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The double Formula 1 Grand Prix-winning Mercedes-Benz W196 which helped five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio to his second drivers' championship in 1954 – to be offered for sale by Bonhams at the Goodwood Festival of Speed on Friday 12th July – has already attracted enquiries from potential buyers on three continents.
The 2½-litre straight-eight single-seater – chassis number 00006/54 – was the first open-wheeled, 'slipper'-bodied postwar Mercedes-Benz to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix, and its innovative design marked the introduction to the sport of the following technologies:
• Fuel-injected engine
• Mercedes-Benz 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 minimise the car's overall height
• Power take-off from the centre of the engine's long 8-cylinder crankshaft to minimise vibration
• Desmodromic valve actuation
Fangio's victories in the 1954 German and Swiss Grands Prix were the first to be achieved in succession by the frontier-technology Mercedes-Benz factory Formula 1 team in its postwar racing come-back.
During just 14 months of Formula 1 racing before it was retired from racing by the German factory team at the end of 1955, the car contested five World Championship-qualifying Grand Prix races. Driven first by Fangio, it was later assigned to junior driver Hans Herrmann for the 1954 Italian GP, where it finished fourth.
In that year's Spanish Grand Prix, Hans Herrmann's race in 00006 ended with engine trouble. The car was then used in just one 1955 Grand Prix – the Italian event – when, driven by Karl Kling, it ran in second place behind Fangio's sister Mercedes-Benz before suffering gearbox failure.
The car was then re-prepared to full race standard and consigned to the Daimler-Benz Museum on December 22, 1955.
In June 1965 it was exhibited in Munich and during 1966 it was shown at both Le Mans in France and Hockenheim in Germany. It then appeared at the 1967 British Grand Prix at Silverstone, before being run in a tyre test at the Unterturkheim factory test-track, and displayed in Berlin. In November 1967 it was exhibited at Stuttgart University.
Further public appearances followed in 1969 in Luxembourg, Berlin and Hamburg. A Daimler-Benz Museum archive document records that as of November 5, 1969, the car "should be available at any time for R. Uhlenhaut" – the company's illustrious chief engineer – "...for testing purposes".
On June 24, 1972, the car ran in engine tests at Unterturkheim before on May 22, 1973, Mercedes-Benz officially presented it to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, Hampshire, England.
In the 1980s the car was sold into private hands. It was preserved first in the UK by Anthony – now Sir Anthony – Bamford of JCB Excavators, then in France with Jacques Setton. It passed subsequently into the ownership of a German businessman in whose care the car was run at the Monaco Historic meeting, at Goodwood, and in California from 1999-2000.
Today, after many years out of public view stored in a warehouse, Mercedes-Benz W196 chassis 00006 is offered for sale by Bonhams.
This is the only Mercedes-Benz W196 in private hands. It is the only surviving Mercedes-Benz W196 to have won not just one World Championship Grand Prix, but two. Its stature is immense, not only as the iconic 'Fangio car' of the 1950s, but also as a shining star of pinnacle Mercedes-Benz engineering and as an icon of postwar recovery.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
Bonhams, founded in 1793, is one of the world's largest auctioneers of fine art and antiques. The present company was formed by the merger in November 2001 of Bonhams & Brooks and Phillips Son & Neale. In August 2002, the company acquired Butterfields, the principal firm of auctioneers on the West Coast of America. Today, Bonhams offers more sales than any of its rivals, through two major salerooms in London: New Bond Street and Knightsbridge; and a further three in the UK regions and Scotland. Sales are also held in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Carmel, New York and Connecticut in the USA; and Germany, France, Monaco, Hong Kong and Australia. Bonhams has a worldwide network of offices and regional representatives in 25 countries offering sales advice and valuation services in 60 specialist areas. For a full listing of upcoming sales, plus details of Bonhams specialist departments go to www.bonhams.com