The legendary 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé.
The gull-wing Mercedes-Benz 300SL is obviously one of the most strikingly handsome cars of all time and its performance was spectacular for the time.
They were very expensive when new and surviving examples are scarce. Consequently, one gull-wing sold for $4.2 million at auction.
I had not been aware that there nine SLR “racing” versions that came with a larger 300 liter version of the 8-cylinder engine that was winning Formula One races at the time. And, on top of which, two of the nine were “Uhlenhaut Coupé” prototypes, never offered for sale.
When one of the two was offered at auction, it was “sold” but on the condition that it remains in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The new owner only gets to borrow it now and then.
Mercedes-Benz AG just knocked Gruppo Ferrari SpA off the blue-chip car collector throne.
A 1955 Mercedes-Benz 300 SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé sold for €135 million ($142 million) in a secret auction in Germany on May 5, Mercedes-Benz Chairman Ola Källenius has confirmed. While higher-priced deals may have taken place privately, the sale by the car company crushed the previous public record of $48.4 million paid in 2018 for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO at an RM Sotheby’s auction.
“We [wanted], with one single act, to demonstrate the power of the Mercedes brand,” Källenius says during an interview on May 18 near Monte Carlo. The arrow-shaped silver coupe, one of only two produced, was never privately owned until the sale.
“That car is 100% worth what it sold for—and some people would tell you even that number was low,” says Stephen Serio, an automotive broker who sources rare cars for ultra high-net-worth clients. “Nobody ever thought Mercedes would sell it.”
Källenius declines to name the winner of the auction, which included roughly a dozen invited bidders at Mercedes’s museum and archive in Stuttgart, Germany. Multiple Swiss-Italian, English, and American longtime Mercedes-Benz collectors had been floated as possible buyers for what would be any collector’s Moby-Dick of a car. But he says he was very pleased with the result, a sum that put the brand “on a different planet” from competitor Ferrari.
The value of the SLR Uhlenhaut Coupé derives from its extraordinary rarity and its significance to the origin story of the Mercedes brand. A descendant of the so-called Silver Arrow cars that dominated car racing in the 1930s, the front-engined 300 SLR was closely based on the eight-cylinder Mercedes-Benz W196 Formula One car driven by Argentine star Juan Manuel Fangio to win world championships in 1954 and 1955. But it had an even bigger, 3.0-liter engine and the moniker “SLR,” which came from the German term sport leicht rennen (sport light racing).
Of the nine 300 SLR cars manufactured, two were special SLR “Uhlenhaut Coupé” prototypes named after Rudolf Uhlenhaut, Mercedes’s test department head. He drove one as a company car; Mercedes-Benz squirreled the second away in the company vault.
“The reason for a high price would simply be that they are never sold,” said Karl Ludvigsen, the author of Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix W196 : Spectacular Silver Arrows, 1954-1955, in a Hagerty report about the vehicle. He characterized the auction as a “huge sensation.”
The car will remain on display with the second SLR coupe at the Mercedes Museum in Stuttgart, Källenius says, which was a condition of the sale. The new owner will be able to drive it occasionally, a spokesperson confirms.
Leyat was a biplane designer before World War 1 broke out, but turned his hand to automobile designs, feeling that the aviation world had a thing or two to teach car designers.
First off, he saw early car designs as far too heavy and aerodynamically inefficient, problems that the aviation world had been working hard to solve. Secondly, he felt that driven wheels were another power-sapping exercise in needless complexity, requiring transmissions and clutches and drive shafts and differentials and all sorts of other bits and pieces.
Aircraft, on the other hand, were designed to be aerodynamic and lightweight from the get go, and a propeller could mount more or less directly to the engine’s crankshaft. So why not a wingless airplane for the road? These were early days for the automotive industry, and all sorts of different technologies were being thrown at the wall to see which would stick and which would slide.
Horsepower was a fairly scarce resource back in 1913 when Leyat built his first Helica, which used an 18-horsepower, 1,000cc Harley-Davidson v-twin engine in a lightweight plywood body that weighed just 550 lb (250 kg). His goal was to extract motion from that power in the most efficient way possible. In that respect, he did pretty well; a subsequent Helica recorded a top speed of 106 mph (171 km/h) in 1927, a terrifying speed for the time.
