For Sale–Pol Pot’s Pimped Out Black 1973 Mercedes Benz Stretch Limo: “The Murderous Despot Special Edition”
Proceeds to Fund Book “Sympathy for the Devil: A journalist’s memoir from inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge
Other Mercedes limousine buffs include Idi Amin, Kim Jong Il, Saddam Hussien, Nicolae Cousesceu, Robert Mugabe, and Ferdinand Marcos
By Nate Thayer
March 20, 2014
Now, you, too, can be the talk of your local cocktail party circuit as the proud owner of Cambodian despot Pol Pot’s official Mercedes stretch limousine.
It’s current owner announced that he is putting the black, 1973 Mercedes Benz W115 LWB stretch limousine with a tarnished past up for sale. Now, car collectors with an appreciation for iconic items with a dark and colorful political pedigree can be the new owner of the official limousine of one of modern history’s most notorious war criminals.
But you don’t need to seize control of your country and leave it ruins to own this piece of history. You just have to be the high bidder at an auction created to raise funds for the book production of Sympathy for the Devil: A journalist’s memoir inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge”
The advert might read: “For Sale – Black, 1973 Mercedes Benz Stretch Limousine “Murderous Dictator Special Edition Pimped Out Ride. Previous Owner: Pol Pot.”
Indeed, the Mercedes has a colorful past, to say the least.
It was first used by the Cambodian dictator, Lon Nol, before being seized as war booty by his extreme left successor, Pol Pot. It then resurfaced as a fruit truck used by a watermelon farmer, and later was leased by Oscar award nominated Hollywood icon Matt Dillon and featured in his cult classic film, “City of Ghosts, starring Gerard Depardieu and James Caan and Matt Dillon, written and directed by Mr. Dillon.
The 1973 Mercedes Benz W115 LWB stretch limousine is believed to have been first purchased by right wing military dictator, Lon Nol, who came to power in a 1970 U.S. backed military coup. Marshall Lon Nol, who claimed mystical powers and employed wizards and astrologers to advise military strategy, used the Mercedes to inspect front line military positions until Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge overran them and captured the capital, Phnom Penh, in 1975.
Pol Pot then employed the luxury limo as the official state vehicle to greet visiting Chinese and other communist bloc VIP’s and ferry them around the evacuated capital city, Phnom Penh, and on tours of the countryside.
Pol Pot was the architect of a harsh Utopian agrarian experiment in which the entire urban population was evacuated to work in rural rice fields and build agricultural irrigation systems and all private property, use of money, and ownership of any vehicle was abolished, including, of course, state of the art luxury chauffeured driven black stretch Mercedes limousines.
The limo later resurfaced in the early 1990’s, spotted being used by a watermelon farmer as a fruit truck to transport his produce from the countryside to market in the capital, Phnom Penh.
It was around then that British financial consultant and car buff Paul Freer became aware of it and, in 2000, scooped it up for a song.
Freer has meticulously tried to restore the luxury automobile to the original luster colorfully tarnished by its previous owners notorious past.
In 2001, Freer leased it to Hollywood actor and director Matt Dillon for use in the film “City of Ghosts”. The academy award nominated Hollywood star wrote and directed the film, starring himself, James Caan and Gérard Depardieu. Pol Pot’s Mercedes stretch limousine was featured prominently in that cult classic film.
Since then the iconic limo has spent much of its life in storage and undergoing restoration, although Freer says it is “occasionally fun to roll around in since the traffic police hold up all other traffic assuming a big potato’s on board.”
The affable Mr. Freer said he “occasionally uses it for Sunday drives around town.”
But Freer, a long-time resident since he fell in love with a local girl and settled down in Phnom Penh two decades ago, says his wife is not amused with his hobby, and the vehicle has caused considerable challenges to marital bliss .
She refuses to ride in the vehicle, known about town as “Pol Pot’s car”, because of the cars sordid political past.
“She definitely doesn’t share my passion for oil and iron,” said Freer dryly.
This month, Freer decided to put the 1973 black Mercedes Benz W115 LWB stretch limousine up for sale and donate a portion of the proceeds to raise funds to publish my book, Sympathy for the Devil: A journalist’s memoir from inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.
“It’s quite fitting that the car finally has an opportunity to be put to good use in such a constructive fashion,” Freer wrote in a statement announcing the vehicle would be put up for auction. “That I’m able to help someone whose work I admire so much is doubly rewarding. It feels as though it has all somehow come full circle.”
At the time Freer purchased the Mercedes, it was sporting a Toyota engine under its bonnet. He imported a 3.5L diesel Mercedes engine from Singapore and painstakingly restored the car to closer to its original luster, despite the decidedly tarnished reputation of its previous owners.
