Scents clinging to floor mats, imprints on leather seats, possessions stowed away in the glove box – cars retain memories in more ways than we can imagine. Perhaps that is why, when tragic, violent things happen inside a car, the blight remains with it long after the incident. We list out three cars that achieved notoriety for becoming the last rides of their famous passengers.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s Graf & Stift phaeton
The assassination that went on to become the immediate cause of World War I occurred when Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were shot in Sarajevo in a 1911 Graf & Stift open-top. Ironically, they were on their way to visit victims of a grenade attack they’d averted earlier that day. The royal couple breathed their last in the phaeton after suffering bullet shots to the throat and abdomen. Even after it changed hands fifteen times, the car was involved in six accidents and thirteen deaths, until it was submitted to the Museum of Military History in Vienna, where it is still displayed.
Princess Diana’s rented 1994 Mercedes-Benz S280 W140
In an attempt to evade the paparazzi, the driver of the rented 600 SEL carrying Lady Diana, was flooring it at 105kmph when it hit the wall of a tunnel in Paris. While the airbags for the front seats functioned normally, none of the occupants wore seat belts – a fact that has been cited as a reason for the severity of the injuries the Princess suffered.
Chilling reports tell of how some photographer chasing the dark blue Mercedes stopped to photograph the mangled wreckage of the crash they allegedly caused.
James Dean’s Porsche 550 Spyder
An avid racer himself, the Rebel Without A Cause actor was on his way to a race in California when he lost control of the Porsche he’d nicknamed ‘Little Bastard’, causing it to flip into a gully. Parts of its drivetrain were installed in two separate entries to that same race later. Both the cars met with gruesome crashes, one of which proved fatal to the driver. Much like the Elder Wand from Harry Potter, the car left a bloody trail everywhere it went. A fire devoured the garage where it was displayed, leaving only ‘Little Bastard’ unscathed. And every time it was in transit, it slipped off the carrier or the stand where it was placed, crushing whatever came in its way. Finally, it mysteriously disappeared off the flat-bed that was carrying it back to George Barris, a car customiser and friend to its original owner.