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Iran's Jet-Set Classic Cars Come Out from Hiding

The museum's Mercedes 500K is the world's last, rumored to have carried Hitler to troop inspections in Russia, and has fetched offers of $3 million.

It is not for sale. "The Shah used the treasury to buy these cars, so they belong to the people," said Salehkhoo.

Jafari said visitors were nostalgic.

"Some come out of curiosity to see what it was like in that time, others like to see custom-built cars for their uniqueness," he added.

Visitors can inspect the royal beach-buggy and the refrigerator and record-player in the C30 Chrysler coupe that belonged to the Shah's second wife, Soraya Esfandiary.

Still locked in the dusty warehouse is an exceedingly rare silver sports car hand-crafted by Giotto Bizzarrini, who later joined Lamborghini.

Funds available for restoring the dilapidated cars to their former glory are meager, but Salehkhoo said Iran's fast-growing car industry had showed an interest in helping.

Car makers such as Iran Khodro and Saipa are now looking abroad for loans and bond issues. Investment from Peugeot and Renault is turning Iran into a regional car making center.

One car missing is the Shah's favorite, a Lamborghini Miura SVJ that was smuggled out of the country and briefly ended up as the run-around of U.S. film star Nicolas Cage.

When the Shah's nephew graduated from military academy, his uncle said his reward would be any of the 3,000-strong royal car collection.

"Apart from the SVJ," the Shah added hastily.


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