In other respects, Leyat’s propeller car, and several other designs not dissimilar to it, were a roundly awful idea from the beginning, because, well, they had great big propellers on the front of them. While this example is wire mesh shielded, that doesn’t appear to have been a feature of the original designs, so errant pedestrians and wayward pigeons alike could end up getting fed through a several thousand-rpm blender, showering driver and passenger with an exuberance of gore.
What’s more, the spinning mass of the wooden prop could turn into a highly energetic constellation of airborne shrapnel in the event of a rear-ender. When it wasn’t exploding in an accident, it was making one more likely by obscuring the driver’s view and blowing wind directly into his face at high speed. And if that weren’t enough, Leyat had also taken an aircraft-inspired approach to the steering, eschewing the complexities of a steering rack for a very simple, cable-operated rear wheel steering system that threw the back end out sideways to turn the car.
The resulting vehicle looks, shall we say, rather exciting to drive, and thanks to the contemporary footage below assembled by Diagonal View, we can get an idea of how it handled. In even a slow-speed u-turn, the inside rear wheel lifts merrily off the ground, its front wheels wobble around like pin-fixed discs on a toy car, and the whole contraption does little to make us think propeller cars were ever the automobiles of the future.
David L. Scott, in the Wall Street Journal, sees the grim approach of the dystopian future in which you’ll sit passively in your computer-driven car with government-mandated speed limits and instantly-revocable travel permissions programmed in.
The manual transmission is already missing from most hypercars, and the rising generations of wussies does not know how to drive stick. The era of driving as fun and adventure is rapidly drawing to a close.
[T]he end of the manual transmission is near, and the unfortunate truth is few people will miss it. Most young adults donâ€™t know how to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission, and they arenâ€™t interested in learning. Many modern automatics offer better fuel efficiency and quicker acceleration than their manual counterparts. Porsche now delivers 75% of its 718 and 911 sports cars with automatic transmissions. The new C8 Corvette is only available with one. When the stick shift loses Porsche and Corvette buyers, you know itâ€™s quickly heading for the rearview mirror.
But there is more bad news. In the future, cars wonâ€™t only be automatics; it appears theyâ€™ll increasingly be automated, electric vehicles. The satisfying throbbing of the exhaust and the pleasure of driving will also become victims of progress. Traveling in a personal vehicle will be as exciting as riding in an elevator with windows.
Despite impressive improvements in vehicle technology, my devotion for manually shifting gears, listening to the rumble of the exhaust, and maintaining a tight grip on the steering wheel through a sharp curve remains undiminished. Gripping the shifter knob allows a driver to become part of the vehicle rather than someone who is little more than a passenger. Manually accelerating through the gears and downshifting into a curve are two of motoringâ€™s most satisfying experiences.
The sound, feel and thrill of driving are to be relished, not relegated to the trash heap and memories along with carburetors, fender skirts, steel wheels and hubcaps. Drive the Blue Ridge Parkway in a sports car with a manual transmission and you too will become a believer.
Jalopnik reports: Some unidentified gazillionaire ordered himself a special custom one-of-a-kind automobile from Aston Martin. It’s a V-12 with a manual transmission. Right on!
Naturally aspirated 7.3-liter V12 from the One-77, tuned by Cosworth to a claimed 836 brake horsepower and 599 lb-ft of torque.
Six-speed manual transmission made by Graziano (The UK division of axle authority Dana) with a â€œbespoke motorsports clutchâ€ that would probably cost more to replace than Iâ€™ve spent on car maintenance in my life so far.
Inboard springs and dampers from the track-only Aston Martin Vulcan.
Worked on by the team bringing the Valkyrie hypercar to life.
Finished in â€œPentland Greenâ€ and satin carbon fiber with a Forest Green interior sewn by fancy leather outfit Conker Bridge of Weir which used cashmere on the headliner.
Also: The solid walnut(!) dashboard is Crown cut, whatever that means, and matches the wood shift knob.
A ride in a normal 2CV might send you to sleep, with its overheating engine, slow pace and rocking motion akin to a lazy sloop on the Mediterranean Sea. Not this one, however. This rather special deux chevaux is a track-worthy hot-lap machine, thanks to the Suzuki GSX-1100R powertrain hiding under the bonnet.