”The car was completely refurbished keeping as much of the original car as possible,” says Freer.
Under pressure from an increasingly fed up wife, Freer, who also collects motorcycles, briefly made a not very strenuous effort to get rid of the car in 2007. Freer listed it for auction on eBay.
“For sale — one classic 1973 Mercedes Benz stretch limousine … previously used by one infamous owner Pol Pot, who led the Khmer Rouge during its genocidal regime in Cambodia from 1975-1979,” read the listing on the online auction site.
But eBay pulled the auction after it attracted considerable unwanted media attention from around the world and eBay became nervous that it might be on the wrong end of bad publicity. The short lived auction was yanked by eBay for “apparently contravening eBay regulations for my attaching a You Tube video of a British documentary film on the car that they said was copyrighted. That was their story – me thinks it had the possibility of bringing them into disrepute/embarrassment given the amount of noise it was creating,” said Freer.
The 2007 eBay advert started bidding at 35,000 British pounds or about US$71,800.
Earlier this month, Freer offered to put the limousine up for auction with a starting bid of US$15,000 and split the proceeds to help raise money towards my fundraising campaign to produce a permanent historical record of the reign of the car’s owner, Pol Pot, who left more than 1.8 million people dead during the period he owned the Mercedes limousine. The centerpiece of that effort is the book Sympathy for the Devil: A journalist’s memoir from inside Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge.
Below, is a photo of the Pol Pot limousine currently, after being meticulously restored by its current owner, British resident in Cambodia Paul Freer
Not surprisingly, no papers authenticating the vehicles provenance survived the Pol Pot regime, as is true for documents of any kind, save the meticulously recorded confessions under torture of more than 16,000 people who were arrested, interrogated, and then executed between 1975 and 1979.Records of virtually everything were lost during the regime of the Khmer Rouge, who abolished private ownership and attempted to turn Cambodia into a primitive agricultural society. Their radical policies caused the deaths of more than 1.7 million people from hunger, diseases, overwork and execution.
Restored interior with original leather seats of the “Pol Pot Special Notorious Despot Edition” Mercedes Limo
But numerous photographs, videos and anecdotal evidence leave little room for doubt of the vehicles dark progeny.
In Phnom Penh, it is widely known as “Pol Pot’s Car” or “PP1.”
But before then it was the official vehicle for the then head of state, Lon Nol. The vehicle was said to have been ordered from the German manufacturers before he was ousted by the Khmer Rouge in 1975.
“Yes, Lon Nol had a black Mercedes, just like that one. He was the only one who used that car,” said Song Chang, when shown photographs and videos of the black Mercedes 114/115 LWB stretch limousine owned now by Freer. Chang was Lon Nol’s Minister of Information between 1973 and 1975. “It was the official car for the Head of State. Nobody else below the head of state could have a Mercedes limo.”
“I’m not sure whether Lon Nol had one before 1973; but he did have one after that. I used to ride in my car behind him.”
“ I don’t think there was more than one Mercedes Limo,” he said this week from Long Beach, California, where he lives in a nursing home. “I am almost 100% sure it was the one used by Lon Nol.
Pol Pot and other top Khmer Rouge leaders stand next to the Mercedes stretch limousine in file pictures from their Killing Fields reign in power
Photographs show a similar Mercedes black limousine being used by Pol Pot and other top leaders during their reign in power between 1975 and 1979.
Senior Khmer Rouge leaders including Pol Pot, dressed in all black and sporting red and white checkered “kramas”—the ubiquitous uniform of the Khmer Rouge cadres–are pictured in photographs and videos standing alongside the Mercedes limo at Phnom Penh’s Poechentong airport greeting the rare arrival of VIP foreign delegations.
Pol Pot’s paranoid communist regime ranked among the most closed societies on earth, closed off their borders, cut off all communications and travel to or from the country, and abolished all trade relations to the outside world immediately upon seizing power.
Mercedes-Benz stretch limousines have been owned by lots of imposing people, and are the car of choice for egregious dictators and deposed heads of state, many of whom died in exile as accused war criminals.
The vehicle seems to be a favorite of the most notorious of recent history’s most pariah leaders across the globe–plus a few eccentric celebrities. The mystique of the car is indisputable. They are the “spiritual successor” to the German “Grosser”, the prewar Mercedes 770 used by the Nazi Germany leaders.
The Imperial Palace in Las Vegas displayed Adolf Hitler’s 770K Grosser for years, complete with bullet holes in the glass from victorious and apparently perturbed Allied soldiers.
