Fangio's Mercedes-Benz W196 up for auction at GoodwoodMon, 18 Mar 2013
It's the father of the venerated 300 SLR. It was driven by Juan Manuel Fangio, Hans Hermann and Sir Stirling Moss. The open-wheel body was commissioned by El Chueco himself when the streamlined unit designed for fast tracks proved too tricky to place on twistier circuits.
It's the Mercedes-Benz W196, and one's going up for auction at Bonhams' Goodwood auction on July 12. Chassis number 00006/54 was the car Fangio used to win the 1954 German and Swiss Grands Prix.
Benz' prewar Grand Prix engines had been supercharged. For their return to the top rank of motorsport, Mercedes decided to use a naturally aspriated straight eight laid over at an angle to reduce frontal area.
The car was an immediate success. At its French Grand Prix debut in 1954, Fangio and Karl Kling came home in first and second, respectively, while Hans Hermann recorded the fastest lap in another W196. Fangio took that year's championship.
The 1955 300 SLR sports racer was based on the W196, using a larger, 3-liter version of the Formula One car's 2.5L powerplant. Moss used the famed #722 car to win the Mille Miglia, one of the most mythical victories in racing history. Pierre Levegh's horrific crash at Le Mans in '55 spelled the end of Mercedes' involvement in midcentury motorsport and the end of development of both the SLR and the W196.
In its short life, the W196 left a huge mark on the sport; it's a revolutionary car on the scale of the Can-Am-killing Porsche 917/30 and the Lotus 38, the machine that signaled the end of the front-engined era at Indianapolis.
Chassis 00006/54 was one of the two first W196s to be built as open-wheelers at Fangio's suggestion. He felt the streamlined car's bodywork would be too much of a handful at the rollicking N
By Davey G. Johnson