The wonderful Prototyp Museum in Hamburg is showing a Mercedes Benz G-Wagen originally built as a hunting car for the former East German dictator, Eric Honecker. The museum says:

GDR leader Erich Honecker drove privately a Mercedes-Benz G-Class of the so-called class enemy. The 1983 Mercedes-Benz 280 GE used as a hunting car is now presented at the PROTOTYP automotive museum in Hamburg.

Erich Honecker, head of socialist East Germany, used this car privately for hunting near Berlin. The G-Wagen was purchased by a company operating undercover in West Berlin at Mercedes-Benz and converted by the West Berlin coachbuilder Rometsch including an extensive roof conversion and the installation of rifle pads.

The cost of purchase and conversion was 114767.32 DM (€137k). All Mercedes stars and lettering also had to be removed in order to conceal the fact that Honecker was driving a West German car. The car is on loan from the Stiftung Deutsches Technikmuseum Berlin and will be presented at the PROTOTYP automotive museum in Hamburg for several years.

BRIXMIS East German G-Wagen Spymobile counterpoint

Having owned several Mercedes-Benz G Wagens in my time and with many G-Wagen owners using my classic car agreed value insurance report service, my favourite G-Wagens are the BRIXMIS G-Wagens used by the British to spy in East Germany during the Cold War. The last surviving BRIXMIS G Wagen lives in the Miltary Intelligence Museum in Chicksands in Bedfordshire and is also a vehicle I value for insurance purposes.

BRIXMIS was the British Commanders’ in Chief Mission to the Soviet Forces in Germany: a little-known but utterly fascinating intelligence organisation which worked throughout the Cold War years from 1946 to 1990.  Originally a liaison unit, its role soon changed to gathering intelligence in the former Soviet Occupation Zone of East Germany on the threat posed to the West and NATO by the 20 Soviet and 6 East German Army Divisions and their Air Forces deployed there.

The BRIXMIS story is a fascinating one and the spying was real, with East German forces often ramming the ‘diplomatic’ cars and the officers on board living in the woods for days at a time having dodged their pursuers. The G-Wagens were donated by the Berlin security forces and proved more robust and reliable than their Range Rover predecessors but, prior to that, BRIXMIS used 4wd Opel passenger cars that could escape into the forests.

Having seen the BRIXMIS G-Wagen up close and been led through its many clever hidden features, the BRIXMIS G-Wagen and Eric Honeker’s hunting G-Wagen would make a great joint exhibit together in Hamburg or Berlin. Both vehicles operating behind the Iron Curtain in the early 1980s but on very different missions. I should email the museums and suggest it!

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Images courtesy of unsplash/author