Fangio Mercedes Racer W196 Sells for a Record $29.7m at Bonhams Auction
For classic car aficionados, Ferrari and Mercedes are the 2 names that will never lose its sheen in terms of the value escalation in the vintage and classic car market. We had earlier told you about the most historic 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 Grand Prix racing car scheduled to go on Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in Britain. The car driven by the five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio of Argentina has been sold for a record $29.7m, making it the most valuable motor vehicle ever sold at auction, beating the previous record of $16.39 million set by a 1957 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa at the Gooding & Company’s sale in 2011.
Though there have been few private sales of vintage Ferrari cars that have dominated the Guinness record book, the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula 1 single-seater became the most expensive Mercedes-Benz car ever sold at auction.
Robert Brooks, Bonhams Chairman, said: “I have handled some of the world’s most desirable and important motor cars during a motoring auction career spanning five decades, but I have reached a peak today with this legendary Grand Prix car. It is not only one of the most significant motor cars of the 20th century, but also the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale.”
The post-war example of Mercedes automotive excellence, the car with chassis number ’00006′ also has not just historical significance, but the car also sports innovative design. The W196 racer was built due to a change in the FIA governing body of international motor sport Grand Prix regulations in 1954, which required cars to have unsupercharged engines of no more than 2½-litres.
It was the first open-wheeled car with a lightweight body, an in-line 8-cylinder fuel-injected engine, with power take-off from the center of the engine, all-independent suspension, and with three different wheelbases.
The iconic car is one of just nine surviving examples with six of these owned by Mercedes and the rest of the three are in museums. Reportedly, this one is a very rare privately-owned example sold by the Emir of Qatar, who acquired it from the German industrialist Friedhelm Loh about eight years ago.
After the W196 cars with their enclosed wheels proved difficult to place upon the more twisty venue of the following British Grand Prix at Silverstone, Fangio requested an open-wheeled W196 variant for the following German Grand Prix on the twisty 14.2-mile Nurburgring road circuit. Mercedes-Benz reacted instantly, tailoring new cars ’00005′ and ’00006′ to Fangio’s recommendation.
It was in chassis ’00006′ that Fangio immediately won the German Grand Prix. He then repeated the feat in the following Swiss Grand Prix on the daunting Bremgarten forest circuit at Berne – storming round at uncatchable pace in ’00006′ to win by 58.7 seconds from Argentine compatriot Jose Froilan Gonzalez’s out-classed Ferrari. This Swiss victory was Fangio’s third in four Grand Prix races, and assured him of his second Drivers’ World Championship title.