Albert Speer's Cars

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Sir,

Of all the departments in MOTOR SPORT I find “Cars in Books” perhaps the most interesting, the “Book Review” section must run a close second. With respect to the latter, all an Overseas reader may have to go on in a book-purchase is your review, as many UK titles are not always available overseas (or if they are, it can be a year or so later). So a good review is a useful guide in avoiding pigs in pokes; yours are. I happen to like the vintage area, too.

But back to “Cars in Books”. I wonder if Albert Speer’s “Inside the Third Reich” might not be a candidate for this? It was a best-seller a while back, but I’ve just gotten around to it.

Apparently Hitler was a sometime car-buff. Speer says he was proud of the performance of his Mercedes. This isn’t identified but it presumably was a 1930-31 model which Hitler used on political trips around the country before moving into power in 1933. Speer says it was Hitler’s habit to hunt for big American cars on German roads, there to start a chase with them, hanging on to the rear of the American car until the motor “overheated”. Then, when the car pulled off the road to cool off, Hitler, Merc and Co would roar by. Hitler’s inference in this was that American motors were inferior and overheated too easily, whereas his Merc was far superior. Speer quotes a conversation to this intent.

Oddly enough, when Hitler did come into power he ordered his driver to slow down; people would be deprived of their leader! The author also adds that Eva Braun used an inconspicuous Mercedes-Benz sedan, not one of the big open cars, perhaps for obvious reasons.

Speer comments that he joined the party early, in the ‘twenties. Apparently he was a favoured member; he had his own car for the transport of bigwigs. This isn’t described, apart from “rattletrap roadster”. Then he acquired a BMW in 1935 or 1936, with his appointment as Chief Architect, Third Reich, in line with Hitler’s idea for a new Berlin “city-centre”. He mentions having the “oil changed” in the BMW, an odd reference for no apparent reason in the context of his statement.

There are two pictures of Hitler asleep in his Merc. (perhaps the same Merc., about a 1930 or 1931 model), Porsche and his tanks, and Werlin of Daimler-Benz showing a new M-B army truck to Hitler. Speer says that when he was appointed Armament Minister he was most impressed with the production efficiency of the German motor industry, which didn’t need the gingering-up for higher output apparently overdue in heavy industry.

He adds that German industry never really did get on the same intense war footing as the Allies, “though he certainly achieved wonders in the production field”.

On this point, Speer says Hitler had little grain of technical details, and quotes his inability to appreciate that tanks and armoured equipment needed a backstop of service and spare parts to keep them operative. He says he was always at odds with Hitler in determining the proportion of output devoted to parts; Hitler wanted complete vehicles instead. He makes his point by quoting an Army Panzer expert who, at this point in the war, claimed the German army didn’t need more vehicles, just spares for the ones it had.

Speer paints a fascinating picture of his activities right at the end of the war in Germany’s collapse. Apparently he made various trips to nearby centres over still intact sections of the Autobahn; these were done at night to avoid attacking aircraft shooting up German transport. He describes these as dangerous high-speed trips “with the blower engaged all night”. So what was it? I imapine one of the big State Occasion “Super” Mercs., particularly as it was fitted with a two-way radio in touch with a Command centre! He says that when a warning was received en route, the car was driven off the road under a tree until the danger passed.

Anyway, I thought it an interesting account and pass it along for what it might be worth.

Toronto. Rolland Jerry