By 1945, things weren't looking good for Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini.
He was deposed by the Grand Council of Fascism, arrested by the Italian king, and had just escaped imprisonment with the help of German special forces. Mussolini was headed north with his mistress, Clara Petacci, presumably to seek asylum in Switzerland.
But he never got there.
Instead, the 1939 Alfa Romeo 6c Sport Berlinetta they were in — disguised as a Spanish diplomatic vehicle and traveling with a small contingent of Musolini's remaining supporters and a retreating German antiaircraft unit — was stopped at an Italian-resistance roadblock in the northern Italian region of Dongo.
This is that exact car. Spotted on The Daily Mail, the classic Alfa, which Mussolini had given to his mistress as a gift, just went up for sale on RM Auctions on Wednesday and sold for $2.4 million.
But the story of how it reached the auction block doesn't stop there.
After Mussolini and Petacci were recaptured, the Alfa was confiscated and wound up in the hands of American army officer Major Charles Pettit, who was stationed in occupied Italy.
After the war, the car was shipped to his family's farm in rural upstate New York, where he drove it until it broke down. Mussolini's car was then stored in a barn and subsequently forgotten.
In 1970, the Alfa wasn't in the best of shape. A high-school teacher bought it for $300, after he was told of its connection to World War II. He contacted a Mussolini historian, who was miraculously able to put him in touch with the former Nazi driver, Franz Spogler, who used to chauffeur Mussolini and Petacci.
Spogler confirmed through correspondence, as well as coming to see the car in person, that the rusty 6c was indeed the same exact car used to transport Musolini and Petacci. A rusty, German-made tool kit that Spogler had kept in the 6c was also found in the car, confirming the link.
From the late 1970s to the early 2000s, the car changed hands a few times. It was also partially restored, had its engine rebuilt in Italy, ran the Mille Miglia race in Italy, and finally underwent a 500,000 euro ($570,000) restoration that took two years.
Nearly 85% of the original body was saved by restorationists at Garage Bonfanti, who collaborated with body specialist Dino Cognolato, according to the RM Auctions House. They reached out to the son of the founder of Carrozzeria Touring, who had collaborated on this particular model of 6c and had access to the original design drawings for the car.
On Wednesday it went on the chopping block and sold for $2.1 million. Despite its amazing lineage, the car fell short of the auction reserve by $80,000.
As for Mussolini and Petacci, that stop in 1945 was end of the road for them.
Mussolini attempted to deceive the Italian resistance by donning a German uniform and climbing aboard one of their vehicles. It didn't work.
He was quickly identified, and he and Petacci were taken to a nearby resistance hideout and executed; their bodies later strung up as revenge in a Milan gas station.
You can read more on this car's incredible journey on RM Auctions.
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