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CONFIRMED: 1955 Mercedes 300 SLR becomes the world's most expensive car at £115m


The rumours are true – someone has paid a world record figure for a car this month.

Auction house RM Sotheby’s has confirmed it sold a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes for £115million, making it the most expensive car on the planet.

It was sold to a private collector at a top-secret auction hosted at Mercedes’ museum in Germany on 5 May and exceeds the previous record amount paid for a motor vehicle by a staggering £63million.

RM Sotheby’s said the car, which is one of two created in 1955, has ‘always been regarded as one of the great jewels of motoring history’ and is a monumental occurrence with few ever imagining that it would be offered for sale by the German manufacturer. 

The most valuable car on the planet: Auction house RM Sotheby's has confirmed it sold this ultra-rate Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe on behalf of the German car brand for a world record £115million

The most valuable car on the planet: Auction house RM Sotheby’s has confirmed it sold this ultra-rate Mercedes 300 SLR Coupe on behalf of the German car brand for a world record £115million

Last week, we reported rumours – first broke by classic car market insiders at Hagerty – that Mercedes had parted with one of its treasured Silver Arrows for a fee of €135million (£115million) at an invite-only auction held behind closed doors in Stuttgart.

The auction house confirmed this information on Thursday evening, saying it had worked in close cooperation with Mercedes-Benz throughout the entire sale process to ‘ensure it was concluded to the highest possible standard’. 

It said the auction’s invitees were hand-selected as known Mercedes customers and international collectors of cars and art who ‘share the corporate values of Mercedes-Benz’.

The shortlist of attendees was believed to be just 10 uber-rich car enthusiasts, who were chosen on the knowledge that they had suitable wealth to bid on one of motoring’s finest creations.

They were said to have been flown to the sale by private jet on 5 May, and the Stuttgart museum doors were closed for over a week to allow for the event to take place. 

Potential buyers were also made to agree to continue taking the car to events and displays in the future – and not to sell it in for a designated period of time. 

It was sold to a private collector at a top-secret auction hosted at Mercedes' museum in Germany on 5 May and exceeds the previous record amount paid for a motor vehicle by a staggering £63million

It was sold to a private collector at a top-secret auction hosted at Mercedes’ museum in Germany on 5 May and exceeds the previous record amount paid for a motor vehicle by a staggering £63million

RM Sotheby's said the car, which is one of two created in 1955, has 'always been regarded as one of the great jewels of motoring history'

RM Sotheby’s said the car, which is one of two created in 1955, has ‘always been regarded as one of the great jewels of motoring history’

It said the sale is a monumental occurrence as few ever imagined it would be offered to a private buyer from the Mercedes-Benz collection

It said the sale is a monumental occurrence as few ever imagined it would be offered to a private buyer from the Mercedes-Benz collection

The previous record price for a car is believed to be a sum of £52million for this 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO bought privately in 2018

Pictured: The most expensive 'confirmed' sale price for a car is for another Ferrari 250 GTO bought in 2018 , which sold at RM Sotheby's Monterey sale in California that year, with the hammer dropping at $48.4million (£37.5million)

The previous record price for a car is believed to be a sum of £52m for a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO bought privately in 2018 (left).  The most expensive ‘confirmed’ sale price for a car is for another Ferrari 250 GTO (right) bought in 2018, which sold at RM Sotheby’s Monterey sale in California that year, with the hammer dropping at £37.5m

The former record price for a car is believed to be a sum of £52million for a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO bought privately in 2018. 

It was reportedly purchased by American businessman David MacNeil from German racing driver Christian Glaesel, who had owned the car for 15 years – though because it was a private sale, the record price has never officially been rubberstamped.

The most expensive ‘confirmed’ sale price for a car is for another Ferrari 250 GTO bought in 2018, also sold by RM Sotheby’s at the Monterey sale in California that year, with the hammer dropping at $48.4million (£37.5million). 

It means the treasured Mercedes sold this month is three times the previous all-time record for a motor sold to the highest bidder, and is now also among the top ten most valuable items ever sold at auction.

