A RARE grand prix Mercedes Benz race car is to be auctioned.
During the week it was revealed that a 59-year-old Mercedes Benz W196 race car, that it's claimed had been raced by the incomparable Juan Manuel Fangio, would go under the hammer in July.
The iconic car had been stored in a warehouse for the past 30 years and not surprisingly estimates of its value are in the many millions of dollars.
One report suggested a minimum of $7 million, but another more fanciful figure was between $30 million and $40 million, so only the super rich need apply.
Mercedes Benz and Auto Union had dominated grand prix racing before the Second World War but it took until 1952 for Mercedes Benz to re-enter the sport, competing in sports car races such as the Le Mans 24-hour race and the Carrera Panamerica road race in Mexico.
In 1953 the decision was made by the MB board to re-enter grand prix racing in 1954, when the new engine formula called for a 2.5 litre non supercharged engine.
Under the engineering expertise of Rudolf Uhlenhaut and Hans Scherenberg the team designed a car with a twin overhead camshaft straight eight engine that featured desmodromic valve gear and fuel injection which were firsts in grand prix race cars.
The engine was canted over at an angle to lower the centre of gravity and was also a semi stressed member of the sophisticated multi-tube chassis.
The car also featured inboard front brakes, which was an innovation that wouldn't be seen again until the Lotus 72 in 1969.
Mercedes missed the first two races of the season so Fangio and Karl Kling gave the new car its debut at the French GP at Reims in July where they thrashed the opposition to finish first and second.
For this race the cars had all enveloping streamlined bodywork, which proved to be a problem at the next race at Silverstone as the drivers had trouble positioning their cars on the corners, which were lined with fuel drums and they finished out of the places.
From there Fangio went on to win in Germany, Switzerland and Italy and together with his wins in the opening two races driving a Maserati 250F he convincingly won the championship.
For 1955 Fangio was joined by an up and coming Stirling Moss and they dominated the shortened championship with Fangio, winning in Argentina, Belgium, Holland and Italy and Moss winning his first GP at Aintree.
The company built a total of fifteen W196 cars for the two seasons including the streamliners plus short and long wheelbase versions of the open wheel cars.
Very little is known about the this car apart from the fact it was driven by Fangio to win the Swiss and German GPs in 1954, so it has very saleable provenance.