Picture of the month
In 1989, I took the most expensive car in the world out of the Mercedes museum, just so I could include it in my Mercedes SL calendar
How did “the most expensive car in the world” become so famous? The 300 SLR had been designed in 1955 for Formula 1, but Mercedes’ chief engineer Rudolf Uhlenhaut instead decided to use it… as his personal company car.
The story goes that Uhlenhaut was once at a management board meeting in Stuttgart. At noon, one of the board members stood up and said, “Mr. Uhlenhaut, you have a meeting at 2 PM in Munich at MTU. You’re not going to be late and make us all look bad, are you?”
Uhlenhaut calmly replied (again, with just two hours to go): “It’s not until 2. As long as I’m out the door by 12:30, I should be fine.”
He set himself the target of driving from Stuttgart to downtown Munich – in 90 minutes.
The car roared along at 300 km per hour. At the time, the 300 SLR was the fastest car approved for the road in the world.
And Uhlenhaut drove it at 300. Sometimes with his little boy along for the ride, happily sitting in the passenger seat. Hard to imagine that now.
»Uhlenhaut SIMPLY USED TO DRIVE THE CARS AT FULL THROTTLE, AND THAT’S WHAT MADE THEM FAMOUS.«
The 300 SLR had 300 hp and it was supposed to be used for Formula 1 in 1955.
That never came about, though, because of a horrible accident at Le Mans, in which 84 spectators died when a driver rammed into another car and the car was catapulted into the crowd. To this day it remains the worst disaster in motor sports.
Only two models of the “Uhlenhaut Coupé” were ever built. The first, the original, became Uhlenhaut’s company car. The second was completed months later and never really driven that much.
This “second stringer” was auctioned off this May. A private collector paid 135 million euros for it at auction.
The 300 SLR holds a special place in my heart. In 1989 I published the first Mercedes SL calendar, and it was essential for me to have the DNA of the 300 SLR in it.
I firmly believed that, if I was to show the 300 SL as a production car, I at least had to photographically link it to its prototype, the 300 SLR.
That’s why I got the museum to lend it to me – even though the car was already considered to be extremely expensive.
I had to get insurance for one week, and it cost me 11,000 DM. One shouldn’t forget, that was a lot of money back then.
But looking back, I’m so happy I took that chance – especially because it’s only became more expensive to insure these kinds of cars since then.
There are hardly any pictures of the “Uhlenhaut Coupé” on the market, other than a few snapshots that people took at Mercedes.
No one has ever staged the 300 SLR properly, except for me.
Old cars usually only exist in old settings – with this Maserati in Sicily I was lucky and took one of my favorite pictures.
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