Mercedes only ever built two copies of the 300SLR, and they became known as the Uhlenhaut coupes because of their association with legendary engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut.
The two vehicles have sat in the Mercedes-Benz Classic Collection for over half a century, and the sale was so secret and exclusive that the automaker is only announcing that it happened now, two weeks after an auction was held in Stuttgart.
The bidding topped out at $143 million, which more than doubles the previous record holder for most valuable car.
A little spring cleaning over at Mercedes-Benz has resulted in a new record for most valuable car in the world. The automaker has confirmed that it has sold one of its two incredibly rare 300SLR Uhlenhaut coupes to a private collector for a whopping around $143 million (135 million euros) at a private auction run by RM Sotheby’s at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart on May 5.
The previous record holder for most expensive car was a 1963 Ferrari 250GTO that was purchased for a reported $70 million in 2018 by WeatherTech founder and CEO David MacNeil. Only a small number of wealthy individuals were invited to participate in the auction for the hardtop version of Mercedes’ mighty Silver Arrow, and Mercedes is not revealing the name of the purchaser of the 300SLR, but Hagerty reports that the buyer is “a well-known figure from Britain’s automotive industry and a long-standing collector of specialist cars.” Mercedes did say that the buyer agreed to make the car available to the public on special occasions.
When rumors of this sale first started circulating earlier this month, one of the big questions was why Mercedes-Benz would sell an irreplaceable car from its Classic Collection with a deep history for just a small portion of their annual budget. In today’s announcement about the sale, Mercedes said the money would be used to establish the "Mercedes-Benz Fund" that will be used to “provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environmental science and decarbonization for young people,” around the world. The Mercedes-Benz Fund will support college students working on environmental science projects as well as younger pupils focused on local environmental projects in their communities. Mercedes will announce more details on the fund later this year.
“The 300SLR Uhlenhaut coupes are milestones in sports car development and key historical elements that have shaped our brand,” Mercedes-Benz Group AG CEO Ola Källenius said in a statement. “The decision to sell one of these two unique sports cars was taken with very sound reasoning - to benefit a good cause. … 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 decarbonization and resource preservation. At the same time, achieving the highest price ever paid for a vehicle is extraordinary and humbling.”
The two 300SLR Uhlenhaut coupe prototypes in Mercedes’ collection were both built by and named after their creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut. The company only built two hardtop versions of the 300SLR racer, and the cars, from 1955, were used by Uhlenhaut and other Mercedes engineers to push racing technology forward. Mercedes-Benz’s Classic still has more than 1100 automobiles in its collection, including the second original 300SLR coupe, going all the way back to the invention of the automobile in 1886 and up through today.
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