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New Museum for Former Greek Royal Family’s Vintage Cars

The abandoned Tatoi Palace
The abandoned Tatoi Palace. Credit: Vasilifron, CC-BY-SA-3.0 / Wikimedia Commons

Tatoi Palace, the former Greek royal family’s Athenian residence, is to be converted into a museum that will also house their fleet of vintage cars. The vehicles were almost forgotten after having been abandoned at that domicile in Athens long ago.

In 2013, however, the Central Council of Modern Monuments decided to classify them as modern monuments. In doing so, they secured their place as a part of Greece’s history as well as their eventual restoration.

“The vehicles…are in a new storage area now, for proper storage conditions, security and protection,”  a Greek official had announced.

In 2015, Minister of Culture and Sports Artistides Baltas once again declared them “mobile monuments.”

From cattle shed to palace

For decades and decades, the classic motors lay beneath layers of dust and dirt in the former cattle shed of the royal family’s summer residence. There were ten in total, each decimated by neglect.

Royal Family’s vintage cars
Fleet of royal vintage cars. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

The collection included eight cars and two electric tricycles almost eighty-two years old. Several were Rolls-Royces, used to attend official events. The oldest was a 1938 Rolls-Royce Phantom, a model first built in 1925 and primarily reserved for those of aristocratic backgrounds. A classic would cost around $173,000 at auction, while a new one would set today’s millionaires and billionaires, the new royals, back by $460,000.

Then there was a 1959 Rolls-Royce open-topped Silver Wraith, an exquisite and exclusive sports car. The company only made 1,883, and no two were alike.

The third and fourth were a 1964 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud III and a 1965 Rolls-Royce Silver Cloud Drop Head Coupe. The cars were produced from 1955 to 1966 and served as the core model for Rolls-Royce Limited.

Greek royal
Royal carriages at the royal palace of Tatoi. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

In addition, the shed housed two 1952 MG TDs, two 1958 Fiat 500 Spider Elegance cars, and two Victor Electric-car-tricycles. Located on the premises were also the former royal family’s carriages.

Their restoration constituted a historical and artistic project that set out to reveal the precedent glory and aesthetic beauty of each vehicle.

A modern monument conceived by King George I

The ten thousand acre royal estate, located twenty-seven kilometers from Athens, is in and of itself a modern monument. Greece’s King George I was the first to conceive of the idea for a summer retreat. Afterwards, it remained the home of the former royal family until 1973, when a referendum in Greece abolished the monarchy.

The palace soon fell into ruin and disrepair much like the fleet of cars. In 2016, however, the Hellenic Ministry of Culture and Sports approved its restoration as well.

Rare wine found in Tatoi Palace
Rare wine found in Tatoi Palace. Credit: Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports

In 2019, Kyriakos Mitsotakis went a step further, declaring his intention to restore the famous Tatoi Palace back to its former glory.

The restoration of the palace and its grounds have revealed a treasure trove of items considered historical antiques that are now on public display. Amongst them are priceless wines and spirits that attest to the joyous celebrations and social significance of the summer retreat of Greece’s once treasured royals.

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