Stuttgart - A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut, one of only two of its kind, was auctioned off recently for a whopping 135 million euros (R2.27 billion), making it the most expensive car ever sold, RM Sotheby's announced Thursday.
The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut was sold to a private collector, fetching almost triple the previous record price for a car, which was set in 2018 by a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO that went for over $48 million (R762 million).
The invitation-only auction took place on May 5 at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany, the auction house said, adding that the vehicle's high price places it in the "top 10 most valuable items ever sold at auction in any collecting category".
According to an AFP ranking of artworks sold at auction in recent years, the 300 SLR ranks sixth or seventh, with the all-time record being held by Leonardo da Vinci's "Salvator Mundi", which sold in November 2017 for $450.3 million (R7.15bn).
The car is one of just two prototypes built by the Mercedes-Benz racing department and is named after its creator and chief engineer, Rudolf Uhlenhaut, according to RM Sotheby's.
"The private buyer has agreed that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe will remain accessible for public display on special occasions, while the second original 300 SLR Coupe remains in company ownership and will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart," the auction company added.
According to RM Sotheby's and press reports, the 300 SLR, recognisable by its unusual lines and butterfly doors, was modelled on the W196 R Grand Prix race car, which won two Formula 1 world championships in 1954 and 1955 with Italian Juan Manuel Fangio in the driver's seat.
But in June 1955, tragedy struck the Mercedes-Benz team, when at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race, a crash of one of its 300 SLR vehicles killed French driver Pierre Levegh and 83 spectators.
That tragedy - the deadliest in the history of motor racing - forced the company to withdraw from the sport for years.
RM Sotheby's said the proceeds from the auction will be used to establish a worldwide Mercedes-Benz Fund that will fund environmental science and decarbonisation research.
"We are proud that we can contribute with our historical collection to this initiative connecting the past with the future of engineering and decarbonization technology", said Mercedes-Benz head of heritage Marcus Breitschwerdt.
"The private buyer has agreed that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe will remain accessible for public display on special occasions, while the second original 300 SLR Coupe remains in company ownership and will continue to be displayed at the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart."