5 Famous Death Cars — Where Are They Now?


5

Archduke Ferdinand's Convertible

Archduke Ferdinand, car
The convertible 1910 Gräf and Stift double phaeton in which Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his wife were killed is on display in the Museum of Military History in Vienna, Austria. Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0)

June 28, 1914 was a fateful day. That's when a convertible carrying Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and his wife, Duchess Sophie von Hohenberg, were ambushed on a street in Sarajevo by a Serbian assassin named Gavrilo Princip, who shot them both dead. The incident triggered a chain of events that led to World War I [source: HGM Museum].

The car in which the couple rode, a black 1910 Gräf and Stift double phaeton, had been built by former Viennese bicycle manufacturers the Gräf brothers. It actually was owned by an Austrian army officer, Count Franz von Harrach, who loaned it to the archduke for the Sarajevo visit. Over the years, a strange myth developed, in which the supposedly cursed car caused the deaths of numerous people who owned it, including a doctor who was thrown from the car during a road race, and a man who died in a head-on collision. A 2013 Smithsonian article debunked those stories [source: Dash].

Today, the car in which the Archduke and his wife were killed is on display in the Museum of Military History in Vienna, alongside his bloodstained blue military uniform and the chaise lounge upon which he died [source: HGM Museum].

Learn more about Archduke Franz Ferdinand in "A Handful of Bullets: How the Murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand Still Menaces the Peace" by Harlan K. Ullman. HowStuffWorks picks related titles based on books we think you'll like. Should you choose to buy one, we'll receive a portion of the sale.