By now you’ve probably heard the news on a one-of-two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe selling for 135 million Euros, which equates to about $143 million making it the world’s most expensive car, ever.
After the sale took place and countless news outlets among automotive sources picked up the story that was bound to make headlines, many have wondered what exactly this vehicle is as it resembles the classic Mercedes-Benz 300 SL gullwing but looks longer and “racier”.
The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe wasn’t necessarily an inspiration to the 300 SL gullwing that you’ve probably seen in photos or in person at concours shows, the most prestigious automotive shows in the world – it was the other way around. However, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR (Super Leicht Rennsport) Uhlenhaut Coupe is something even more special. You see, the two examples of the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe (only two made) were basically hardtop street-legal versions of the W196R Grand Prix race car driven by famed and legendary F1 racecar driver Juan-Manuel Fangio. Engineers took two left-over chassis of the W196R racecars and created two examples of a masterpiece. They were exclusive and unique in their own right and engineered like nothing else around at the time. The name Uhlenhaut comes from the name of Mercedes-Benz chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, considered to be the father of the SL. The kicker here is that the two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupes would only be destined for demonstrations of the speed capabilities that Mercedes could dish out at the time and one serving as the personal vehicle for Mr. Uhlenhaut.
You’ve probably never seen such a vehicle or even heard of it, which roots back to the fact that the vehicle was never privately owned or raced for that matter. Simply, the two vehicles were more of a showcase of what Mercedes-Benz was capable of, a vehicle to remain in a “prototype” form but used by the company. The unique design of the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe at that time utilized the best and most suitable components and materials that were available at the time making such a vehicle one of the most meticulously designed. It is powered by a straight 8-cylinder engine making 306 horsepower at about 7,400 rpm and 233 lb-ft of torque sent through a 5-speed manual transmission. The top speed was claimed to be 186 mph, which was enough to eclipse competition if it were ever to make it to races like the Targa Florio, Swedish Grand Prix, or even The Mille Miglia – much like it’s somewhat similar but different racecar sibling, the “300 SLR” W196S racing sports car. It was overengineering taken to a new level that nothing else could touch, hence the RM Sotheby’s auction hammer price of $143 Million!
In the history of automobiles, there have been many other examples of vehicles exchanging hands that are in the form of a prototype and never intended for public sale. Though, many of such vehicles remain in the hands of their originating automotive manufacturer, such as the second example of the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, which will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
There are many fine automobiles that have crest astonishing figures but none that have made it to the tune of $143 million. Such a figure is unheard of and sets the record for being the most expensive car in the world, for now.
Mercedes-Benz will donate the proceeds to create a fund for a “Mercedes-Benz Fund” scholarship program supporting young people in their studies, commitment, and actions towards a more sustainable future for the global ecosystem.
Feel free to read more about in-depth about the now-famous 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe from Mercedes-Benz here.