By on July 15, 2013

Love ’em or hate ’em, car auctions are a part of the hobby. The hype is annoying, but the only true way to gauge something’s value right now is to put it up for sale. In that case, the most valuable car in the world today is Mercedes-Benz W196R chassis number 00006/54. It sold at Bonhams‘ auction held in conjunction with this year’s Goodwood Festival for $29,619,826, shattering the record for price paid for a car at auction. The previous most expensive car in the world, a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa went for $16,390,000 in 2011 at Pebble Beach. One of 10 surviving cars out of 14 W196R racers made, it’s the car’s provenance that makes it so valuable. Sir Stirling Moss raced it, but more significantly, Juan Manuel Fangio drove this car to victory at the Grands Prix in Germany and Switzerland in 1954, on his way to the world championship that year.


Another Mercedes-Benz car with provenance associated with two well known figures will be going on the block at Auctions America’s upcoming auction in Burbank, California. That’s an appropriate location to be selling the 1957 300 SL roadster owned by two notable television personalities, Robert Stack and Desi Arnaz. In 1960, Stack was enjoying the success of the Untouchables tv show, produced by Arnaz and Lucille Ball’s Desilu studio. A car guy who raced Model A Fords and speedboats, he considered buying a used 300SL in a Mercedes-Benz showroom on Sunset Blvd. In 1998 he told Motor Trend, “the lines were just beautiful…Every day I’d look at it, and my wife would ask why don’t I just save up and get it. Well, I’d never pay that much money for a car for myself.” Someone else bought the car, but unbeknownst to Stack it was his friend and boss Arnaz, who knew of Stack’s desire for the car. That year Stack won an Emmy for his role on the Untouchables while Arnaz was winning one for producing the show. After the ceremony, they were basking in their success. “We’re standing around holding the Emmys and Desi says ‘Let’s go outside, Amigo.’ All of a sudden I hear a roar and around the corner screams this green Mercedes and a guy with Mercedes overalls gets out and says ‘Mr. Stack, here are your keys.’” Stack owned the car until his death in 2003. Since then it’s been repainted in a dark red, but it’s otherwise close to original condition, with blue California UNTCHBL license plates.


The 300 SL was popular in Hollywood but other celebrities preferred the gravitas of the so-called grosser Mercedes, the 1974 600 Pullman limousine, an example of which will also cross the block at the Burbank auction. One of only 429 long wheelbase 600 series cars, it also has celebrity provenance, having been owned by the British acid jazz band Jamiroquai  and is said to have appeared in one of their music videos.


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14 Comments on “Auction Report: The Most Expensive Car In The World, A 300SL With Hollywood Provenance X2 & A Grosser Pullman Offered For Sale...”

  • avatar

    Arnaz had class.

    • 0 avatar

      That was a great story.

    • 0 avatar

      When he wasn’t cheating on Lucy, why they divorced, but I don’t think they ever stopped loving each other. There’s a lovely video of the two of them, older, playing in a swimming pool with a grandchild. You can see the affection between the two of them.

      Both were accomplished in business well beyond their considerable talents as performers. Desi also was a technical innovator, credited with the standard three camera shoot still used by many tv shows.

      • 0 avatar

        Sadly, it really messed her up. Female comic actors have a tough row to hoe. She’s right up there with Carol Burnett and Lily Tomlin (a Detroit girl).

  • avatar

    surely the 250gto deserves a mention?

    • 0 avatar

      You’re absolutely correct. My fault for relying on a single source. Apparently that particular GTO was not the only car with a higher price than the MB Silver Arrow W196 in the post. From Autoblog last year:

      “Bloomberg reports that a 1962 Ferrari GTO has been sold for $35 million, making it the most expensive car in the world. The record price eclipses the $32 million paid for a 1964 Ferrari 250 GTO back in February and the $30-34 million dished out for a 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic back in 2010.”

  • avatar

    Those of you considering the 600 Pullman should note the fuel filler is in the rear, next to the license plate. If you want to add a trailer hitch, you’ll live in fear of being rear-ended. Still, it’s a great car for long trips with the kids, since the glass window separating the front seats from the back will give you and the Missus some peace and quiet.

  • avatar

    When I was a student at Kansas State in the early 1970s, the faculty advisor to the campus car club was the administrator in charge of buildings and grounds. He and his wife were active in SCCA events and owned an interesting series of cars. When I knew them, they were driving an early 911 and raced an H production bugeye Sprite. One of their previous cars, which they used for road rallies, was a 3.8 Jaguar sedan.

    Buried in the back of their garage was a 300SL coupe with optional fitted luggage. It had been a daily driver before my time on campus. Since it had poor ventilation and no AC and summers in Kansas are hot, the husband rolled around campus with both gull wing doors up. Both husband and wife knew what the accelerator pedal was for. The 300SL spent a lot of time above 100 mph.

  • avatar

    Ronnie, just to drill down on the particulars a bit, the 600 was owned by the band Jamiroquai’s frontman – Jason Cheetham aka ‘Jay Kay’.

    He has always been a bit of a collector, and drives most of the exotics he owns on a semi-regular basis so that ‘regular folks’ get to see his spectacular cars actually on the road.

    If memory serves, he did a Top Gear with his Miura and Hammond. Driving it around as one should.

    As to Gullwings, back in the mid-late 70s our local Honda dealer had his sitting in the back with the used bikes (not even in the car showroom). I got a salesman to tell me he’d part with it for the then princely sum of $18K. Sadly, as a pre-teen my parents didn’t listen to my advice, and instead wrote a check for 2 new shiny Hondas for a coupla grand less. Ugh…

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