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The Leica M3 was a revolutionary design. It had a combined rangefinder and viewfinder, with parallax corrected frames that matched the focal length of the mounted lens automatically. The viewfinder was the brightest ever made and was unrivaled until the Voigtlander Bessa R camera hit the market, in 2000. It featured a new and patented bayonet mount. The M3 was the first camera with an advance lever, instead of a knob. It had a rear door that swings up, to make film loading easier.

The camera became a huge success. During its production time, 215,944 chrome cameras, 3,010 black paint cameras and 144 olive paint cameras were produced in Germany. The Ernst Leitz Canada factory, based in Midland, Ontario, manufactured another 7,080 cameras, presumably all chrome. Total production of M3's was 226,178. Production ended in 1966.

Attention: The M3 was called M3 because it features three focal length frames in the viewfinder: 50mm, 90mm and 135mm. The later released M2 was called M2 because it was a simplified (but yet updated) camera, which still had three frames in the viewfinder! The M2 will have its own article on johanniels.com, just like the M4 has.

This particular Leica M2 started out it's life in 1963 and was used by German press photographer Herbert Ahrens until his death. When I bought it the sticker from his 'Pressedienst' was on the bottom plate. It looked very beat up but was still working flawlessly.

The camera was stripped from its chrome in 2012 and repainted in semi-gloss black paint. The craftsman that did the job spent many hours tapping the dents out and he recoated the camera with seven coats of a special UK military paint. Every coat of paint had its own oven bake to toughen it and was subsequently sanded down a bit to make the next coat stick. Result: a very durable paint job. This camera is eight years older than I am and delivers the image every time.

 

A shot of re-painted Leica M2 with the then newly-aqcuired Summilux 35/1.4 pre-ASPH. Near-new, cool! It had been used for three rolls only, in 1982! 

Shortly after World War II started, Leitz found itself in a sort of a predicament. The foreign shipments of shutter cloth material had seized due to the outbreak of the war. All that was left in stock was an experimental shutter cloth, which had different rubber layering and was red in color. Cameras that were ordered by the German Army, Navy and Air Force had to be delivered to Berlin, they were part of the war effort that German companies had to make.

Leitz decided to use the red shutter curtain material, even though there were doubts on its durability. And over time it became clear that the shutter cloth indeed gave in, the rubber started to desintegrate and left sticky black spots of goo on the shutter.

As a result, wartime cameras with red shutter curtains are pretty rare nowadays. 

 This particular camera is a red curtain Leica IIIc, which also had a seldom-seen 'N-L' engraving on the top plate. It is believed that these cameras were delivered to the German Heer (Army) in The Netherlands (die Niederlande), although that does not explain the dash in the engraving...?