1955 Mercedes-Benz SLR 300 Coupe specs 

Built: 1955 Units: 2

Engine: 3.0-litre, straight 8-cylinder petrol

Power: 310bhp @7,400rpm

Torque: 229 lbft @5,950rpm

Top speed: 178mph 

Transmission: 5-speed manual gearbox

Layout: Front engine, rear-wheel drive

Body: Aluminium

Doors:

Dimensions

Length: 4.30m Width: 1.74m  Height: 1.21m

Kerb weight: 1,117kg

The invitees to the auction of this incredible car had been hand-selected as known Mercedes customers and international collectors of cars and art who 'share the corporate values of Mercedes-Benz'

The invitees to the auction of this incredible car had been hand-selected as known Mercedes customers and international collectors of cars and art who ‘share the corporate values of Mercedes-Benz’

The shortlist of attendees was believed to be just 10 uber-rich car enthusiasts, who were chosen on the knowledge that they had suitable wealth to bid on one of motoring's finest creations

The shortlist of attendees was believed to be just 10 uber-rich car enthusiasts, who were chosen on the knowledge that they had suitable wealth to bid on one of motoring’s finest creations

The choice few bidders were said to have been flown to the sale by private jet on 5 May, and the Stuttgart museum doors where it was hosted were closed for over a week to allow for the event to take place

The choice few bidders were said to have been flown to the sale by private jet on 5 May, and the Stuttgart museum doors where it was hosted were closed for over a week to allow for the event to take place

Proceeds from the sale will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund that will ‘provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environmental science and decarbonisation for young people,’ the car maker said.

‘We are proud that we can contribute with our historical collection to this initiative connecting the past with the future of engineering and decarbonisation technology’, commented Marcus Breitschwerdt, head of Mercedes-Benz Heritage. 

‘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 Coupé remains in company ownership and will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.’

Speaking on behalf of RM Sotheby’s, Chairman Peter Wallman, added: ‘Words can’t really do justice to the importance and significance of this sale. 

‘It’s reasonable to say that nobody ever imagined that this car would ever be offered for sale, so for Mercedes-Benz to ask RM Sotheby’s to conduct the auction was an absolute honour.’

Potential buyers invited to the Mercedes' auction were made to agree to continue taking the car to events and displays in the future - and not to sell it in for a designated period of time

Potential buyers invited to the Mercedes’ auction were made to agree to continue taking the car to events and displays in the future – and not to sell it in for a designated period of time

Proceeds from the sale will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund that will 'provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environmental science and decarbonisation for young people,' says the German car brand

Proceeds from the sale will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund that will ‘provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environmental science and decarbonisation for young people,’ says the German car brand

Reports broke a week ago that one of the two hard-top sports cars had been sold at a secret auction earlier this month

Reports broke a week ago that one of the two hard-top sports cars had been sold at a secret auction earlier this month

What makes the Mercedes 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe so special?

The car is one of only two SLR 300 Coupes built in 1955 as hardtop versions of the roofless racing car Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory at the Mille Miglia race that year – arguably the Briton’s most famous crown.

It is powered by a roaring 3.0-litre straight eight-cylinder engine that produces a claimed 310bhp and top speed in the region of 180mph.

It uses a lightweight aluminium body and features Mercedes’ iconic gullwing doors.

It is the car that inspired Mercedes to work with McLaren in the early noughties to create the iconic SLR supercar range, which included a convertible 722 Edition (the famed race number of the Moss car at Mille Miglia) and the SLR Stirling Moss – a roofless speedster without a windscreen, of which 75 were created in the legendary British racer’s name.

The ultra-rare 300 SLR 300 is one of Mercedes' most cherished creations. Here is one of the two cars pictured at Goodwood in 2013

The ultra-rare 300 SLR 300 is one of Mercedes’ most cherished creations. Here is one of the two cars pictured at Goodwood in 2013

The 300 SLR Coupes are hardtop versions of the roofless racing car Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia - arguably his most famous crown (pictured)

The 300 SLR Coupes are hardtop versions of the roofless racing car Sir Stirling Moss drove to victory at the 1955 Mille Miglia – arguably his most famous crown (pictured)

After racing for 993 miles at an average speed of 98mph, Moss and navigator Denis Jenkinson won the 22nd Mille Miglia in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR

After racing for 993 miles at an average speed of 98mph, Moss and navigator Denis Jenkinson won the 22nd Mille Miglia in the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR

The 1955 Mille Miglia victory is still considered Sir Stirling Moss' greatest win. The average speed achieved in the '722' car (which stands for the time he set off in the endurance race) was a record and he became one of only two non-Italian drivers to take victory in event's 23-year history

