A classic Mercedes-Benz W196 race car broke the record as the most valuable motor vehicle ever sold at auction at the recently held Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale. The racing car which five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio drove to grab his second Formula One crown was sold at 20,896,800 GBP ($31.6 million, €22,701,864), beating the record of £10,086,400 set by a Ferrari in 2011.
Robert Brooks, Bonhams Chairman, remarked that with the record auction price of the Mercedes-Benz W196, he has reached the peak of his five-decade motoring auction career. He quipped that it was a “personal privilege to preside over the sale” the legendary F1 racer, which he described as one of the most significant motor cars of the 20th century and the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale.
Racing historian Doug Nye remarked that if Fangio was alive today, he “would shake his head and smile his slow smile.” He noted that with the record sale, “no standard-setting sportsman could have a better epitaph."
In 1954-1955, Mercedes set out to rebuild its reputation for automotive excellence post-war by creating the W196 as well as other sports cars. Fangio piloted the 2½-liter straight-8 W196, bearing chassis number '00006/54', to win the German and Swiss Grand Prix races in 1954.
These wins were first two successive Grand Prix victoties achieved by Mercedes-Benz factory Formula 1 team in its racing comeback after the war. Chassis '00006' also has special significance since it was the open-wheeled 'slipper'-bodied post-war Mercedes vehicle to grab a Grand Prix win.
“The result of the auction just goes to show the exceptionally high level of respect enjoyed by historical Mercedes-Benz vehicles among collectors”, said Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “We would like to congratulate the unidentified bidder on their purchase and will be only too happy to lend them support – if they so wish – during the next stages of their acquisition.”