When you mention the Mercedes in racing terms, every good connoisseur will immediately imagine the famous Silver Arrow and Juan Manuel Fangio behind the wheel. Bonhams annual Sale at this year’s Goodwood Festival of Speed will feature the most significant motor car of the 20th Century.
It is the 1954 2½ liter straight 8 Mercedes Benz W196 einsitzer chassis number ‘00006/54’ in which five times World Champion Driver Juan Manuel Fangio won both the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prix races. This were the first two wins in the row by the Mercedes Benz factory Formula 1 team in its postwar racing come back. Chassis ‘00006’ also has special significance as the first open wheeled slipper bodied postwar Mercedes Benz ever to win a Formula 1 Grand Prix race.
The car’s innovative W196 design also marked the successful introduction to Formula 1 of the following technologies: fuel injected engine, 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 minimize the car’s overall height, power take off from the center of the engine’s long 8 cylinder crankshaft to minimize vibration.
Juan Manuel Fangio and his team mate Karl Kling finished first and second in both qualifying and the race in 1954 French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux. However, the W196 Stromlinienwagen cars with their enclosed wheels proved difficult to place upon the more twisty venue of the following British Grand Prix at Silverstone. Fangio requested an open wheeled, W196 variant for the following German Grand Prix on the twisty 14.2-mile Nurburging road circuit. Mercedes Benz reacted instantly, tailoring new cars ‘00005’ and ‘00006’ to Fangio’s recommendation.
And it was in this actual car chassis ‘00006’ now to be offered by Bonhams at Goodwood that Fangio immediately won the German Grand Prix.