Each remarkable automobile has its own niche in the annals of history, whether it’s through beautiful, timeless design, some sort of significant technical innovation, or having been owned/driven by somebody famous (the latter implies that the car doesn’t even have to be anything special in itself). These three aspects have a dramatic impact in its value as a collectors’ item once it is deemed obsolete.
However, if the vehicle in question is Juan Manuel Fangio’s Mercedes-Benz W196 F1 racer, which won 9 out of 12 races it was ever entered into, all of which were achieved with the Argentinian behind the wheel, you can expect it to end up being a very expensive museum piece, some 58 years after it was retired from active service.
In fact, as the hammer was about to drop on its auction, set up at the Bohmans Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale, the value was almost unbelievable: $29,650,095 (or €22,701,864 / £19,601,500) – we’re sorry to have mislead you with a title saying $30 million, but the difference is really negligible here, since this is the most expensive car ever to be sold at auction (apparently not private sale, though).
Details of what went down during the actual auction are not really available (you can see the last part of it in one of the linked videos), but it’s amusing to imagine a bidding war between two very well-dressed monocle-wearing and cigar puffing older gentlemen, whom we stereotypically associate with this kind of purchase, repeatedly raising their hand as the price soared.
Part of it is down to the fact that the W196 ticks all of the three boxes mentioned in the first paragraph: it’s not bad to look at, in a 1950s stripped out racing car kind of way, it was technically innovative back in its day (fuel injection, all-round independent suspension, spaceframe chassis and inboard brakes to name a few) and it was driven by somebody very famous, one of F1’s many “icon drivers.”
By Andrei Nedelea