The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, as driven by Juan Manuel Fangio. Images courtesy Bonhams.
Fans of vintage racing will soon have a rare opportunity to bid on a Formula One Grand Prix-winning Mercedes-Benz W196 campaigned by Juan Manuel Fangio during the 1954 season. Though Fangio only joined the reformed Mercedes team following Belgian Grand Prix (the third race of the season), the W196 proved to be a formidable weapon in Fangio?s capable hands. The Argentinean driver won four of six remaining races in the 1954 season behind the wheel of the innovative Mercedes racer, earning his second driver?s world championship in the process.
The W196 represented the return of the Mercedes-Benz factory team to Formula One racing for the first time since 1939. Designed specifically to meet new 2.5-liter, normally aspirated engine regulations set by the FIA, the W196 used a fuel-injected inline eight-cylinder engine, laid on its side to lower the car?s height and center of gravity. The engine also incorporated desmodromic valves to permit running at higher engine speeds than a conventional sprung-valve design.
Chassis number 00006/54 was campaigned throughout 1954 and into 1955, first by Fangio and later by Hans Hermann and Karl Kling. Following its retirement from racing, the car was restored to as-new condition and exhibited in the Daimler-Benz Museum from 1955 to 1965. Subsequent years saw chassis 00006/54 displayed throughout Europe, and the car was used as late as 1967 for tire testing at Mercedes-Benz?s test track in Unterturkheim, Germany. In late 1969, an internal Mercedes-Benz memo dictated that the W196 should be available to chief engineer Rudulf Uhlenhaut (the car?s designer) at all times, ?for testing purposes.?
In 1973, Mercedes-Benz gifted the car to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, England, where it remained until sold to a private collector in the 1980s. Since then, it?s traded hands at least twice, and has been largely out of the public view for the last dozen years. As the only Mercedes-Benz W196 in private hands, with the distinction of winning two Grand Prix races at the hands of Juan Manuel Fangio, Chassis 00006/54 will likely be the crown jewel of anyone?s collection.
The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 will cross the block at Bonhams? Goodwood Festival of Speed auction, scheduled for July 12, 2013. For more information, visit Bonhams.com.