A Mercedes-Benz, dubbed “the Mona Lisa of cars” has become the most expensive automobile ever sold after a British expert brokered a secret invitation-only auction.
The 300 SLR Coupé, modelled on the racecar that Sir Stirling Moss broke the Mille Miglia record in, sold for €135 million (£115 million).
Simon Kidston, a British expert and dealer based in Switzerland, spent 18 months lobbying Mercedes on behalf of a client to hold the sale.
It was Mr Kidston, on behalf of a client, who made the winning bid. Its new owner has chosen to remain anonymous.
“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.”
The auction took place on May 5, with bidders hand-picked by the German carmaker.
The 1955 car was put up for auction by the Bavarian marque despite it previously being adamant that it would never be sold.
Mr Kidston said that refusal to sell had given the car part of its appeal.
“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.”
Speaking about his personal lobbying efforts, he said: “A long-standing relationship with the Mercedes-Benz Museum helped, but even after 18 months of patient lobbying, 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.”
The proceeds of the deal will be used by Mercedes to set up a charitable fund for young people.
The 300 SLR Coupé was based on the company’s dominant road-racing car, driven by Sir Stirling.
Daimler-Benz’s chief of motorsport, British-German engineer Rudolf “Rudi” Uhlenhaut, commissioned two closed-cockpit versions of the car, which became known as Uhlenhaut Coupés as a result.
It featured the now-famous gull-wing doors and lightning-fast performance. A road test in 1956, for which the car had performance-reducing silencers fitted, showed that it could do 0-60mph in 6.9 seconds and 0-120mph in 20.3 seconds, topping out at a maximum speed of 176mph.
However, because Mercedes had no intention of ever selling the cars for commercial use, they were almost entirely impractical, with performance placed above all other considerations.
They were not raced, although Mr Uhlenhaut did use them to travel around Europe to attend competitions.
Sir Stirling Moss and his navigator Denis Jenkinson completed the 22nd edition of the Mille Miglia in 1955, finishing the 992-mile circuit in just 10 hours, seven minutes and 48 seconds, with an average speed of 99mph.
The previous record price for a car is believed to be £63 million, paid for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO in 2018.Photo Credit: Getty