NOVI SAD, Serbia: Years of dust has been wiped off, the engine replaced, the chassis once again gleams a dark blue and the wheel rims sparkle — one of ex-Yugoslav strongman Josip Broz Tito’s luxury cars has been given a new lease of life in Serbia.
The car in question — a 1948 Packard, a high-priced luxury American automobile owned by Tito before his death — has been lovingly restored by Serbian folk singer and car-enthusiast Milos Bojanic
“This car, I would say this beauty, is a 1948 Packard,” Bojanic told AFP.
The 67-year-old has spent the past three years scraping together spare parts to rebuild the classic vehicle at his workshop in Novi Sad, northern Serbia.
“It’s very difficult to find spare parts for a car when there was such a small production line,” he said.
The car was for years stationed in Macedonia — one of the six republics that made up the former federation of Yugoslavia — and later brought to Serbia by a businessman to be rented out as a wedding vehicle.
The Packard ended up in Bojanic’s possession after a friend, whose identity he declined to reveal, bought the car for him to renovate.
“It came into my studio with a completely rotten flat bottom, with an engine that wasn’t its own. There was just the chassis and the body, no windows, no other original elements, except the hubcaps and the wheels,” Bojanic said.
Only around 30 of some 1,000 luxury cars made by the US car producer remain functional, according to Bojanic, and now this newly restored Packard will soon be able to drive along the roads of former Yugoslavia, 70 years after it was first built.
“I’ve brought it back to an almost perfect condition and it will be exactly as it was when it left the factory,” he states.
Many Serbs are still nostalgic for Tito who ruled the former Yugoslav federation from the end of World War II until he died in 1980.
He made Yugoslavia one of the most prosperous communist multi-ethnic states, but political dissidents were jailed under his regime and opponents denounced his lavish lifestyle.
Tito, a car luxury fanatic, owned a host of vehicles including limousines, Mercedes and a Rolls-Royce. The socialist leader’s distinctly un-socialist lifestyle also saw him own dozens of homes and a yacht.
A decade after his death, Yugoslavia collapsed in a series of inter-ethnic wars which claimed some 130,000 lives.