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Fangio’s old Merc racer sells for £19.6m
Sir Stirling Moss regularly cites him as the greatest Formula One driver in history. Seems this opinion of legendary Argentine racer Juan Manuel Fangio is shared by many, because his old 1954 F1 car has just sold at auction for £19.6 million.
Need a moment to take it all in? The exact figure is £19,601,500, and is the most expensive car ever sold at auction, smashing the piffling £10.8m paid for a 1957 Ferrari 250 in 2011.
It was auctioned off, fittingly, at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed, and is the car that helped Fangio take the 1954 Formula One world championship, his second of five titles (he won in 1951, and then consecutively from ‘54 to ‘57).
Racing historian Doug Nye said: “If he were here today, Fangio would shake his head and smile his slow smile. As a driver he was simply a genius. As a man he had no enemies. No standard-setting sportsman could have a better epitaph.”
The 2.5-litre straight-eight championship car is apparently the only Mercedes-Benz W196 in private hands, and the only surviving W196 to have won two grand prixs (in Germany and Switzerland).
It was consigned to the Daimler-Benz museum in 1955, exhibited in Munich, Le Mans and Silverstone between ‘65 and ‘67, and then consigned to the legendary custody of engineer Rudy Uhlenhaut who - alongside Fangio and team boss Alfred Neubauer - masterminded Mercedes-Benz’s assault in Formula One in the 50s. A Daimler-Benz Museum archive document states that “as of November 5, 1969, the car should be available at any time for R. Uhlenhaut for testing purposes.”
It made a brief appearance at the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu in 1973 before being sold into private hands in the 1980s, passing through the UK, then France, then Germany and finally to California.
And here’s an example of just how good Fangio was in the mighty Merc: at the Swiss GP in Berne, he beat the second-placed Ferrari by 58.7 seconds. Think about that.
Bonhams said: “Its stature is immense, not only as the iconic ‘Fangio car’ of the 1950s, but also as a shining star of Mercedes-Benz engineering and as an icon of postwar recovery.” Bet Mercedes wishes it’d kept its hands on it now…