Join it at the Circuit Paul Ricard as it takes on the bigger boys â€“ Porsches, Ferraris, Lotus and so on â€“ during the â€˜Dix mille tours de Peter Autoâ€™ at the Paul Ricard circuit in France.
Despite having the aerodynamic qualities of a brick, the potent 2CV proves a lightweight weapon, passing a far, far more capable Ferrari 458 Italia twice on the French circuit before being overtaken again on the straights.
This has to be the most unlikely yet exciting hot lap weâ€™ve seen for a while, and the perfect antidote to the enduring monotony of another day in lockdown. Itâ€™s also a perfect example of itâ€™s not what you drive but how you drive it.
Quentin Tarantino makes prominent use of a blue Karmann Ghia in two movies.
My college best friend had a white Karmann Ghia that he called “Leopold.” Ghias were, I suppose, slightly cooler than the ordinary VW bug that most of us owned back when we were young, but most of us thought they were funny looking and, most importantly, no faster than any ordinary beetle.
I had been watching “Once Upon a time… in Hollywood” (2019) on cable, and I remembered that Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) had been driving the same bloody blue Karmann Ghia in Mexico on her way to the final showdown in “Kill Bill: Vol. 2” (2004). So, I asked myself: Why in hell does Quentin Tarantino think that Ghias are cool, and what is it with that blue color?
I decided to search the Internet, and I found the answer: his dad owned one and he fixated on blue Ghias as a child! My father had a copper-colored 1960 Chevrolet Bel-Air, but I only thought it was cool back then. I wouldn’t take a free one today.
The cars in Quentin Tarantinoâ€™s â€œOnce Upon a Time . . . in Hollywoodâ€ come close to stealing the show. Given that the film stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt â€” both grizzled and a bit beaten up but all the more handsome for it â€” thatâ€™s saying a lot. …
thereâ€™s the blue, beaten-up 1964 Volkswagen Karmann Ghia, which belongs to Daltonâ€™s stunt double, Cliff Booth (Pitt).
Oh, that Karmann Ghia. Itâ€™s lovely. I read that to help it perform in the movie as Tarantino wanted it to, he had its VW engine replaced with a pumped-up Subaru engine. The result, strange to say, is exactly what Tarantinoâ€™s films are like: cult cars souped up with new engines.
Theyâ€™re exercises, in other words, in having it both ways: nostalgic and up-with-the-times; viscerally violent and glibly cartoonish; knowing and innocent. Tarantinoâ€™s casting of the Karmann Ghia expresses this duality in more ways than one.
I should stress at this point that I am in no way a â€œcar guy.â€ I own a Honda CRV, and I can never remember where theyâ€™ve hidden the lever that opens the hood. But I do love beautiful cars, and whenever I see a Karmann Ghia, whether in a film or in real life, my heart breaks into a canter.
Yes, Porsches are gorgeous. Citroens are cool. And the great Italian sports cars are obviously unsurpassable. But Karmann Ghias â€” an unlikely combination of German (Volkswagen) mechanicals and Italian design â€” are simply the most beautiful cars ever built.
I know, I know, beauty is subjective. (Although itâ€™s not so hard to find agreement on the proposition that Brad Pitt and Margot Robbie are good-looking.) But thatâ€™s precisely the point: A Karmann Ghiaâ€™s attractiveness is not absolute in any Platonic, archetypal way, like a Porsche or a Ferrari. Karmann Ghias are real. Theyâ€™re invitations to fandom. Theyâ€™re approachable. Theyâ€™re affordable. And their shape is â€” to a degree thatâ€™s almost sublime â€” just right.
So yes, if I were Quentin Tarantino, setting my film in 1969, with his moviemaking budget, I, too, would be looking for just about any excuse to film a scene with a Karmann Ghia. I might even build my whole movie around it.
There was a moment when I thought thatâ€™s exactly what he had done. In one of the filmâ€™s indelible sequences, Pitt bids farewell to DiCaprio, hops into his Karmann Ghia, and drives home. Suddenly, itâ€™s as if he were in a different movie, playing a bank robber with the cops in hot pursuit.
Heâ€™s not. Theyâ€™re not. The whole sequence feels gloriously pointless, and â€” in classic Tarantino style â€” quite a few seconds longer than it needs to be. But the pointlessness is exactly what makes it so wonderful.
