1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 driven by Juan Manuel FangioEnlarge Photo
The car will be sold to the highest bidder by auctioneer Bonhams at the 2013 Goodwood Festival of Speed in July.
This is an incredibly rare opportunity for well-heeled collectors to own one of the most historic cars the world has ever known.
It’s not clear who the current owner is, or why he or should would be mad enough to sell it, but it’s certain Mercedes-Benz will be keen to add the car to its own collection, along with a handful of multimillionaires.
Mercedes'' prewar Grand Prix cars had been supercharged. For their return to the top rank of motorsport, Mercedes decided to use a naturally aspirated 2.5-liter straight-eight engine, laid over at an angle to reduce frontal area. In the 1954 season the engine delivered around 257 horsepower.
This particular car bears chassis number 00006/54. In the 1954 German Grand Prix, held at the Nürburgring, it ran with open wheels for the first time, a move prompted by Fangio after he experienced some problems with the famous streamlined bodywork at the previous British Grand Prix. Designed for faster circuits, the streamlined body proved too tricky to place on twisty roads.
The changes proved successful, with the win helping Fangio secure one of his five world championship titles. Other W196 drivers included Hans Hermann, Karl Kling and Sir Stirling Moss. The car would also spawn the 1955 300 SLR, which Moss famously drove to victory in the Mille Miglia of that same year.
Pierre Levegh's horrific crash at Le Mans, also in '55, which took his life and that of 80 spectators, spelled the end of Mercedes' involvement in midcentury motorsport and the end of development of both the SLR and the W196. A Mercedes-branded F1 team would not emerge until the current squad’s debut in 2010.
The auction of the 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196 takes place on July 12 at the UK’s Goodwood Festival of Speed. It’s entirely possible that a new record for a car sold at auction could be set. The previous record, a figure falling somewhere between 30 and 40 million dollars, was set by this 1936 Bugatti Type 57SC Atlantic.
Stay tuned for the results.