In the mid-1950s, Mercedes-Benz was having glory times in racing. Its star driver was Juan Manuel Fangio and won two Formula 1 titles with the brand. The so-called “silver dates”, due to their traditional gray color, were unbeatable on world tracks. One of those historic units was sold directly by the factory to an anonymous buyer, who had no qualms about paying a staggering €135 million to keep it. Something never before seen in the history of a vehicle by any vehicle. The most expensive car was the 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO Tour de France, which was secretly sold for $80 million in 2018 to David McNeill, founder of Weathertec auto accessories.
The new record holder is the 1955 300 SLR, adapted for use on the road thanks to the coupe body designed by Rudolf Uhlenhaut, while retaining the mechanical track unit, making it the fastest street car in history. Its time, it reached 290 km / h. Everything was then submitted to Uhlenhaut, as it was named in honor of its designer, to emerge victorious in competitions that were held on open roads, such as the Carrera Panamericana in Mexico and Targa-Florio and Mille Miglia in Italy.
surrounded by tragedy
But in the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, the deadliest accident in motorsport history occurred when French Mercedes 300 SLR Pierre Levige sped 200 km/h toward the main runway after colliding with Lance Austin Maclean. Levegh and 83 spectators died in the disaster, 180 were injured, and the brand decided to withdraw from all competition until 1989. 300 SLR Uhlenhaut was then a project.
But the initiative was not lost and the unit, which was practically ready, joined a second sample. Both took the form of the famous 300 SL “Gullwing” (“Seagull Wings” for their distinctive way of opening doors). It was basically a race car that could be scored. It had no comfort, no air conditioning, no radio or power steering in order to keep its weight under a ton. The gas tank occupies almost the entire trunk and holds two spare wheels, to account for its ability for long-distance races.
Rudolf Uhlenhaut kept one of two 300 SLRs for personal use. It is said to have covered the distance between Munich and Stuttgart, of 230 kilometers, in just one hour thanks to its 3.0 in-line eight-cylinder engine. The other, which was recently sold, has gone straight to the Mercedes-Benz Museum for display at various events around the world. Now, it will be the designer who appears in the museum.
In 1986, the Uhlenhaut Factory was sent to Specialist Tony Merrick, one of the world’s most famous antiques and classics restorers, to be left as good as new. The work took six months and everything was documented in files and invoices delivered with the 2022 sale.
The 300 SLR has been shown at various events, museums and style competitions around the world. It had accumulated 6,045 kilometers on the odometer until this year the manufacturer decided to put it up for sale at a private auction under the management of specialist RM Sotheby’s. The reason for the sale, according to the brand, is to create a charity “to provide educational and research grants in the areas of environmental science and decarbonization to young people,” according to a statement from the manufacturer.
In the private auction, ten collectors were meticulously selected and invited secretly by the bidder. They arrived in Stuttgart on May 5 on their private planes and were treated for lunch at the Mercedes-Benz Museum.
Many interested parties did not attend in person, but rather sent representatives with wide and sufficient authority in order to keep their identity secret in the bid that began with $50 million. The sale contract stipulates that the auction winner agrees to transfer the vehicle for display on occasions, to keep it in perfect condition and not to be resold to a third party. They demand conditions to preserve such a precious asset of history