Highest price ever for car sold at auction

Ex-Fangio Mercedes-Benz Silver Arrow F1 car sells for $30-million (CDN)

Published: July 15, 2013, 1:00 AM
Updated: November 22, 2021, 4:03 PM

Mercedes-Benz W196, Juan Manuel Fangio

A record was broken this weekend at the Bonhams Goodwood Festival of Speed auction in England, when the car that took five-time World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio to the second of his Formula 1 world titles was sold for £19,601,500 (about $30-million (CDN)).

It is believed to be the highest price ever paid for a car at auction, obliterating the previous record of £10,086,400 ( about $15.4-million (CDN)) for a Ferrari Testa Rossa in 2011.

It may not be the most expensive car sale ever, however, as it has been reported – but not confirmed – that the Mullin Museum, in Oxnard, California, spent about $40 million in a private transaction for a 1936 Bugatti in 2010.

This W196 is the very car in which Fangio won both the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prix races – chassis number 00006/54. It was the first open-wheeled post-war Mercedes-Benz car to win a Formula 1 race and those victories were the first two to be achieved in succession by the Mercedes-Benz factory Formula 1 team in its post-war racing comeback.

The ground-breaking W196 introduced such technologies as fuel injection and desmodromic valve actuation on its 2.5-litre straight-eight, ‘lay-down’ engine. New Grand Prix regulations for 1954 prescribed normally-aspirated engines of no more than 2.5-litres engine capacity.

Other pioneering features of the W196 included all-independent suspension, a multi-tubular, lightweight space frame, inboard-mounted brakes all around, and a power take-off from the centre of the engine’s long crankshaft to minimize vibration.

Mercedes-Benz, which had dominated pre-war Grand Prix racing from 1934-to-39, missed the first two rounds of the 1954 World Championship in Argentina and Belgium. They showed up at the French Grand Prix at Reims-Gueux with the all-new W196 cars enveloped in ‘Stromlinienwagen’ streamliner body-work.

Fangio and his team-mate, Karl Kling, finished first and second in both qualifying and the race. But Fangio found the enclosed wheels difficult to place at the subsequent British Grand Prix at the twistier Silverstone circuit,so he asked for an open-wheeled variant for the German Grand Prix at the notorious Nurburgring track. Thus came about chassis ‘00005’ and ‘00006’. Fangio won with both

It was in chassis ‘00006’ that Fangio won in Germany and again at the Bremgarten forest circuit at Berne, Switzerland, assuring him of his second Drivers’ World Championship and solidifying the car's pedigree.

The identity of the car's new owner was not revealed.