There is a new most expensive car in the world. A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, known as the Uhlenhaut Coupé, recently changed hands for the staggering sum of 135 million euros, or approximately C$184 million.
The record-breaking car, nicknamed designer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, was sold to a private collector by auction house RM Sotheby’s in 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The buyer was not disclosed.
A showcase of mid-1950s technology and styling, the 300 SLR had a top speed of 290 kilometers per hour and the distinctive gullwing doors that would become an icon of Mercedes design of that era. The 300 SLR was one of only two prototypes ever made and had been owned by Mercedes-Benz since its inception. The second prototype remains in the collection of the automaker.
Mercedes-Benz said proceeds from the sale will go towards the creation of the Mercedes-Benz Fund, a global scholarship initiative “to encourage a new generation to follow in the innovative footsteps of Rudolf Uhlenhaut and develop amazing new technologies. , especially those that support the critical goal of decarbonization”. and resource conservation.
Given the rarity of the car and its historical provenance, the fact that it became the most expensive collector’s car ever sold was not particularly surprising. What was surprising was that the sale price was more than double the previous record of around $90 million for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, which had been the benchmark in the high-end classic car market.
Collector car appraisal and insurance firm Hagerty has suggested that the money raised from the sale of the 300 SLR could raise other collectibles.
“This sale could push the values of other top cars like the Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic above the nine-figure mark,” the company’s Hagerty Insider newsletter said. “This most recent sale underscores how much the collector car market has matured over the past 10 years and that the best examples of these cars now rival the prices of some of the best works of 20th century art.”
While the record sale grabbed global headlines, it was far from the only indicator that the collector car market is seeing explosive growth as the world begins to emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online car auction company Bring a Trailer had record gross sales of $828 million (US) in 2021, more than double its 2020 total of $398 million, according to The New York Times. .
Then there was Arizona Auction Week, the annual gathering of enthusiasts from around the world who gather in the Phoenix area each January to buy cars at a handful of mostly high-end auctions. This year’s take was $266.7 million (US), well above Hagerty’s forecast of $211 million.
What’s particularly notable about the total is that it represents a 22% increase on pre-COVID-19 figures from 2020, despite auction companies having a third fewer cars for sale this year.
The two years lost to COVID-19 could fuel the boom, and other factors are also coming into play. Global supply chain issues are driving up the cost of parts for restoring classic vehicles. And with automakers moving rapidly toward electrification, swapping electric power plants for vintage cars is already a thing.