The list of dictatorial accused sociopaths who have owned similar Mercedes limousines is endless. They include:
* *This Pol Pot Mercedes 114/115 LWB stretch limousine
Pol Pot’s 1973 Mercedes Benz E115 LWB stretch limo in Phnom Penh Cambodia in photo taken March 19, 2014
The classic 1973 Mercedes Benz Stretch limousine. Car collectors with macabre tastes now have a chance to own a limousine used by Pol Pot, the late chief of Cambodia’s notorious Khmer Rouge.
**Saddam Hussein who owned a Mercedes 560 SEL:
**North Korea’s Kim Jong-il with a Mercedes S 500;
A Mercedes 600 used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-il in China(above).And (below) one in Russia. When Kim Jong Il traveled in Russia aboard his armored train, he moved under police escort to the downtown area in a bullet-proof Mercedes 600 sedan that had traveled aboard the armored train.
**Another Mercedes limousine owned by North Korea’s Kim Jong-il;
Kim Jong Il with his Mercedes 600 he brought along on his armoured train on a state visit to Russia
**Robert Mugabe who is the proud owner of a Mercedes S 600 L Pullman limousine;
Robert Mugabe with his Mercedes 600
**Ferdinand Marcos owned four Mercedes 500 SEL;
One of Ferdinand Marcos’s four Mercedes 600 limo’s
**Romanian nutbar Nicolae Ceausescu who had a Mercedes 600 Pullman Landaulet;
In the 1980s, the not very charismatic dictator exported most of his country’s
food stock, in order to pay off the national debt. Meantime, he and his
wife Elena enjoyed the finer things in life…like their yacht, and
collection of luxury cars. Among those cars were Nicolae’s official
state limo: a 1968 Mercedes 600 Pullman Landaulet, complete with armor
plating, bullet-proof glass, a mini bar, and a TV in the driver’s
compartment. Richard Nixon rode in this car during his 1969 visit.
** and the notorious Ugandan despot Idi Amin, who had a Mercedes 600 Pullman.
During the Operation Thunderbolt, Israeli hostage rescue at Entebbe Airport in Uganda of a hijacked plane, Israel flew in a black Mercedes limousine configured to look like Idi Amin’s Personal Vehicle. The Israeli forces landed at Entebbe with their cargo bay doors already open. The Israeli’s hoped they could use the black Mercedes that looked like President Idi Amin’s vehicle to bypass security checkpoints. When the C130s landed, Israeli assault team members drove the vehicle toward the terminal building, but as they approached the terminal, two Ugandan soldiers, aware that Idi Amin had recently purchased a white Mercedes, ordered the vehicles to stop. The commandos disabled the sentries using silenced pistols, but did not kill them.
However, on the flip side of personal quality of character traits of previous owners, there is, John Lennon with his Mercedes S 600 L, Peter Sellers, Coco Chanel, Elvis Presley, Jack Nicholson, George Harrison, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jeremy Clarkson. George Harrison actually bought John Lennon’s Mercedes 600 when Lennon left England to move to the United States, so Harrison owned two of them
Elvis Presley’s Mercedes 600
The amiable current owner of Pol Pot’s pimped out ride, Paul Freer, told me from Phnom Penh that, while he has enjoyed owning the vehicle, he was looking forward to passing the torch of ownership over to new owners. “It can be a bit of a circus driving around in Pol Pot’s car in Cambodia. I have gotten more than a few strange reactions—not the least which are from my wife. She will be happy when it is gone.”
A classic 1973 Mercedes Benz Stretch Limousine parks on garden of a hotel in front of Royal Palace in Phnom Penh, Cambodia Oct. 28, 2007. Car collectors with macabre tastes now have a chance to own a limousine used by Pol Pot, the late chief of Cambodia’s notorious Khmer Rouge. (AP Photo/Heng Sinith)
The next proud owner of Pol Pot’s pimped-out ride will be responsible for all shipping costs, but Mr. Freer said he will arrange for transportation to any global destination. The car, now 40 years old, is “sold as seen’ and is available for inspection in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
To ensure that only those serious about acquiring the vehicle put down bids, a non-refundable deposit of $100.00 is required to post a bid.
The bidding starts at US$15,000.00 and the silent auction will commence on Friday March 21, 2014 at 5:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. It will end ten days later at 5:00 PM EST on March 31, 2014.
The highest bidder will be the proud new owner of Pol Pot’s pimped-out ride. In the event that the winning bidder is not able to make payment immediately upon close of the auction bidding on March 31, 2014 at 5:00 PM EST, the second highest bidder will assume ownership upon payment received.
Interested parties can contact [email protected] or phone (in the U.S.) 443 205 9162 for details on how to place a formal bid and other inquiries.