Mercedes-Benz Rennsport prototype 300 SLR "Uhlenhaut-Coupé" (W 196 S), 1955.

The Most Valuable Car In The World: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé

Records were not just broken, but it was completely shattered when RM Sotheby’s sold the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé. One of only two prototypes that were ever produced by the Mercedes-Benz racing department, it has always been regarded as one of the greatest and rarest jewels in motoring history. Only a few collectors ever imagined that it would be publicly offered for sale.

Named after Rudolf Uhlenhaut, its creator and chief engineer, it is arguably one of the most exquisite examples of automotive engineering and design. Automotive experts and enthusiasts the world over are not shy in calling it as the most beautiful car in the world.

Mercedes-Benz Rennsport prototype 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut-Coupé” (W 196 S), 1955.

And this most beautiful car in the world was just sold for €135,000,000 ($143,000,000).

Based on the W 196 R Grand Prix car which was driven by Juan Manual Fangio to claim two World Championships, the 300 SLR was given a larger 3.0-liter engine specifically for sports car racing. With a top speed of 180 mph, the 300 SLR was one of the fastest road legal cars at the time.

The record-shattering sale happened in an auction held on May 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. RM Sotheby’s worked closely with Mercedes-Benz during the whole process to ensure that the sale was completed to the highest possible standard. Some of the invitees to the event were select Mercedes customers as well as international collectors of cars and art who are in line with Mercedes-Benz’s corporate values.

The winning bid on the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé was an impressive €135,000,000 which immediately made it the most valuable car ever sold. What made the new record more astounding is that it beat the existing record by more than €90,000,000.

Mercedes-Benz Rennsport prototype 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut-Coupé” (W 196 S), 1955.

Before the sale, the record holder was a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO which was sold by RM Sotheby’s back in 2018. Last May 5, the bidding for the 300 SLR actually opened at a price that immediately exceeded the selling price of the 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.

The 300 SLR now sits comfortably amongst the top ten most valuable items ever sold at auction, and is the car to beat as the most expensive car in the world.

Proceeds of the sale will be used to establish a worldwide “Mercedes-Benz Fund” and it will provide educational and research scholarships for young people in areas of environmental science and decarbonization.

Head of Mercedes-Benz Heritage Marcus Breitschwerdt stated, “We are proud that we can contribute with our historical collection to this initiative connecting the past with the future of engineering and decarbonisation technology. The private buyer has agreed that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé will remain accessible for public display on special occasions, while the second original 300 SLR Coupé remains in company ownership and will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.”

RM Sotheby’s Chairman, UK & EMEA Peter Wallman spoke on behalf of RM Sotheby’s and shared, “Words can’t really do justice to the importance and significance of this sale. It’s reasonable to say that nobody ever imagined that this car would ever be offered for sale, so for Mercedes-Benz to ask RM Sotheby’s to conduct the auction was an absolute honour.”

Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe Oliver Barker added, “What an absolute thrill to bring the hammer down on this masterpiece of design and engineering, which now stands shoulder to shoulder with the greatest works of art ever sold. Few ever dreamt that this great jewel of motoring history would ever come for sale, and how fitting that it should happen now, just as we embark on a new and exciting chapter with our partners at RM Sotheby’s.”

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