This story has been doing the rounds for a few days. However, we were not keen to cover it without some form of confirmation. It was announced earlier today that the famous Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe has just become the world’s most expensive car. The prototype was auctioned off for €135 million. If you must know that is the equivalent of R2,263 billion – yes, with a ‘b’.
The price, $143m, makes it almost three times as expensive as the former record holder. The previous price achieved in a public sale was $48,4 million, which was paid for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO in 2018 .
“The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupés are milestones in sports car development and key historical elements that have shaped our brand. The decision to sell one of these two unique sports cars was taken with very sound reasoning – to benefit a good cause. The proceeds from the auction will fund a global scholarship programme. With the “Mercedes-Benz Fund” we would like to encourage a new generation to follow in Rudolf Uhlenhaut’s innovative footsteps and develop amazing new technologies, particularly those that support the critical goal of decarbonisation and resource preservation,” says Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. “At the same time, achieving the highest price ever paid for a vehicle is extraordinary and humbling: A Mercedes-Benz is by far the most valuable car in the world.”
The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe is an icon of automotive history. As a result of only two being built, it is also an absolute rarity. The prototypes were named after its creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. “SLR” came from the German Sport Leicht Rennsport (sport light racing). The cars were individually dubbed “The Red” and “The Blue” after the colours of their interiors.
Uhlenhaut was the man responsible for spearheading Mercedes’ motorsport successes through the middle part of the 20th century. Success during this time included delivering two of Juan Manuel Fangio’s five Formula One world titles. In addition, there was the famous victory by Stirling Moss and Dennis Jenkinson at the 1955 Mille Miglia.
End of the road
Mercedes-Benz pulled the plug on all its motorsports activities at the end of 1955. This decision followed the tragic accident at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans where Mercedes driver Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators were killed. The French driver crashed on track but the wreckage of his car bounced into the grandstand leaving a trail of destruction.
Two of a kind
The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe is powered by a straight-eight engine. The 3,0-litre motor could rev to 7 500 r/min while its peak power was quoted as 222 kW. Most impressive was the top speed of 290 km/h.
The Mercedes-Benz 300SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe was the work of the innovative engineer. He wanted to turn the company’s W196 racecar into an endurance road racer. This new creation was supposed to tackle long-haul road races such as the Mille Miglia and Carrera Panamericana. Unfortunately, the prototypes no longer served any purpose once racing activities were halted. The master engineer assumed ‘ownership’ and would drive the 300SLR regularly.
Uhlenhaut, it is told, was pretty handy behind the wheel. During testing he would equal lap times set by the team’s F1 drivers. He made full use of the 300SLRs performance on the autobahn, it is said, while running late for a meeting. He reportedly covered the roughly 230 km between Stuttgart and Munich in under an hour.
Staying at home
Although the Uhlenhaut Coupe technically changed ownership it will remain on display with the second SLR Coupe at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart. That was a condition of the sale. The new owner will, however, be able to drive it occasionally, a Mercedes spokesperson confirms.