You could argue that the scene helps â€œdevelopâ€ Boothâ€™s character. You would dutifully point out that when acting as Daltonâ€™s chauffeur, buddy and life coach, Booth drives his Coupe de Ville sedately, whereas when he is in his own car â€” the Karmann Ghia â€” he expresses his true calling as a stunt double: He appears to become a reckless lunatic, but he is actually very much in control. Both sides of his character get to shine in the filmâ€™s denouement.
But honestly, who cares about that? The real reason â€” the deeper reason â€” for the extended Karmann Ghia scene is the same as the reason Tarantino made homages to hard-boiled crime novels (â€œPulp Fictionâ€) and to blaxploitation films (â€œJackie Brownâ€); a revenge fantasy about Nazis (â€œInglourious Basterdsâ€); and a vampire Western (â€œFrom Dusk Till Dawnâ€). Itâ€™s the same as the reason he chose to cast the likes of John Travolta, Pam Grier and Christopher Walken in leading roles. Itâ€™s because he is a fan.
Tarantinoâ€™s main talent is and always has been the exuberant expression of fandom. He is a sort of hyperactive curator of personal pop obsessions. Heâ€™s just like you and me in this sense, only more so.
He tells stories, yes. But original plotting is not where his energies go. His real talent is to bring the irrational wildness of fandom to stories and subjects that in other hands feel exhausted, cliched, or just dated.
Tarantinoâ€™s fandom is so uninhibited, itâ€™s infectious. Spotting the references to his various obsessions is part of what makes his films so fun. But he is generous on this score: If you get his allusions, great. If you donâ€™t, heâ€™ll make sure you have a good time anyway. …
Tarantino is happy for you to know that his father owned a blue Karmann Ghia. But the mental connection he would probably prefer you didnâ€™t make when you see â€œOnce Upon a Timeâ€ is between the Karmann Ghia and a trauma experienced 15 years ago by Uma Thurman â€” a trauma for which Tarantino last year publicly acknowledged responsibility.
In the final stages of shooting â€œKill Bill: Volume 2,â€ Tarantino had asked Thurman, the filmâ€™s lead, to drive a blue Karmann Ghia down a sandy road at a speed with which she was uncomfortable. She had been told the car was not operating correctly after its manual transmission was changed to automatic. She asked Tarantino to get a stunt double to do it instead.
Tarantino insisted she drive, and the upshot was awful. The Karmann Ghia, with Thurman at the wheel, plowed into a tree. Thurman, who is convinced she could have been killed, has since described the incident as â€œnegligent to the point of criminality.â€ She forgave Tarantino (he describes the incident as the biggest regret of his life). But Thurman maintained that the alleged attempt by Harvey Weinstein, Lawrence Bender, and E. Bennett Walsh to cover it up was â€œunforgivable.â€
And, how do you like this? Quentin couldn’t actually put up with a true Ghia’s anemic power, and had the original VW engine replaced with a modern Subaru boxer engine that puts out at least four times the power of the stock German 1500 air cooled flat-four.
Certainly not the most beautiful, but a Corvette I’d never seen. They only made 3600 of them that year. Very nice for a Corvette.
I hate clickbait format sites like this one. But I will admit this one is almost worth all the trouble and delays of wading through page after page, accidentally hitting an ad link ever now and then.
Obviously not all the most beautiful cars ever made. (How in hell did that Citroen get in there?) Far too short of pre-WWII cars, needs a lot more British cars and more of the very old Alfas. You could make Bugattis half the list. But, still, worth a look.
David Frey, at Narratively, describes the obsessive quest for Hemingway’s Cuban car.
A silver Porsche steered James Dean into legend. A pink Cadillac escorted Elvis to Graceland. On the streets of Havana, a 1955 Chrysler New Yorker carried Ernest Hemingway to the long bar at the Floridita, which he called â€œthe best bar in the world,â€ for daiquiris mixed strong and sour. A two-door convertible with chrome details across the gunwales and an Art Deco eagle over the hood, wings spread wide, this car ushered the Nobel laureate to the fishing boat that he sailed into the blue current, which he simply called â€œthe stream.â€ It took him to the hilltop farmhouse where he lived among royal palms and mango trees most of the last twenty-two years of his life.
