Most expensive car sold at auction
On 5 May 2022, in Stuttgart, Germany, the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe was sold for $142,769,250 (£115.1 million; €135.1 million), becoming the most expensive car ever sold.
But what makes this car so special?
On 5 May 2022, the hammer came down at a private auction organized by Sotheby's at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. During that record-breaking auction, an anonymous collector won a majestic Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR "Uhlenhaut Coupe" with a bid of €135 m ($142.3 m; £113.6 m), making it the most expensive car ever sold at auction, as well as the most expensive car ever sold overall.
In general, the vehicles that command the highest prices are road-legal racers from the 1950s and 1960s, due to their rarity: these whoppingly expensive cars were built in very small numbers and achieved worldwide fame.
The previous title holder of this record was a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO, which sold for $70 m (£52.7 m) in 2018.
Before that, another Ferrari broke the same record in 2013: in October 2013, a 1963 Ferrari 250 GTO racer became the world’s most expensive car. The car was sold to a private buyer for $52 million (£32 million).
According to Bloomberg news agency, the red competition car (formerly owned by the Connecticut-based collector Paul Pappalardo) was acquired by an unidentified buyer through a private transaction.
Other cars that fetch prices in the tens of millions include the Jaguar D-Type, Alfa Romeo 33 Stradale and Ford GT40, although the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR bolted past the competition.
When it rolled out of the factory in 1955, the model 300 Sport-Leicht Rennsport (also known as "sport light racing") was considered the fastest racing car in the world.
Designed by engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut for the Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrows racing team, it combined a lightweight body with the engine from the company's championship-winning W196 Formula One car.
The new racing car made an immediate impression, securing 1-2 finishes at prestigious races, and outpacing rivals from Ferrari and Jaguar.
On 11 June 1955, however, the 300 SLR's run of success came to a tragic end during the deadly accident at the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans.
During the French endurance race, one of the Mercedes entrants crashed into another car and went flying into a grandstand, killing several spectators together with the car's driver, the 49-year-old Pierre Levegh.
Following the tragedy and shocked by these events, which resulted in 83 deaths and over a hundred injured members of the crowd, Mercedes withdrew from motor racing.
The surviving open-canopy 300 SLRs were placed into storage, and development work on future racing cars was halted. This included a pair of 300 SLRs which had been recently been converted to a road-legal coupé configuration for the upcoming "Carrera Panamericana" – a long-distance race through Mexico.
One of these beautiful machines (with a blue-leather interior) went into the Mercedes museum, while Rudolf Uhlenhaut kept the other (with a red-leather interior) as a company car.
As a personal vehicle, the 300 SLR was not the most practical choice. Its interior was cramped, the doors were tiny and the race-tuned engine was deafeningly loud. (Mercedes-Benz staff could hear Uhlenhaut on his way to work when he was still several minutes away).
It was, however, capable of hitting 290 km/h (180 mph) on the autobahn, and Uhlenhaut was willing to put up with some discomfort in order to be able to drive from Munich to Stuttgart in under an hour. It was his daily driver until his retirement in 1972.
Many years later, in 2022, Uhlenhaut's old company car was put up for sale by Mercedes. With its elegant lines and legendary pedigree, this unique model raced on to snatch a world record.
The money raised at the auction was ploughed into an initiative called beVisioneers: a global Fellowship that empowers young innovators from 16 to 28. Focused on planet-positive projects, it provides the engineers of tomorrow with the training, expert support and resources to turn their dreams and ambitions into life-changing realities.
But a racing car is only one of the many objects that can become hugely expensive.
From jewelry to gold-foiled food, electronics or alcoholic beverages, some sky-high auction prices will make you feel dizzy:
- The most expensive bottle of gin is branded MORUS LXIV, and it was sold for £3,800 ($4,887.91; €4,316.67)
- The most expensive ice cream comes from Japan. As of 2023, it is sold for JP¥873,400 (£5,469; €6,211; $6,696) and you can find it in Shibuya, Tokyo
- If you fancy something savoury, the most expensive sandwich commercially available is the "Quintessential Grilled Cheese". In October 2014, it sold for $214 (£132.64) at New York's Serendipity 3
- The most expensive stamp is the British Guiana. Bought in 2014 for $9,480,000 (£5,588,577) at Sotheby's, New York, the auction price inflated to nearly one billion times the original face value of the object
- The overall most expensive animals are racehorses.
From NFTs to diamonds and jewels, to watches and yachts, as long as there's an auction there is nothing that money can't buy.
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