At a secret auction at the brand’s museum in Germany, Mercedes-Benz has sold one of two 1955 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupés from its extensive collection of historic automobiles, which dates back to the car’s earliest days in the end of the 19th century. The sale, to a private buyer, amounted to 135 million euros ($142,769,250). It far surpassed the previous record sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO of $48.4 million at an auction in 2018 to become the most expensive car ever sold at auction. Both of these high-priced sales were brokered by RM Sotheby’s.
“Although Ferrari was the brand most likely to have built a $100 million car, Mercedes-Benz was the most likely next candidate,” said Brian Rabold, vice president of Hagerty Automotive Intelligence, the wing assessment of Classic car insurance, lifestyle and publishing giant Hagerty.
The two road-legal 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupes were created by (and named for) then-Mercedes-Benz racing director Rudolf Uhlenhaut, who built them as part of a motorsport assault. Although they were among the fastest cars in the world at the time, they never raced due to the marque’s withdrawal from racing in 1955 following a disastrous accident at the endurance race at Le Mans which injured hundreds of spectators and killed more than 80 people, including the Mercedes driver. .
Although wearing a strong resemblance to the famous Gullwing A 1950s sports car, both Uhlenhaut coupes had much more aggressive styling and mechanicals and were actually built on a chassis that underpinned the brand’s contemporary W196 track car.
“Mercedes-Benz racing cars from the 1930s and 1950s are rare, and most are still factory owned, so any that come onto the market are highly sought after,” Rabold said. Auction house Bonhams set a then-record price for the marque in 2013, selling a 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 for $29.6 million. Since then, according to Rabold, the Hagerty Price Guide index of blue chip collector cars has seen a staggering 60% appreciation.