A new record holder was crowned recently – the world’s most expensive car ever sold at auction is… not a Ferrari 250 GTO.


A new record holder was crowned recently – the world’s most expensive car ever sold at auction is… not a Ferrari 250 GTO.


In rolls the ultra-rare, now certifiably ultra-expensive, Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe. Also known as the Silver Arrow. The mighty Merc smashed records during a recent auction held by RM Sotheby’s and dethroned the formidable former record holder, a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, by an extraordinary margin. Prior to the sale, the record value held by the Ferrari since 2018 stood at a cool $48.4million or around €46.9million. But as the hammer came down on the Silver Arrow, the final bid registered on the Richter scale at a staggering €135million. In fact, the former record was broken by the opening bid on the gull-wing Mercedes.

One of just two in existence, this beautiful race-inspired coupé dates back to 1955 and was born bearing many shared components with the legendary two-time Grand Prix World Championship-winning W 196 R. The signature long hood of the SLR housed a larger and more powerful engine than the former race winner, but it still sits within the same focused Formula 3 chassis.

The Uhlenhaut Coupé, aptly named after its creator and chief engineer at Mercedes-Benz, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, is powered by a ferocious 3.0-litre straight-eight-cylinder engine, good for 302bhp. With a top speed rated at over 289km/h and the rush to 100km/h taking just 6.9 seconds, the Silver Arrow was one of the fastest road-legal cars of its era. This particular example also has true racing pedigree to its name – achieving both first and second positions during the infamous endurance race, Le Mans, in 1952. Since that time, it’s appeared at various classic car concours events across Europe. But aside from making some conquering cameos, the car has spent most of its life stored in public display, covering just 3,756 miles in the 67 years since it left the factory in Stuttgart.

But the allure and aura aren’t only drawn out by the coupe’s performance; this racing-derived prototype features jaw-dropping looks, enhancing all the stellar styling of the standard Mercedes-Benz SL models. The Silver Arrow is arguably one of the most incredible aesthetic automotive designs of all time. I mean, just look at it. The SL led the way in the now iconic “roadster” proportions – delivering a tight two-seat cabin that sits almost over the rear axle while the motor sits on the horizon line, hidden somewhere beneath its elongated nose.

Access for the pilot and navigator come courtesy of the signature gull-wing doors, opening towards the heavens to reveal the compact and purposeful cabin, after passing over the tall and distinctly wide sills. Dressed in a mix of oxblood leather, dark woods and brushed metals, the interior matches the cars exquisite outer coachwork. The car sold was nicknamed ‘Red’ for its distinctive upholstery, while the second of the two prototypes, which remains on display for the public and is still owned by the marque, is suitably named ‘Blue’.

One of the most defining cosmetic features separating the Uhlenhaut Coupe from other SLs, is the gaping outlets cut into the front wings, allowing hot air to exhale from the sides of the motor – while also housing two shotgun-like chrome tail pipes. There’s also a defined crest that sits on top of the hood hiding an intake that feeds cold air into the rasping straight-eight engine.

At a final selling price of €135million during the invitation-only auction in Stuttgart, Germany, this very particular 300 SLR isn’t just the most expensive car ever sold, but now qualifies as one of the top 10 most valuable items ever sold at auction. All the proceeds from the sale will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund that will go on to provide education and research scholarships in environmental sciences for future generations.

The age-old saying is true: they don’t make ‘em like they used to.