RM Sotheby’s has just crowned this most expensive car in the world: one of only two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupessold for 135 million euros (about $143 million at current exchange rates) at an exclusive auction at the Mercedes Museum earlier this month.
This car was initially valued at 90 million euros ($95 million). Not only does the final sale price make it the most expensive car sold at auction to date, but it’s also one of the ten most valuable objects never sold. Heck, for that price you could buy the former record holder for the most expensive car in the world – the 1963 Tour de France-winning Ferrari 250 GTOs sold for $70 million—twiceand that there is still enough money to a Koenigsegg Jesko.
I am certain that this high sum is a small sum for the secret new owner of the vehicle. So what makes this undeniably beautiful vehicle so outrageously valuable? It’s not just a work of art, but a piece of history. The SLR was based on the two-time world champion W 196 R Grand Prix car driven by F1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio, but with a larger 3.0-litre engine for sports car racing. They were remarkable machines, smoking competition under the sure hands of now legendary riders. The SLR won the World Sportscar Championship in 1955, but was retired a few months later after a major accident at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
On that fateful day, a Mercedes driven by Pierre Levegh crashes and is thrown into the crowd, killing 83 spectators and injuring 180 others. It was the deadliest crash in motorsport history to date, and the tragedy caused Mercedes to pull out of racing altogether until 1989.
Rudolf Uhlenhaut, chief engineer and designer of the SLR, transformed the remaining SLR race cars into coupés, to be used as daily drivers. Capable of 180 miles per hour, the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR was one of the fastest legal vehicles at the time. One of these vehicles, stored in the Mercedes-Benz museum in Stuttgart, is the car that RM Sotheby’s has just sold for this record amount. The auction was by invitation only, for customers Mercedes trusts to deal with such a car.
If you missed your chance to own this unique item of historical and technical significance, don’t worry; the wealthy fancy pants who bought the car won’t be driving it either, though they’ve agreed to make the vehicle available for fans to look at, sometimes, maybe. The only other existing Uhlenhaut coupé will remain in Mercedes’ Heritage fleet in Stuttgart.
Because Mercedes-Benz has a lot of money, the automaker has committed the proceeds from this SLR sale to create a scholarship fund dedicated to providing scholarships and scholarships in the sciences of the environment. As the company that introduced internal combustion cars to society, that seems like the least it can do.