Interview

SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé: the most expensive car in history

Last year Mercedes-Benz sold a 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé for the record price of €135 million. This makes it the most expensive car ever sold. We spoke with Marcus Breitschwerdt, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, about the importance of heritage and the meaning of luxury.

  • Interview
    Michael Köckritz
  • Photos
    Marko Knab · ramp.pictures
“The first Mercedes came into being not because an engineer explained to the customer what class was. It was exactly the other way around.”
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and what motivates you?

I’m a native of Swabia in southwestern Germany, where my family has been established for a very long time. I can trace my roots in the region back to the fifteenth century, mostly to blacksmiths, later engineers, in addition to the local mixture of farmers and craftsmen. Down-to-earth people who were convinced that through education, commerce and hard work, you could make the world a better place. This is where I’m at home, though I always wanted to go out into the world as well. Together with my wife and our three children, I spent several years living in Canada and the U.K. I’ve always had a passion for business. I’m driven by entrepreneurial spirit, but at the same time dependability is very important to me. I’ve worked for the same company for over thirty years, and I’ve known my wife since our school days. The people here are quite devout, so you learn early on that you have to reflect on life and its meaning. And when you do that, you realize you need to take advantage of the opportunities and talents that life has to offer. I quickly saw that working for an automotive company could bring me together with a wide variety of people. And since this company operates globally, I hoped to experience a lot of different places.

Today you’re in charge of the strategic growth of the heritage parts division at Mercedes-Benz AG.

Actually, I had planned to retire when I turned sixty. But then our CEO persuaded me to help him make Mercedes-Benz a pure luxury brand. That involves relaunching our heritage and returning the brand development to its origins.


1/2
Which brings things full circle for you. With your experience, after all, you’ve got a good overview of the brand’s origins.

That certainly helps. I enjoy contributing my knowledge to a group of people who have completely different talents. Automotive engineering is teamwork, precisely because the product is so complex. And together you can achieve so many incredible things. I find that to be extremely gratifying.

Let’s talk about the Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé, which sold at auction last year for €135 million.

It was never our intention to set this record, but it makes a nice side note. I prefer to leave the question of whether this car really is Mercedes’s most valuable vehicle unanswered. Or to put it another way, I’m pretty sure we have cars in our collection that may even fetch much higher prices. But that’s not going to happen, because we only sell vehicles of which we have more than one. If you walk through our Mercedes-Benz Museum, there isn’t a vehicle here for which we haven’t received blank check offers. Sort of like, “Here’s a check, put in any amount you like.” That’s not how things work, of course.


Coming soon:
You can read more about the phenomenon of luxury in our new Coffee Table Book. In "Luxus" we explore all luxury-related topics and highlight the respective key items from an artistic and scientific perspective.
Available here in the online store from September 12.
Why did you decide to sell one of the two Uhlenhaut Coupés?

Neither car was ever entered in a race because Mercedes-Benz no longer had a racing team in Grand Prix racing in 1956. So the vehicles have no racing history, they simply have an incredible aesthetic and technical quality for us, and we only need one car for visitors to marvel at in our exhibition. Of course, there’s the personal connection to Rudolf Uhlenhaut, our former chief development engineer, who would often use the cars to drive home. Engineers are the sort of people who like to go to work at half past five in the morning and come home late at night, so if you’ve ever heard an Uhlenhaut start up you can imagine that nobody ever got much sleep in that neighborhood! [laughs] So why did we sell it? We donated the proceeds from the auction to beVisioneers, a global Mercedes-Benz fellowship program that provides knowledge, training and scholarships to thousands of young people around the world to help them implement their innovative projects in the fields of environmental sustainability and decarbonization. The initiative is being implemented by an independent non-profit organization with the aim to benefit the young participants, their local communities and the environment. This gives us the opportunity to support something truly priceless: sustainable change.

→ Read the full story in ramp #61 "Love Is in the Air".

Michael Köckritz

Michael Köckritz

Editor in Chief
As a journalist, author, artist and media maker, Michael Köckritz succeeds time and again in creating both attention-grabbing and sustainably stimulating impulses in the context of contemporary and future topics as well as lifestyle and luxury worlds. As publisher and editor-in-chief, he has realised a whole series of book and lifestyle magazine formats that have regularly won numerous national and international awards over the years. The car culture magazine ramp, the men's lifestyle magazine rampstyle and the design magazine ramp.design are published internationally and are considered style-setting.
ramp #61 Love Is in the Air + Porsche LeMans-Special

ramp #61 Love Is in the Air + Porsche LeMans-Special

Ein blauer Himmel, der Duft des frischen Grases, Sonne und die Wärme des Augenblicks, vor allem Licht. Das Licht der Sonnenstrahlen, erklären die Wissenschaftler, ist der entscheidende Faktor, wenn uns zu Beginn der warmen Jahreszeit ein flotter Gute-Laune-Mix aus Glückshormonen energisch in den Sommer lockt.

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