The 1955 Mille Miglia victory is still considered Sir Stirling Moss’ greatest win. The average speed achieved in the ‘722’ car (which stands for the time he set off in the endurance race) was a record and he became one of only two non-Italian drivers to take victory in event’s 23-year history

The 1955 300 SLR Coupe is the car that inspired Mercedes to work with McLaren in the early noughties to create the iconic SLR supercar range. The last variant, launched in 2019, was called the SLR Stirling Moss and was a speedster with no roof or windows

The 1955 300 SLR Coupe is the car that inspired Mercedes to work with McLaren in the early noughties to create the iconic SLR supercar range. The last variant, launched in 2019, was called the SLR Stirling Moss and was a speedster with no roof or windows

The 1955 300 SLR Coupe (left) pictured outside Goodwood House in 2013 next to an SLS AMG GT (right), which was is another modern-era Mercedes sports car that was heavily influenced by the classic model

The 1955 300 SLR Coupe (left) pictured outside Goodwood House in 2013 next to an SLS AMG GT (right), which was is another modern-era Mercedes sports car that was heavily influenced by the classic model

While the original cars were designed in 1955 with the intention to compete in endurance events, neither were raced.

That’s because the coupe was under development when motorsport’s most tragic crash occurred, which is the darkest day in Mercedes-Benz’s history.

Disaster struck during the 24 Hours of Le Mans on 11 June 1955 – one month after Moss’ famous win in Italy. 

While occupying first and second place, one of the team cars collided with an Austin Healy on the start-finish straight and was propelled into the crowd, killing 83 spectators and injuring another 100.

The devastating accident sparked Mercedes’ retirement from racing for the next three decades, with the Silver Arrows only officially returning to the track in 1989.

The original 300 SLR Coupe widely became known in the classic car world as the 'Uhlenhaut Coupes'. That's because Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the boss of Mercedes’ Test Department, used one as a company car - as seen pictured here

The original 300 SLR Coupe widely became known in the classic car world as the ‘Uhlenhaut Coupes’. That’s because Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the boss of Mercedes’ Test Department, used one as a company car – as seen pictured here

The motor believed to have set a new world record as the priciest car is believed to be a 1955 300 SLR, which is one of just two built (one of the cars pictured)

The motor believed to have set a new world record as the priciest car is believed to be a 1955 300 SLR, which is one of just two built (one of the cars pictured)

The 300 SLR Coupe is powered by a roaring 3.0-litre straight eight-cylinder engine that produces a claimed 310bhp and top speed in the region of 180mph. It uses a lightweight aluminium body and features Mercedes' iconic gullwing doors

The 300 SLR Coupe is powered by a roaring 3.0-litre straight eight-cylinder engine that produces a claimed 310bhp and top speed in the region of 180mph. It uses a lightweight aluminium body and features Mercedes’ iconic gullwing doors

The 300 SLR Coupe was the fastest known closed-roof vehicle in 1955 and is said to have hit its maximum speed of 178mph during frequent autobahn runs

The 300 SLR Coupe was the fastest known closed-roof vehicle in 1955 and is said to have hit its maximum speed of 178mph during frequent autobahn runs

Hagerty, which first reported rumours of the car's sale, says a shortlist of around 10 uber-rich car enthusiasts were hand-picked to attend the auction to ensure only those with suitable wealth were there to bid on one of its finest creations

Hagerty, which first reported rumours of the car’s sale, says a shortlist of around 10 uber-rich car enthusiasts were hand-picked to attend the auction to ensure only those with suitable wealth were there to bid on one of its finest creations

The pair of prototype cars then under development were completed in 1955, despite there being no intention for them to be raced.

They widely became known in the classic car world as the ‘Uhlenhaut Coupes’.

That’s because Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the boss of Mercedes’ Test Department, used one as a company car. 

The 300 SLR Coupe was the fastest known closed-roof vehicle at the time and is said to have hit its maximum speed of 178mph during frequent autobahn runs. 

While neither coupe ever raced during their period, they have made numerous public appearances since, including a hair-raising hill-climb run at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed Media Day, piloted by German racing driver, Jochen Mass. 

Hagerty sources believe the coveted car sold for a record sum is chassis number 0008/55 – the second of the 300 SLR Coupes built.

‘Rumours abound as to the identity of the buyer, with some suggesting it is a well-known figure from Britain’s automotive industry and a long-standing collector of specialist cars,’ Hagerty told us last week. 

‘With interest rates rising rapidly, this purchase could be seen as a wise investment for someone with the means,’ it added.

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