The Afghan Royal limousine saved from smugglers

Afghanistan’s National Museum has been gifted a new exhibit – the Austin Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre Limousine originally used by the Afghan Royal Family

It might look like any other old car, but this 70-year old Austin Limousine boasts an illustrious past. Originally used by King Mohammed Zahir Shah and his family, the last royals of Afghanistan before a surprise coup in 1973, the 1947 Vanden Plas Princess 4-litre was later saved from smugglers attempting to whisk the British-made car away during warfare in the 1990s.

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Having survived in remarkable condition, the Royal Austin was handed over to the Afghanistan National Museum on December 17 during a ceremony populated with government officials, including Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

According to Abdullah, political and military leader Ahmad Shah Massoud gave commander Mohammad Saced Sofizada strict orders to guard and protect the car from prying eyes. Massoud was posthumously declared a national hero after he was assassinated on September 9, 2001.

“I remember during that difficult time in Kabul city, some people went to them and offered high prices for the car. Although people were in a bad situation, they were patriotic and not enticed by the prices offered,” Abdullah told Tolo News.

Sofizada, a former jihadi commander, hid the Austin away in Afghanistan’s northeast Panishir province following the collapse of Kabul City in 1994.

“Our check posts were in Despichari area in Kabul and one day this car was seen there. I saw this car was different to others and also had seen such a car on TV, portrayed in London and other places. They (smugglers) were driving the car away the and I told them to show me its documents, which they did not have so I stopped the car,” Sofizada explained.

The decades of war endured within Afghanistan's borders has found cultural sites damaged and artefacts smuggled out of the country. But it looks like the 1947 Austin Limousine won't be going anywhere.

Fahim Rahimi, chairman of Afghanistan National Museum, said the national gallery now has available space to keep vintage cars.

“The walls around the compound where we keep old cars in the museum have been constructed this year and now it is ready to put old cars on show there,” said Rahimi.

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