Few cars have maintained a legacy of style, speed, and luxury better than the Mercedes SL. Debuting in 1954, the SL, with its sleek proportions and eye-catching gullwing doors, was an instant icon, catching plenty of attention from automotive enthusiasts over the past 68 years.
Don’t believe us? Then let us point to the record-setting sale of a 1955 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe, which crossed the auction block in May for a whopping 135 million euros (approximately $178 million Canadian). That sum isn’t garnered unless the car in question is truly special, and this one ticked all the boxes.
Named after chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut, there were only two 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes ever made. This vehicle was meant to be a road-going successor to one of the most impressive race cars at the time, the W196, but unlike the W196, this coupe featured gullwing doors. With a straight-eight engine making 302 horsepower, the little coupe could manage a top speed of 290 kilometres an hour, making it one of the fastest cars of the era. The car was special but never raced: Mercedes pulled out of motor racing following a devastating crash at the 1955 24 Hours of Le Mans, staying out of motorsport until the 1980s.
They stayed hidden in Mercedes’ nonpublic classic collection until this sale. One of the conditions of the sale was that the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe remain available for display on special occasions, ensuring people get a glimpse at the most valuable car in the world.
“The 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes are milestones in sports car development and key historical elements that have shaped our brand,” says Ola Källenius, CEO of Mercedes-Benz Group AG. “The decision to sell one of these two unique sports cars was taken with very sound reasoning—to benefit a good cause.” The proceeds will fund a global scholarship program that will encourage students to follow in the footsteps of Rudolf Uhlenhaut and develop new technologies. “At the same time, achieving the highest price ever paid for a vehicle is extraordinary and humbling: A Mercedes-Benz is by far the most valuable car in the world.”
Unquestionably, the 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupes and SLs of other vintages have made many car collectors happy over the years. Many have famous owners or have starred on the big screen. But after decades of fame, it’s time to look at a new icon, the 2022 Mercedes SL.
Channelling the original, the new model features a long hood and short deck, and. the tail seems to be a direct callback to the original 300 SL. Modern SL can have the roof up or down— this model is a soft-top convertiblewith seating for four. The cabin is plush and loaded with the latest in luxury and technology, including massage seats and an augmented reality navigation system.
Under the hood, a four-litre twin-turbo V8 makes an incredible 577 horsepower and 590 lb-ft of torque, nearly twice that of a 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupe. All that power is routed to the four wheels through the 4Matic+ AWD system, meaning this luxury cruiser can hit 100 kilomeres an hour in just 3.5 seconds.
We’re still waiting to get some hands-on time with it, but if the past is any indication, the new SL better be something special to live up to its predecessors.