A rare Mercedes-Benz from the 1950s with links to a tragic racing incident fetched a staggering $143 million at auction earlier this month, making it the most expensive car ever sold, Sotheby’s announced.
The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut, one of only two in the world, was sold to a private collector who was not identified at an invitation-only auction at the MercedesBenz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The car had been in the possession of the German automaker since it rolled off the assembly line. The car was named after its creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut.
“The private buyer has agreed that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe will remain accessible for public display on special occasions, while the second original 300 SLR Coupe remains in company ownership and will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart,” Sotheby’s said.
Sold: The world's most expensive car.
A 1955 Mercedes-Benz, one of only two of its kind, was auctioned off earlier this month for a whopping 135 million euros ($143 million), making it the most expensive car ever sold, RM Sotheby's sayshttps://t.co/8CfzYCDpbI
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) May 20, 2022
The price is more than double the prior record of $70 million paid for a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO in a private sale in 2018 and triple the previous auction record for a vintage car, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that sold for $48 million in 2018.
According to an AFP ranking of artworks sold at auction in recent years, the Mercedes is the sixth or seventh most expensive item ever auctioned, with the all-time record being held by Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold in November 2017 for $450.3 million to a collector believed to be Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.
The Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR, with its DeLorean-style butterfly doors, was inspired by the W196 R Grand Prix race car, which won Formula 1 world championships in 1954 and 1955, according to Sotheby’s. But in June of 1955, at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, a crash of one of its 300 SLR vehicles killed French driver Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators and ended production of the car.
The disaster remains the deadliest in the history of the sport and came after the driver of an Austin-Healey swerved to avoid rear-ending a Jaguar that had braked for a pit stop. French driver Pierre Levegh, driving the 300 SLR, then rear-ended the Austin-Healey at full speed. The Mercedes went airborne at 125 mph, jumped a berm and landed in a spectator area where it broke apart, raining debris on the crowd.
The tragedy prompted Mercedes-Benz to withdraw from the sport of racing until 1989.
RM Sotheby’s said the proceeds from the auction will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund to support environmental research. Fox News’ automotive expert Gary Gastelu, citing sources, said the buyer is “a well-known figure from Britain’s automotive industry and a long-standing collector of specialist cars.”