A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé” broke the record for the most expensive car sold at auction. The বি 143 million winning bid surpassed the previous record holder’s price, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold for $ 48.4 million in 2018 at Monterey Car Week. The price was more than double the personal sales of another 250 GTOs, which were considered the most expensive, timed. A combination of factors contributed to the acquisition of stratospheric value, including the tragic backstory of the worst racing accident in history.
Despite its name and doors, the car has little to do with the 300 SL gull-wings that stand as one of the brand’s most iconic models. Under the skin, it’s near a Mercedes W196, ending in a line of 1934 Silver Arrow race cars. And one example set an auction record years ago, before being accepted by others, including the aforementioned Ferrari.
Following its success in the opening year, the W196 was converted into a single-seat, open-top 300 SLR to compete in the 1955 World Sportscar Championship. The series included legendary races such as Mill Miglia and Targa Florio, both of which won with motorsport icons such as Mercedes Sterling Moss and Juan Manuel Fangio.
It alone will turn the 300 SLR into a highly coveted collector’s car, but the dark side of its history is impossible to ignore. In 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, a 300 SLR driven by Frenchman Pierre Leveg crashed violently with another vehicle, pushing it to the grandstand. At the time, the Circuit de la Sarthe lacked the modern safety precautions that modern tracks were made of, and the fans were separated from the tracks without a low dirt wall.
The car rolled to the end for a few meters, breaking through as it sent flying parts through the crowd. Heavy parts such as engine blocks and front suspension reduce viewership. The rear half burst into flames and the fire quickly spread to the lightweight body panel (300 SLR 3.0-liter Sport Leach Rennen or “Sport Light Racing” in German) but highly combustible magnesium alloy. A total of 84 people, including Leveg, were killed when they threw him on the sidewalk. Another 180 were injured.
Incredibly, the race continued, but when Rudolf Wohlenhout, the race’s chief engineer, realized the severity of the disaster, he withdrew the Mercedes from the race. Official results listed Jaguar as the winner, when its manager rejected Wohlenhaut’s request to withdraw altogether. Subsequently, many races were discontinued as tracks around the world were shaken to improve safety. Mercedes will retire from motorsport for more than 30 years. The company did not return to racing until 1989.
According to RM Sotheby’s, which facilitated the auction, Uhlenhaut planned to build the 300 SLR on a fixed-roof coupe for racing cars in Panamericana (which was canceled due to the Le Mans accident). Only two examples were created. None were sold to the public.
So far. At a private auction at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart on May 5, the ownership of the second of the two Uhlenhaut Coupés changed hands. The bidders come from a short list of collectors who have been selected by Mercedes. Mercedes says it has decided to part with Prototype to establish the Mercedes-Benz Fund. The program will provide worldwide scholarships to students studying environmental sciences.
Through the “Mercedes-Benz Fund” we want to encourage a new generation to follow in Rudolf Woolenhout’s innovative footsteps and develop amazing new technologies, especially those that support the important goal of decarbonization and resource conservation, “said Ola, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Group. .
The record-setting price was really the result of a perfect storm. Not only did you have the car, a beautiful and technologically advanced masterpiece that was originally a road-going race car with several championships under its belt, but it was historically significant and operated by the best drivers in history. It also had the rarity, tragedy and exclusivity of being in a new automaker’s collection, as well as supporting a good cause. The resulting value is a record that will probably stand for a very long time.