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BERLIN (Reuters Life!) - A car expert says he has tracked down Hitler's favorite Mercedes to a garage near the town that helped the Austrian-born Fuehrer become a German citizen.
Classic cars specialist Michael Froehlich said he found the bullet-proof touring car after charting its postwar travels from Austria to Las Vegas and back to Munich, where Hitler burst onto the political scene with a failed putsch in 1923.
"It was the best car in the world at the time. Better than the Bugatti, Bentley, Rolls Royce or whatever," Froehlich told Reuters from his office in Duesseldorf. "It was his favorite car: the one he used most often, which he used for parades."
After being commissioned by a Cypriot buyer to find the vehicle, Froehlich discovered it had been bought by a farmer near Braunschweig, where in 1932 local Nazi officials got Hitler a civil servant's job so he could claim citizenship.
"I thought it was an interesting job, but on the other hand I wasn't too thrilled, because my parents and grandparents suffered greatly under his regime," Froehlich said of the commission.
The dark blue car, which Froehlich said had spent decades in the basement of the Imperial Palace Casino in Las Vegas, was recently sold by the heirs of a Munich brewing tycoon before he traced it "in under two months" to northern Germany.
Froehlich said reports the buyer was Russian were mistaken, and rejected the notion that past owners of the vehicle with the number plate "1A 148 461" were admirers of the dictator.
"They weren't Nazis from what I can see, I think it's something they saw as a business investment," he said. "I can well imagine that an old Hitler banger has a certain value."
Froehlich declined to name the car's price tag, or give details about the buyer, but said the 1935 edition custom-made vehicle could fetch "more than 10 million euros ($14.91 million)."
Though he had not yet had outside confirmation of the car's authenticity, the owner's paperwork left no doubt, he added.
"The Mercedes sales register shows this 770 K model was ordered for the Fuehrer and Chancellor of the Reich in 1935," he said.
Only 88 of the series were ever made and the Braunschweig car showed all the special modifications made for Hitler, who had to be driven because he had no "Fuehrerschein" -- a German word made up from "driver" and "license" -- Froehlich said.
"He was a Fuehrer without Fuehrerschein," he said.
Editing by Paul Casciato