The most expensive car ever is a 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé sold for $143 million by RM Sotheby’s at a special auction at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart in 2022.
A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé became the most valuable car in the world when it sold for a world record €135 million ($143 million) at a special auction arranged by RM Sotheby’s for the Mercedes Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, on 5 May 2022. The sale increased the cost of the most expensive car ever by over €90 million ($95 million) making this special Mercedes-Benz car one of the top ten most expensive items ever sold in an auction.
Most-Expensive Car Ever Sold: 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé
A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, chassis 196.110-00008/55, sold for a world record price of €135,000,000 to a private collector (rumored to be from the UK) on May 5, 2022, at an invitation-only auction arranged by RM Sotheby’s at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart. Among the invitees were selected Mercedes customers and international collectors of cars and art who share the corporate values of Mercedes-Benz. Bidding opened at €50 million — more than the previous record price paid for a car at public auction.
The proceeds will be used to establish a worldwide “Mercedes-Benz Fund” that will provide educational and research scholarships in the areas of environmental science and decarbonization for young people.
“We are proud that we can contribute with our historical collection to this initiative connecting the past with the future of engineering and decarbonization technology”, says Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Heritage. “The private buyer has agreed that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé 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.”
Few expected that the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé would ever be sold by Mercedes-Benz — even RM Sotheby’s seemed surprised by Mercedes-Benz’s decision to offer the car to private buyers. However, despite the car’s fame and desirability, it is not of particular historical importance: it was never raced and had limited influence on later cars as Mercedes-Benz moved away from motor racing and supercars for decades. Of the nine SLRs built, the one sold was probably the less desirable (but that is of course very relative!) It is not the car Uhlenhaut drove and it was mostly used for promotional purposes in the USA, where it was crashed in the 1960s and only restored in the mid-1980s.
The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, chassis 196.110-00008/55, obviously also took the marque record as the most expensive Mercedes-Benz car ever sold and the list of the most expensive cars ever sold at auction.
1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé
The record 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, which is one of two created in 1955, has always been regarded as one of the great jewels of motoring history, but few ever imagined that it would be offered for sale. One of just two prototypes built by the Mercedes-Benz racing department, the car was named after its creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, and is considered to be one of the finest examples of automotive engineering and design, often cited as being ‘the most beautiful car in the world’ by automotive experts and enthusiasts worldwide.
The remarkable 300 SLR was based on the hugely successful W 196 R Grand Prix car which won two World Championships in the hands of Juan Manuel Fangio, but with its engine enlarged to 3.0 liters for sports car racing. The car was capable of 180 mph, making it one of the fastest road legal cars to have ever been created at the time.
Despite the Gullwings of the SLR, it had little in common with the roadgoing 300 SL Coupe. The SLR was based on the racing cars Mercedes-Benz was developing but never completed following its withdrawal from motor racing after the Pierre Levegh crash at Le Mans that killed over 80 spectators. Although road-legal, it was more racing car than sports coupé.
Only two of the SLR coupés were produced and with the racing program canceled, Rudolf Uhlenhaut used one (07/55) as his company car, which gave the car its popular nickname. Later the cars were used for promotional events and exhibited in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart.
The two coupes are easily identified by the color of the interiors: chassis 196.110-00007/55 in blue was mostly used for static display in recent years while chassis 196.110-00008/55 in red, was maintained to be driven at special events. It is car 8 that was sold.
Most Expensive Car Sold at Auction Ever. Forever?
The most expensive car sold at auction ever is of course a moving target: In recent years, prices developed as follows:
2013: $29,650,095 — The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula 1 single-seater racing car driven by legendary five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio became the most-expensive car ever sold at auction at the Bonhams sale held during the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed. It increased the price of the most valuable car in the world by over 80% from the $16,390,000 paid for a 1957 Ferrari 250 TR Testa Rossa at Gooding Pebble Beach in 2011.
2014: $38,115,000 — Surprisingly, it took just over a year for the record to be raised again: a 1962-63 Ferrari 250 GTO Berlinetta achieved $38,115,000 at the Bonhams Quail Lodge 2014 as the most-expensive car ever sold at public auction — nearly 30% more than the W196R price.
2018: $48,405,000 — It took four years before another 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO increased the price of the most valuable car in the world by 27% to $48,405,000 at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey 2018 sale.
2022: $143,000,000 — The sale of the 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé increased the value of the most expensive car ever sold in an auction by a phenomenal 195%. This time it really is hard to imagine a car that would be able to increase the price in the near future.
For more on this remarkable car see also “The holy grail” — What makes the 300SLR coupe so valuable at Hagerty Insider, which broke the news of the sale a week before RM Sotheby’s and Mercedes-Benz confirmed the sale.
More on the Most Expensive Cars Ever Sold
- The Most Expensive Cars of All Time – $10 Million Plus for a full listing of cars selling for more than $10 million at public auctions.
- Cars Sold for Over $20 Million – The Most-Expensive Cars Ever
- Cars Sold for $15 to $20 Million – Mostly Italian (but not only Ferraris) and a Brit
- Cars Sold for $12 to $15 Million – including the French record holders
- Cars Sold for $10 to $12 Million – a mixed bunch of great marques