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One of two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Coupés ever built, both retained from new by Mercedes, is sold for first time ever. Picture: SUPPLIED
One of two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Coupés ever built, both retained from new by Mercedes, is sold for first time ever. Picture: SUPPLIED

A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Coupé racing car — one of only two ever built — has been sold for a world record sum of $142m (R2.24bn).

In the most remarkable car auction ever conducted, RM Sotheby’s in association with Mercedes-Benz sold the car in an invitation-only event held at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, in Stuttgart on May 5. British classic-car consultant Simon Kidston secured the ultra-rare car for an unnamed client. Kidston had lobbied the board of the German automaker for 18 months to consider selling the car “that would never be sold”.

All monies will be used by Mercedes-Benz to set up a charitable fund for young people.

The car has been in Mercedes’s possession since being built and it was assumed that the German firm would never part with one of the crown jewels of its company collection, considered the “Mona Lisa” of cars because of its rarity and racing pedigree. The $142m figure smashes the existing record for the sale of a car, believed to be $78m (R1.2bn) in a private sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO, which took place in 2018.

The 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Coupé was a development of the open two-seat sports-racing car built by Mercedes for the 1955 season and driven by Grand Prix greats such as Stirling Moss, Juan Manuel Fangio and Peter Collins. Heavily based on the company’s all-conquering W196 Grand Prix single-seater, the W196 S sports car was powered by a 225kW, 3.0l straight-eight engine and dominated the 1955 World Sportscar Championship. Moss's record drive on the 1955 Mille Miglia has been described as one of the greatest feats of motor racing.

Chief of Daimler-Benz motorsport Rudolf Uhlenhaut commissioned two closed versions of the sports car for endurance racing use. The design shares styling cues with the famous 300 SL gullwing road car but under the skin is a pure competition car with almost no concession to practicality, as none was ever intended to be sold to private clients.

Neither 300 SLR Coupé was raced, though they were used for practice and as highly skilled driver Uhlenhaut’s high-speed transport to European events.

Commenting on the record transaction, Kidston said: “If you had asked classic car experts and top collectors over the past half a century to name the most desirable car in the world, there’s a good chance that they would have come up with the same model: the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR. It’s a combination of exotic engineering, all-conquering racing history, the power of the three-pointed star on its nose and the fact that one had never, ever been sold. Many collectors had tried, all had failed

“This was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to buy the Mona Lisa of cars.”

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