Meet the Mona Lisa of cars: What makes the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé so expensive

Sold at over Rs 1,100 crore ($143 million), we decode why this extremely rare Silver Arrow is one of the top 10 most valuable items sold at auction.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé sold at an auction

When we think of the most expensive cars to be ever sold, automatically Italian exotic sports cars or British bespoke nameplates would pop up in our mind and you’re not completely wrong about it. Before Mercedes-Benz shattered the record, it was previously held by a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO LM that was sold for $48 million in 2018. Some say that there was another GTO that was sold for in the region of $80 million, but as there is no official record of it, this figure can’t be confirmed. We try to figure out why a vintage car like the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe comes with a string of zeros and costs an astronomical price. To help us decode the world of these multi-million-dollar babies, renowned automotive restoration expert, Tutu Dhawan explains how the car’s pedigree, history and being the fastest in the business in its time make it the Kohinoor of the vintage automotive world.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé red interior

Apart from its rich heritage, what makes the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé truly unique is that there are only two and they were called the Blue and the Red based on their interior colours as externally they were painted in silver. Sounds like the origin story of the Matrix took place at Mercedes-Benz’s workshop. Getting back to the coupe, the Red was recently sold on May 5th at an auction held at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in cooperation with auctioneer RM Sotheby’s and before its sale, it was mostly tucked away in the storage. The Blue, on the other hand, continues to be displayed in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Due to this, the coupe is valued as a rare art piece. “Sure, this is a unique car, but then it has a rich motorsport history in the world of Formula 1. The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe was responsible for the great Juan Manual Fangio winning two world championship titles in 1954 and 1955,” explains Mr Dhawan. As a matter of fact, it continued to dominate the sport when Sir Stirling Moss was on the hot seat of this legendary Silver Arrow in the following year, he added.

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé with Rudolf Uhlenhaut
Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé with Rudolf Uhlenhaut

Named after its maker and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, this racing car was one the finest examples of automotive engineering when it came to power, and design, especially the gullwing doors. Powered by a 3-litre engine, the coupe’s output is in the region of 302bhp and has a top speed of 290kmph. What made it one of a kind grand prix racing car was that it was even street legal and Uhlenhaut himself used it as a company car. Coined as ‘Mona Lisa of cars’, “It’s all about exclusivity because no one is really going to drive a Rs 1,100 crore worth on the road. The new owner has actually bought a slice of motoring history,” said Mr Dhawan. That’s true one can’t really put a price on history and if you do manage to then it has to be an offer that can’t be refused and that’s certainly the case with the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe. 

Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé rear

Here’s a nugget of information Mr Dhawan shared with us, the Red coupe was fully restored in 1986 under the watchful eye of acclaimed technician and restoration specialist Tony Merrick. There’s a term called 100 per cent original in the world of car restoration, which means restoring a car back to its original glory including putting in new parts. “It won’t be a complete surprise if some of these parts were re-manufactured in 1986 which itself is a rarity. This would also mean that every nut and bolt wear the Mercedes-Benz insignia on it,” explains Mr Dhawan.  

Even though the identity of the owner of this 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe is kept under wraps, Mr Dhawan sums it up aptly, “It is basically the pleasure and honour of owning a piece of history.” The coupe may have left the Mercedes-Benz Museum’s building, but the iconic Silver Arrow continues to live on.

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