Chester Martin Remembers When Hitler's Limo Came To Town

Tuesday, March 28, 2017 - by Chester Martin
- photo by – A German archive: “Bundesarchiv Koblenz”

First, let me say that I would not be writing this story if I had not first heard John Batchelor on his late night radio show interviewing an author on this very subject. That author's comments jogged my memory so that I can now tell the Chattanooga story in greater detail...

Back, soon after World War II ended, there were several memorable things that happened in town about the same time - and one of those was a special display of Hitler's personal limousine.

It was at a time when Chattanooga had a great many passenger trains coming through town every day, and so the great limo had a car of its own and was diverted to a sidetrack just off Market Street, not far north of Terminal Station, (now known as the Chattanooga Choo Choo). The townspeople flocked to see it in great number.

It had been touted to be Hitler's private auto, and it certainly seemed to be fitted out for use by someone of great importance. There was bullet-proof glass that looked to be about two inches thick, oversize headlights which shone forward, plus a special "air-raid" lighting system which shone downward so as to light the ground for only a few yards ahead of the mighty vehicle.

Old photos always show Hitler standing inside the vehicle so as better to salute his watchers, and be saluted by them, as the limo slowly drove by. A special retractable platform provided the extra height to make the Fuehrer appear taller. Those same photos also seem to show that Hitler was in a different car for each shot. This would indicate that Hitler had many cars at his disposal...and this has created puzzles and problems for archivists of later date, as they attempt to decide which was really "Hitler's car".

In the interview I heard, it seems that soon after the war's end, an American Technical Sergeant was investigating a former Nazi train yard and suddenly came upon a flatbed car which contained a huge limo, approximately 20 feet in length, and was immediately taken to be "Hitler's private limousine", which had been designated for shipment out of Germany and Hitler's presumed secret retreat. Obviously that did not work out, and the U.S. Army claimed the car as "their own". Apparently, there were no restrictions at that time on who could claim what, so the limo belonged to the U.S. Army for a long time following its confiscation. Eventually, that car wound up in a Canadian museum, (the Canadian War Museum) where it remains to this day, and is well cared for.

However, there were many other "Hitler cars" - some of which Hitler had personally ordered for favorite Generals - and all of them made, apparently, at Stuttgart, indicating manufacture by Mercedes-Benz (or Mercedes Grosse). Data is still trickling in to the different archives where study is done on such matters as these.

For all the expense and extravagance of these vehicles, they were susceptible to all the problems of other more ordinary cars of the day - plus some extras. For one thing, they weighed about 10,000 pounds - FIVE TONS - (according to the interview I heard) which meant they could only operate on paved streets and highways, as any muddiness of a country road could not support the great weight. Also, mechanics outside of Stuttgart did not know how to work on them, and they got GALLONS TO THE MILE instead of miles to the gallon! Even so "ordinary" a thing as a blown tire could foul up the works as with any other car.

The interview I heard told how all the various "Hitler cars" had been restored to a greater or lesser degree. That one in Canada has probably had the best restoration job of all - even down to the paint job. Great pains were taken to get every detail right. Other cars have suffered from rust and pitting of the chrome, but the one in Canada is supposedly the best, most authentic, example of all.

There is no way to say at this late date, which of the Hitler cars actually came to Chattanooga. The very sight of it is known to have sent chills up and down the spines of many who saw it; the very thought of the World's Most Evil Person having once ridden in that huge vehicle now standing directly before their eyes - of Jew and Gentile alike!

As mentioned above, Chattanooga used to be a great hub of many railroads: witness the number of railroad crossings you encounter today as you drive north, south, east or west in our city! Many of the old crossings, no longer used, have been permanently closed, but many still remain. John Wilson, Publisher of this on-line newspaper has written a fine new book about them, and it is profusely illustrated. When the old passenger trains were around, pulling into Terminal Station or Union Depot with a special display of some type was easy, and so we benefited by having visits such as those described above. Another special exhibit train (about 1948) was the so-called "Freedom Train" which brought the great "Documents of Freedom" from Washington, DC, through every region of the land - including Chattanooga. Those documents included both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution.  Lines were long to see them here, as everywhere, but we did not go, as we had seen both those main documents only a few years before during a stop in DC on our visit to the New York World's Fair of 1939.

But the mental images I still have of that infamous "Hitler car" remain with me to this day, having left an indelible impression on the mind of a young teen-aged boy.

(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at )

Remembering Rev. T. Perry Brannon's Radio Revival

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Dec. 4

Georgia Trust Announces 2019 List Of State’s 10 ‘Places In Peril’

I recently came upon a booklet that Rev. T. Perry Brannon gave me in 1986 when he was a guest on my radio program and it brought back a lot of memories. His Radio Revival started in ... (click for more)

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will be celebrating the Christmas Season with a covered dish luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The event is for members only. Regular meetings will resume ... (click for more)

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 2019 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state on Wednesday. Sites on the list include: Colquitt County Arts Center in Moultrie (Colquitt ... (click for more)


Remembering Rev. T. Perry Brannon's Radio Revival

I recently came upon a booklet that Rev. T. Perry Brannon gave me in 1986 when he was a guest on my radio program and it brought back a lot of memories. His Radio Revival started in 1930. It was on WDOD every morning at 8 a.m. until switching in the 50’s to WAPO. The program went off the air in the 70’s when Bro. Brannon moved to Birmingham, Ala. T. Perry Brannon ... (click for more)

Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Meets Dec. 4

The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society will be celebrating the Christmas Season with a covered dish luncheon on Tuesday, Dec. 4. The event is for members only. Regular meetings will resume in January. (click for more)

Breaking News

Riverbend Festival Is Expected To Be Trimmed To 4-5 Days In 2019

The Riverbend Festival is expected to be trimmed to four or five days in 2019, according to several sources. The popular festival in early June centered at Ross's Landing Park on the riverfront has long started on a Friday and continued the next week until the grand finale on Saturday night. Chip Baker, executive director of Friends of the Festival that operates the event, ... (click for more)

Tennessee Supreme Court Sets 6 Execution Dates Including Lee Hall, Convicted Of 1991 Hamilton County Murder

The Tennessee Supreme Court issued six execution dates for 2019 and 2020 on Friday. One was for Lee Hall, convicted of the 1991 murder of Traci Crozier in Hamilton County. All of the defendants had previous execution dates set, which were stayed for pending litigation. The Court set an execution date of May 16, 2019, for Donnie Edward Johnson. Johnson was convicted in 1985 of ... (click for more)


Bring Jeff Styles Back Now That His Case Was Dismissed

Now that prosecutors have dropped charges against Jeff Styles — and he's not been found guilty by a jury of his peers — I hope Bill Lockhart and WGOW will return him to the station. I'm believe his listeners will welcome him back with open arms. After one has been through a ringer like this, I'm not sure how you get your life back unless a good guy like Mr. Lockhart steps up ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: When Coach Mike Gundy Went Off

Back in late September of 2007, a gutsy Oklahoma State football team had just won a wild 49-46 slugfest against previously unbeaten Texas Tech in Stillwater. In the loser’s locker room, this after OSU’s Zac Peterson drilled a 54-yard TD pass in the waning minute to come from behind, the soon-to-be legend Mike Leach tore his Red Raiders apart. I mean, the man with the lifelong obsession ... (click for more)