Mercedes 600 Landaulet

A rare Mercedes 600 limousine has sold for £445,000, despite spending the last the 30 years slowly rotting in a lock-up.

The imposing six-door Landaulet model – which features a convertible roof solely for rear-seat passengers – fetched more than seven times its estimate when it went under the hammer at an RM Auctions' sale in Paris.

Considered one of the finest cars produced by the German carmaker, the Landaulet is extremely rare, with only 59 ever built.

The epitome of luxury in 1971, the 600 became known as the favoured mode of transport for dictators and despots, with Saddam Hussein and Idi Amin counting themselves as members of the owner's club.

This particular model was owned by an unidentified African head of state, before arriving in the UK and spending 30 years in stationary decay.

It was offered without reserve at the Paris auction, with hopes that it would fetch between £60,000-£100,000.

However, such was the level of interest in the 20-foot-long car, a bidding war erupted both in the auction house and over the phone, with car aficionados determined to add the exclusive Merc to their collection.

Despite requiring a small fortune in restoration work due to its complicated hydraulic systems, the car is considered a sound investment due to its status as one of the world's best-made vehicles.

"It was the car of the moment, anyone who was anyone had a Mercedes 600. John Lennon owned one, so did Coco Chanel and many heads of state," Mercedes specialist Stuart Haynes told the Daily Mail.

"The Mercedes 600 was the best car in the world when it was made and some people still argue it is. It is silent, smooth and quick. The presence shouts style and 'you've made it'," he added.