Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe becomes most expensive car in the world after €135m sale


A private sale of the Mercedes 300 SLR 'Uhlenhaut' Coupe has more than doubled the record auction price, making it the most expensive car in the world

Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe on track front shot

A Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR ‘Uhlenhaut’ Coupe has become the most expensive car ever known to be sold after fetching €135m in an exclusive private auction.

The price for the 1955 car, one of only two ever made, is more than double the previous auction record of set by the 1963 Tour de France-winning Ferrari 250 GTO, which sold for $70m in 2018

Mercedes sold the car from its own collection, inviting selected customers, along with car and art collectors to its Stuttgart museum where the only other 300 SLR Coupe is on display.

RM Sotheby’s hosted the private sale on May 5, and rumours leaked out soon afterwards that the record sale of chassis No. 00008/55 had taken place.

“Achieving the highest price ever paid for a vehicle is extraordinary and humbling,” said Ola Källenius, Mercedes CEO, in a statement announcing that the proceeds would be used to set up a fund providing scholarships for students researching environmental science and decarbonisation.

MErcedes 300 SLR Coupe overhead
Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe doors open

The gullwinged, hard-top Mercedes 300 SLR was designed to continue the run of success enjoyed by the roadster, which Stirling Moss drove to success in the 1955 Targa Florio, RAC Tourist Trophy, and most famously, the Mille Miglia, alongside Motor Sport‘s Denis Jenkinson.

Based on the dominant W196 Formula 1 car, and developed by designer/engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the 300 SLR was fitted with an enlarged 3-litre straight-eight engine; its one-piece block and head provides reliability alongside its 290bhp output.

The Coupe was initially conceived to compete in the Carrera Panamericana, but Mercedes’ top-flight racing plans were scrapped in the wake of Pierre Levegh’s crash in a 300 SLR roadster at the 1955 Le Mans 24 Hours, which killed 83 spectators.

From the archive

But with two chassis already in development, Uhlenhaut continued work on the coupe, which was now repurposed as a road car, the likes of which had never been seen before.

The design was borrowed from the standard 300 SL (as well as Mercedes’ racing streamliners), but underneath was the gearbox and suspension derived from Juan Manuel Fangio’s 1954 and ’55 world championship-winning Formula 1 cars.

Elektron magnesium alloy helped keep weight down to 998kg. Combined with that engine, performance was explosive: recorded top speed of 176.47mph made it comfortably the fastest production car of its era.

More than its speed, it’s the sound — and its volume — that define the Coupe. “Cough — ker-BLAAAAAMMMM!” wrote Doug Nye after driving the car in the 2010 Mille Miglia recreation. “Incredible, cacophonous, ear-splitting noise is what the 300 SLR is all about. Conventional language just doesn’t express it.”

Rudolf Uhlenhaut with Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe

Rudolf Uhlenhaut with his prototype creation


The first Coupe, upholstered in blue, was produced after Le Mans, and was used as a company car by Uhlenhaut, whose hearing loss in later years has been attributed to his regular 140mph+ commutes on the autobahns.

The second, chassis 00008/55, was built by June 1956 with a red interior. With no plans to put the car into production, the car has largely been used for demonstration runs and was part of Mercedes’ non-public collection.

From the archive

It was restored in 1986, and has appeared at the Goodwood Festival of Speed, Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, in addition to the modern running of the Mille Miglia.

The buyer has has chosen to remain anonymous, but will, according to Mercedes, lend the car for public display on “special occasions”.

“The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes are milestones in sports car development and key historical elements that have shaped our brand,” said Kallenius, “The decision to sell one of these two unique sports cars was taken with very sound reasoning – to benefit a good cause.

“The proceeds from the auction will fund a global scholarship program. 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 decarbonisation and resource preservation.”