Last week, at an exclusive auction in Stuttgart, Germany, an anonymous collector bought a Mercedes for 135 million euros, or roughly $142.9 million.
That doesn’t quite double the price of the previous most expensive car ever sold. But it comes close.
For the cost of 10,507 Chevy Sparks (assuming there’s not some sort of volume discount), the mysterious buyer walked away with a piece of automotive history.
The First Mercedes Gullwing; The Last Mercedes Race Car (For a Time)
It’s one of just two 1955 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes built.
They were built on the chassis of Mercedes’ W196 Formula 1 race car but given widened versions of the body from the legendary 1955 300 SL gullwing coupe.
Mercedes design chief Rudolf Uhlenhaut ordered them built for the Carrera Panamericana, a legendary road race held in Mexico in the early 1950s. But no one ever raced them. Mercedes pulled out of all racing that same year after a disastrous crash at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – the deadliest incident in racing history.
Mercedes returned to competitive motorsport in the 1990s.
Ulenhaut reportedly used one as a daily driver for a short time. He then parked it in Mercedes’ in-house museum next to the other. They’re known as “The Red One” and “The Blue One” thanks to the color of their leather upholstery. Both are silver, in keeping with Mercedes racing tradition.
Each car uses a 305-horsepower straight-8 engine mounted just behind the front axle (for proper weight distribution), sending power to the rear wheels through a 5-speed transmission.
Our anonymous friend bought The Red One for the cost of about 714 copies of the most expensive current Merc, the 2022 Mercedes-Maybach S680 ultra-luxury sedan. The Blue One remains in Mercedes’ hands.
Money Will Fund Environmental Scholarships
The buyer agreed to certain restrictions. Marcus Breitschwerdt, head of Mercedes-Benz Heritage, said in a statement that The Red One would return to Mercedes periodically for public display.
The company will use the money, meanwhile, to set up two scholarship funds. One will be used to fund local environmental projects by secondary school students. The second will fund environmental science research at universities.
Mercedes has pledged to go all-electric in markets that build enough infrastructure to support that decision by the end of the decade.
It Has a Modern Echo, If a Faint One
Should you want your own modern version of the car, the closest thing you could find today would be the 2022 Mercedes-AMG SL. It claims a design heritage dating back to the 1955 gullwing but doesn’t feature actual gullwing doors. Mercedes hasn’t built a set of those since it retired the SLS AMG at the end of 2014.
The current SL, incidentally, has a reported top speed of 196 mph – 16 more than The Red One.
You could afford about 1,429 of them for the same price the mystery buyer paid for one car.