Unless you’ve been seriously occupied otherwise, you likely already know that RM Sotheby’s, the auction house with offices in Blenheim, Ontario, has shattered, forcibly dissected and otherwise blown to smithereens the existing world record for a historic automobile sold at auction. The winning bid for one of the two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut coupes ever produced came to all of 135 million euros, which translates to about $142 million in U.S. currency, obliterating the previous record of $70 million spent at Bonhams in Monterey for a 1963 Ferrari GTO, one of the 35 purebred racing coupes ever built.
What’s even more amazing is that the out-of-sight winning bid – allegedly placed anonymously by phone – paid for a car clearly built for racing but which never actually turned a competitive lap. The Uhlenhaut coupe is a closed version of the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR sports racer, itself based on the W196 Formula 1 monoposto. A brace of works 300 SLRs came to Le Mans in 1955, intending to dominate the race, only one of them was involved in the worst loss of life in motorsport history when it caromed into the packed crowd and disintegrated. Mercedes-Benz pulled out of the race a few hours later, ending its factory participation in motorsport for decades. The coupe was under development already to run in the next Carrera Panamericana down the spine of Mexico, which also never happened because the organizers bailed out after the Le Mans catastrophe. Here’s some perspective: Florida is dotted with brokers who specialize in selling executive aircraft. You could buy your very own personal fleets of bizjets for what this car cost. The remaining coupe will stay in the Mercedes-Benz archival collection. If you missed the sale, and want to learn more about this stunning car and the man who created it, Dalton Watson Fine Books offers a comprehensive biography of Rudolf Uhlenhaut, the brilliant Daimler-Benz engineer and designer.