Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shah's Car Collection Found

A classic car enthusiast's untouched paradise - 140 vintage and classic vehicles belonging to the former Shah of Iran - sits undisturbed in a warehouse outside Teheran.

Little work has been done to restore them to their former glory because the foundation in charge of their upkeep is struggling to raise money.

Among the star pieces, blanketed by a thick layer of dust, is a bulletproof 1953 Rolls-Royce Phantom IV which was used by the Shah to parade the newborn Crown Prince Reza Shah from hospital to his palace.

A Mercedes 500K coupe, the only one left in the world out of six made, is rumoured to have transported Hitler to review his troops shortly before the Second World War. "A private collector offered us $3 million [£1.7 million] for the 500K last month," said Mr Jaffari. But the Foundation of the Deprived and Martyrs, which confiscated the cars after the 1979 Islamic revolution, will not sell any of the irreplaceable vehicles. They believe that as they were bought by the car-obsessed monarch with the public's oil money, they should be displayed to the public and not allowed out of the country.

The Imperial Pahlavi family ruled Iran for most of the 20th century before being overthrown amid intense public distaste for their profligacy. Older people talk of nights when the Shah raced against his twin sister with their Lamborghinis and Ferraris into the early hours on newly built Tehran highways.

A 1974 Lamborghini Countach displayed in the public museum section of the warehouse was given to the Crown Prince by his aunt for passing his driving test. "We rely heavily on museum ticket sales for our restoration budget, and we have started to loan the cars as advertisement tools to production companies," said Mr Jaffari.

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