1.31 million dollars was the record for the most valuable vehicle (a Ferrari) sold at auction as of 2011. But after a recent auction sale, a new staggering record has been set thanks to one 1954 Mercedes-Benz W 196R Formula 1 car. And not only did the sale beat the previous record for most valuable car ever sold at auction, it also made new records for most valuable Formula 1 car ever sold in addition to the most valuable Mercedes-Benz ever sold. The price tag? An incredible $29.6 million.
If you are familiar with Formula 1, you may have a pretty good idea of who once was behind the wheel of this incredibly valuable car: the five-time world champion winner Juan Manuel Fangio, who achieved his second title in the W 196R.
1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R specs:
- 2.5 liter
- Straight-8 W 196
- Chassis number 00006/54
The reason for the 2.5 liter size of the engine is that in 1954, the FIA (governing body of international motor sport) set into place the first regulations requiring that engines not be larger than 2.5 liters. But Fangio had a request of his own. While the wheels on the W 196 were enclosed, this proved to be difficult for certain race venues such as twisty roads. Fangio requested an open-wheeled version of the W 196 following the British GP at Silverstone, especially for the twisty 14.2 mile Nurburgring circuit. And following that request Mercedes provided the open-wheeled version, which Fangio took victory in. Following, was the victory at the Swiss GP, which made his second World Championship a sure thing.
The car made its debut in 1954 at the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux, after missing both the Argentina and Belgium GPs. But missing those two races didn’t matter, because both Fangio and teammate Karl Kling qualified and finished the race in first and second place.
This car not only helped Fangio win races, it also helped to introduce technologies to Formula 1, such as:
- Fuel injected engine
- Mercedes-Benz all-independent suspension
- Multi tubular ‘spacefame’ lightweight chassis design
- All-round inboard-mounted brakes
- In-line or ‘straight 8’ engine ‘lay-down’ configuration minimizing the cars height
- Power take-off from engines center (8-cylinder crankshaft) minimizing vibration
“I have handled some of the world’s most desirable and important motor cars during a motoring auction career spanning five decades, but I have reached a peak today with this legendary Grand Prix car. It was a personal privilege to preside over the sale of this vehicle, which is not only one of the most significant motor cars of the 20th century, but also the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale,” said Robert Brooks, Bonhams Chairman.
“If he were here today Fangio would shake his head and smile his slow smile. He was a humble man, originally a mechanic from a potato town in Argentina – and he never forgot his roots. As a driver, he was simply a genius. As a man he had no enemies. He was universally loved, even by those he regularly beat on track. No standard-setting sportsman could have a better epitaph,” said Doug Nye, racing historian.