after-hours work time. The car was marked with a plaque announcing it as Mandela's car, and was accompanied by singing, celebrating workers as it went from station to station down the assembly line.

It was a true labor of love, and the bright red 500SE sported an engraving of the South African flag and personalized license plates that incorporated Mandela's initials. The level of care taken in building the car was intense, and it's said it's likely the best Benz ever to leave the factory.

It's about as close as you can get to turning respect and love into something physical. Plus, if that something physical is a W126 S-Class, even better.