The car “that would never be sold,” also known as the Mona Lisa of the automotive industry, a one-of-two 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Coupé has just been bought for $142,000,000 USD. What stands as the sister car to Sterling Moss’ Mille Miglia-record-breaking, open-cockpit 300 SLR, and is just one of two ever built, has been bought by the British expert and dealer Simon Kidston on behalf of a client following 18 months of “diplomatic groundwork” that resulted in Mercedes-Benz holding a private and selected member auction of the above-mentioned car.
Held in secrecy at the Mercedes-Benz Museum on May 5, 2022, the car was secured for an unnamed collector whose $142M USD pay-out will go towards the marque setting up a charitable fund for young people. The figure is almost double the previous record of $78M USD, which was reached by the private sale of a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.
This Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Coupé is described as the Mona Lisa not just because of its rarity and beauty, but because of what it stands for within the company and industry. Heavily based on the company’s all-conquering W196 Grand Prix single-seater, the W196 S was powered by a 302 BHP, three-liter straight-eight of great complexity for its period, and was always destined for the race track. However, it was adapted for road use to find out more about how it could work and benefit Mercedes-Benz’s road cars.
Using information from Autocar and the Swiss periodical Automobil Revue in 1956, the car could produce 0-60 mph in 6.9 seconds, 0-120 mph in 20.3 seconds, and a maximum speed 176.47 mph — bearing in mind these figures were dampened by the car’s road-required adaptations.
At the time, Gordon Wilkins wrote, “Remember that this car is not for sale, and in this form never will be: it is a racing car adapted for road use with certain experimental objectives in view… It has to be mastered like a mettlesome horse. To have driven it has eclipsed all previous experiences in 20 years of test driving on the world’s finest cars, and I do not expect to find its match for a long time to come.”
Today, 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. That was what the entire motoring world thought, but times change, and if you don’t ask, you’ll never know. A long-standing relationship with the Mercedes-Benz Museum helped, but even after 18 months of patient diplomacy, we didn’t know if or how they would consider letting the 300 SLR out of captivity until just before it happened. For everyone involved, and especially the new owner whom we represented, this was a once-in-a-lifetime chance to buy the Mona Lisa of cars.”
Take a look at the record-breaking machine in the gallery above.
In related news, Mercedes-Benz has just announced “Vision AMG.”