Then it disappeared.
For decades, Hemingwayâ€™s car survived only in legend. Was it still on the island? Had it been secreted away? Or was it lost to history, fallen into scrap metal? It became the automotive version of Hemingwayâ€™s missing suitcase, the one full of early manuscripts that his first wife Hadley lost in a Paris train station and never found.
â€œThis is where Hemingway lived for twenty-one years and this was where he felt at home,â€ said Christopher P. Baker, a British writer who had long been on the trail of the vehicle himself. …
Baker heard the first hint about the car back in 1996 from an American who believed he was buying the legendary auto. â€œSomebody was selling him a joke,â€ Baker said. But somewhere out there, he thought, the car must exist. In 2009, he talked with the director of Cubaâ€™s automobile museum. He told Baker heâ€™d seen the car, but it was â€œhidden away.â€
The alleyways of Old Havana are still full of vintage Plymouths and Packards, cars with graceful curving hoods and rocket ship fins, relics of the 1950s, when Americans descended on Cuba for its bars, brothels and casinos. More than fifty years after Castroâ€™s socialist revolution ended the party, those old cars linger as postcards of Cubaâ€™s past. Some gleam like they just motored off the showroom floor. Others seem held together by rust and fading paint. Hemingwayâ€™s Chrysler was lost among these fossils.
Then one day it reappeared, but before it could find a new life, it would have to endure an adventure of real-life sleuthing, an aging TV detective and Cold War politics thawing in a new millennium. …
[Hemingway] meant only to take a long vacation when he boarded the ferry to Key West on July 25, 1960. But history had other plans. Cuba nationalized private property. The U.S. launched the failed Bay of Pigs invasion the next year. In the meantime, Hemingwayâ€™s health failed. His depression deepened, and he underwent electroshock treatment at the Mayo Clinic. It didnâ€™t help. The writer never returned to Cuba, instead settling in Idaho, where on July 2, 1961, he took his own life with a shotgun.
In the 1970s the doctor passed the Chrysler down to his son. From there, it changed hands again, and again, and again. With each new owner, the carâ€™s connection to Hemingway dimmed. The Chrysler disappeared into Castroâ€™s automotive jungle, where it might have been sold for scrap, chopped for spare parts, or simply pushed, rusting, onto a junk heap. It would have stayed lost forever, had Ada Rosa Alfonso not resumed the search. …
The old man led her to a vehicle. It sat hidden beneath a tarp. That thin piece of fabric was the only thing protecting the car from Cubaâ€™s sun, wind and rain. As he peeled back the tarp, the contours of an aging chassis emerged. Big round headlights like eyes. A long, broad hood. A deep trunk. Alfonso couldnâ€™t believe what she saw.
â€œThe car,â€ Alfonso said, â€œwas a disaster.â€
The New Yorkerâ€™s two-tone paint job, Navajo Orange and Desert Sand, was painted over, first in blood red, then in white. The matching leather seats were torn to shreds. The white convertible top had grayed and eroded away. Holes rusted through the floor. Like Havanaâ€™s old mansions crumbling into dust along the sea, Hemingwayâ€™s car was barely holding on.
Alfonso compared the carâ€™s serial number to Hemingwayâ€™s insurance papers. It was a match. After some convincing, NuÃ±ez agreed to donate the car and Alfonso had it hauled back to the Finca and stored on cement blocks, where it was left sitting again. Cuban mechanics have become magicians in the art of resuscitating American classic cars, but the parts, and the funds, they needed were all in the United States, sealed off by decades of bad blood and a U.S. blockade.
The Delahaye 145 that Dreyfus drove in the 1938 Pau Grand Prix.
“In the 1930s, Adolf Hitler funded the most powerful racing program in the world. An American heiress, a Jewish driver, and a struggling French automaker banded together to defeat them on the racetrack.” Road and Track.
In 1933, the newly-elected leader of Germany, Adolf Hitler, announced that the Third Reich would dominate the Grand Prix. After the government poured funds into Mercedes and Auto Union, their top drivers Rudi Caracciola and Bernd Rosemeyer swept the field in their supercharged Silver Arrow race cars.
