This story was originally published on www.thechargingpoint.com
It’s a story that seems stranger than fiction. Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi, the lately deceased former ruler of oil-rich Libya, was a secret shopper for kinder, gentler cars of the non-gas-guzzling variety… and his favourite rise was one with built-in jokes.
Gaddafi’s vehicle fleet, discovered by rebels in August after they overran and captured his deserted Bab al-Azizia compound in the suburbs of Tripoli, comprised dozens of environmentally sound electric vehicles – with the prize piece of the entire collection a unique, custom-built pure electric Fiat 500.
The one-off electric €100,000 (£88,000) 500 was created by Italian coachbuilder Castagna Milano, whose employees were none-the-wiser to the identity of the mystery customer when the initial order came through via a secretive intermediary in 2009.
Still, from the spec list, there were a few tell-tale clues:
On the left upright, a back-lit image of the Lion of the Desert…on the A-pillar on the right, a circle with the symbolic representation of the Libyan society. On the nose, instead of the Fiat brand, a logo with the black silhouette of Africa, Libya highlighted in green (the particular is made of malachite) and three-color books above all.”
There are also touches of wry humour and in-jokes built in to the electric luxury car that were typical of its driver’s sense of embattled humour. The “Lion of the Desert” is the nickname of Omar Mukhtar, a man who led Libyan resistance against Italian colonial masters from 1912, captured and hanged by the Italian oppressors in 1931. A member of the Gaddafi clan ordering an Italian coachbuilder to create a customised electric version of an Italian car that included the likeness of a man who fought against the Italians for nearly 20 years before being executed at their hands was devised specifically to appeal to the dictator.
After being seized in Tripoli by marauding rebel forces, the car was last seen – and documented by a news photographer accompanying the rebel fighters – being pushed out of its silo-like garage in Bab al-Azizia..
The car was ordered for the Colonel by a member of the Gaddafi family – thought to be one of his sons. The green was politically wise: Gaddafi’s signature colour this was, after all, the man whose collected wisdom was published in The Green Book, who delivered his addresses in Green Square and whose soldiers were the Green Guard. To have bought him a crown jewel for his collection of electric cars in any other colour would have been seen as a provocation,
After delivery to Libya via France, the client paid up in full, with Castagna Milano receiving a few calls from Gaddafi’s German garage mechanic for advice on servicing and maintenance over the last two years. The Italian company, aware of the specialness of the order and doubtless curious as to who their mystery customer was, once asked for a photo of the owner at the wheel of the car, but nothing was ever sent through.
Gaddafi’s electric Fiat 500 reportedly has two massive electric batteries giving it a range of 260km (160 miles) and the 34kW (46bhp) motor gives it a healthy top speed of 160kph (99 mph).
After being seized in Tripoli by marauding rebel forces, the car was last seen – and documented by a news photographer accompanying the rebel fighters – being pushed out of its silo-like garage in Bab al-Azizia by rebels and paraded through the streets of Tripoli.
The fate of the car is unclear now it’s in the hands of the rebels. We can only hope it survives somehow – it’s quite a piece of history.
For more features on incredible electric cars and the stories, tech and brains behind them, check out: www.thechargingpoint.com
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