Mercedes-Benz W196 Offered at Bonhams Goodwood

Mercedes-Benz W196, Juan Manuel Fangio
Ex-Fangio Mercedes-Benz W196 offered at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction

A 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 driven to racing success by the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio will be offered for sale at the 2013 Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction, scheduled for Friday 12 July at Goodwood House in Chichester, Sussex.

The 2.5-litre straight-8 W196 Mercedes-Benz einsitzer — chassis number 00006/54 — won the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prix races at the hands of five-times World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio. These victories were the first two to be achieved in succession by the Mercedes-Benz factory Formula 1 team in its postwar racing comeback. Chassis 00006 also has special significance as the first open-wheeled slipper-bodied postwar Mercedes-Benz ever to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race – having made its debut in that German Grand Prix.

The car’s innovative W196 design also marked the successful introduction to Formula 1 of the following technologies:

  • Fuel-injected engine
  • All-independent suspension
  • Multi-tubular ‘spaceframe’ lightweight chassis design
  • All-round inboard-mounted brakes
  • The in-line or ‘straight-8’ engine ‘lay-down’ configuration to minimize the car’s overall height
  • Power take-off from the centre of the engine’s long 8-cylinder crankshaft to minimize vibration

The FIA governing body of International motor sport launched its first postwar set of Grand Prix regulations in 1954, demanding unsupercharged engines of no more than 2 1/2-litres engine capacity. Mercedes-Benz – who had previously dominated Grand Prix racing in 1908, 1914 and 1934-39 – missed the first two 1954 World Championship rounds in Argentina and Belgium. But they then made their debut in the 1954 French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux. Their all-new W196 cars ran there in enveloping-bodied ‘Stromlinienwagen’ form, instantly setting totally new performance standards as Juan Manuel Fangio and team-mate Karl Kling finished first and second in both qualifying and the race.

National media and the specialist sporting press trumpeted the same simple message: “Mercedes are Back”!

However, the W196 Stromlinienwagen 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 Nurburging road circuit. Mercedes-Benz tailored new cars ‘00005’ and ‘00006’ to Fangio’s recommendation.

Chassis 00006 Mercedes-Benz W196 driven by Juan Manuel Fangio
Chassis 00006 Mercedes-Benz W196 driven by Juan Manuel Fangio

And it was in this actual car – chassis ‘00006’ to be offered by Bonhams at Goodwood in 2013 – that Fangio immediately won the German Grand Prix. He then repeated the feat in the following Swiss Grand Prix on the 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 Ferrari. This Swiss victory was Fangio’s third in four Grand Prix races, and assured him of his second Drivers’ World Championship title.

Robert Brooks, Chairman of Bonhams and handling the sale of the Mercedes-Benz, commented, “My motoring auction career spans five decades and I have been privileged to have handled some of the world’s most desirable and important motor cars. To handle the sale of this legendary W196 Grand Prix Car – the only one out of captivity– could well be the pinnacle. Our Goodwood Festival of Speed auction is shaping up to even eclipse the record breaking Sale of last year.”

Thus, Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction will offer this iconic landmark-technology Mercedes-Benz W196 as the double-Grand Prix-winning car in which Fangio clinched the second of his long-standing record five Drivers’ World Championship titles. The Bonhams sale of the ex-Fangio 1954 German and Swiss GP-winning Mercedes-Benz W196 is a classic car auction first.

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[Source: Bonhams]

Show Comments (9)

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  1. What is the current auction record? Something like $15-16 million for the Ferrari Testa Rossa? This will undoubtedly thrash that figure and perhaps double it?? Any thoughts?

  2. Wow! How about some additional information on this one. Who owns it? Where has it been? Can’t believe that Mercedes won’t be bidding on this one for their collection !!

  3. Saw this somewhere else, but it’s worth repeating here. This is the “holy grail” for car collectors. Should be fascinating to watch.

  4. It would be hard to imagine a more important or desirable car for a collector or in this case the MB Museum.

  5. I seem to remember many years ago the MB Museum ” loaned ” a number of theses cars to major car musuems around the world I have seen the one at the Ford Museum in th U.S and also the one in Turin Italy , If I remember rightly this car was loaned to Britians National Motor Musuem Beaulieu , but was controversially sold by them to a private collector about 25 yeras ago this is the only one in private hands , Today the British press are quoting a selling price of £ 5 million but this is way off , if this sale happens ( last I read MB wants it back ) the car will make upwards of £ 20 million , anyone know the full story ?

  6. Sold a “loaned car”?? Payback for the bombings? Given a choice I’d rather see and hear it in vintage races than not see it sitting in somebody’s barn…

  7. The W196 story is pretty much as TVC15 has it, but there are a few important details to add.
    It was in fact loaned to the Donington museum by M-B. After several years the loan was formally converted to a donation. Some time thereafter the W196 was converted to something in excess of £1 million that was used to build the library at the museum. It passed through one or two collector’s/dealer’s hands before ending up in its present ownership (a Qatari Prince?) in the 90’s.
    Bonhams has a rather fluffy press release about it being ‘forgotten’, which is most surely not the case. This is not a barn find. It’s just an important, historic M-B racer that has been out of sight for twenty years or so.
    £5 million is foolish; more likely the newspaper writer was so amazed the one or two in front of the five got lost or was excised by some uninformed editor. My guess? Well over £30 million and an all-time auction car record that should stand for many years. 250 GTOs are £25 million cars these days, and more with an important race-winning history.
    Check out the historic race footage video on Bonhams website.
    M-B already has one. Why would they want another? It will be interesting to see who emerges, and what other cars get recycled to the market to generate liquidity to make a run for it. Yes, even multi-mega dollar collectors have to manage their collections.
    The ‘auction record’ is subject to interpretation. While the absolute dollar record is Gooding & Company’s 2011 sale of 250 Testa Rossa 0666TR for $16,390,000, Christie’s sale of the Bugatti Type 41 ‘Royale’ at Royal Albert Hall in 1987 for £5.5 million (US$9,764,585) and Sotheby’s sale of 250 GTO s/n 3607GT at Monaco in 1990 for FFr 54 million (US$10,684,491) when adjusted for inflation are still the top all-time transactions.
    But not for long.