Production of the Chevrolet Impala will cease Thursday after six decades, making the Impala yet another Detroit sedan to be laid to rest as buyers switch to crossovers, SUVs and pickups.
Introduced in 1958 and produced continuously except for gaps in the 1980s and 1990s, the final Impala will roll down the line at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly. Seen by many as emblematic of the all-American car, more than 16.8 million have been sold globally (not including the 1994-96 Impala SS, which was counted as a Chevy Caprice).
Impala enthusiasts around the country are sad to see the nameplate hit its expiration date and cherish even more the Impalas they have found and made their own.
Typical Americans of my generation grew up riding in our father’s full-sized American sedans, of which the Chevrolet was the paradigm example. My father proudly came home in 1960 with a new Chevrolet Bel-Air. The Impala was a slightly higher-priced, gussied-up version of the same car, and my father was decidedly resistant to opportunities to spend more money unnecessarily for image and prestige.
Europeans drove smaller, often sportier and more sophisticated automobiles. But, back then, we Americans reveled in our roomier cars fitted with bench seats and bigger engines. We had yet to learn anything about cornering and handling. And the notion that importation from the European Old World should be looked upon as evidence of superior styling and sophistication was, back then, confined to the extreme top-end American haute bourgeoisie. Most Americans considered American-made to be the best in the world and sneered at European cars as foreign junk.
How our perspectives would change after a decade or so!
Then they mean to take away your car, Jack Baruth predicts.
Iâ€™d be willing to bet that very few of you know who Richard Aborn is. He was the president of Handgun Control, Inc., in 1993 when the Brady Bill was passed. Prior to the billâ€™s passage, the NRA and others said that it would be the â€œcamelâ€™s nose under the tentâ€ of firearms legislation. This is a reference to an old saying that you canâ€™t just let the camelâ€™s nose into a tentâ€”you end up letting the whole camel in, whether you want to or not.
Anyway, when the Brady Bill was passed, Mr. Aborn grabbed a reporter and said, â€œ[The billâ€™s detractors were] right all along in fearing the waiting period was a camelâ€™s nose under the tent. Brady has now passed and it is time to reveal the rest of the camel!â€ At the time, I thought that was a little, ahem, bold of the man to say. Regardless of how you feel about gun control, you can probably agree with me that you shouldnâ€™t spike the football before the referee puts his hands up. But Mr. Aborn no doubt figured he was on the right side of history in this matter.
Across the Atlantic, the legislators both elected and unelected believe themselves to be on the right side of history when it comes to the privately-owned internal-combustion vehicleâ€”more specifically, when it comes to the demise of same. The UK just announced that it would ban the sale of gas or diesel cars by 2035, â€œor earlier, if possible.â€ When Neil Peart wrote Red Barchetta, that date was a robust 60 years away. Now itâ€™s closer in our windshield than the introduction of the second-generation Toyota Prius is in our rearview mirror, so to speak.
This astounding regulatory decision, made by people who canâ€™t gauge the UKâ€™s relative impact on the climate vis-a-vis Chinaâ€”or maybe they just read 1984 as an instruction manual, not a warningâ€”sickens me. Thereâ€™s only one thing to be said in its defense: at least itâ€™s kind of fair. Contrast it to the Europeans, who are doing something even nastier: their 2021 emissions standards require a fleet average of 58 mpg or thereabouts. You couldnâ€™t do that with an all-Prius fleet. Heck, not even the Plymouth Horizon Miser could hit that mark.
What the EU expects the automakers to do is simple: continue making Ferraris, AMG Benzes, and whatnot for the super-rich while forcing everyone else into an electric vehicle. So while British showrooms will force the same misery on everyone, kind of like the way everyone in London had to hide in the same shelters during the Blitz, the Europeans will make sure that the most privileged among us get to keep doing what they want while the average man or woman in the street gets stuck with a glorified golf cart.
(If you like, and if it fits your political worldview, youâ€™re also free to see this as a way to make the dirty plutocrats subsidize clean electric transportation for the proletariat through extra markup on their G-wagens or Range Rovers or whatever. Thereâ€™s room for all views here, except perhaps for those held by the people who weld enormous scrap-sheet metal fenders on old 911s for no reason.)
The delight with which the politicians are rolling out these regulations would make Richard Aborn blush.