When Janis Joplin beseeched God in her hit 1970 number, Oh Lord, Won’t You Buy Me A Mercedes-Benz?, I am sure someone higher up had already done the original version. That too, a whole four decades before the rock star. The person in question was none other than Pope Pius XI, who might have crooned the song into the hotline to heaven and perhaps immediately – that is, in July 1930 – received a spanking new Mercedes-Benz Nurburg 460 with Pullman bodywork for himself (See box: Heavenly rides). Yes, the first Popemobile was a Mercedes, and it was the Nurburg.
So what was so special about the Nurburg that made it suitable for the Holy Father? For one, it was powered by an 8-cylinder engine which, frankly, was not for everybody. Besides, it ran like silk, it could be customised beautifully and luxuriously upholstered, and was one of the most prestigious models from Mercedes at that time. It was certainly not cheap – it was priced at 14,500 marks at a time when other German 8-cylinder cars cost between 8,400 and 13,250 marks.
So if that was the case, could any Indian Maharaja be far behind in acquiring one? This Nurburg you see here once belonged to the Maharaja of Rajkot, and has since found its way into the hands of Dr Ravi Prakash in Bangalore. Dr Prakash, well known in vintage/classic car circles, has an awesome collection of machines that run on both two and four wheels, all parked at his farmhouse on the outskirts of the city. Not just that, the place is worth converting into a museum – it has automotive memorabilia by the tonne. Entire walls are covered with steering wheels, hubcabs, signages, the works!