These days the name Silver Arrows conjures up instant thoughts of Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton, Ross Brawn and questionable tyre ware. However, 60 years ago Mercedes’ thoroughbred racing division was all about one man and one car; the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio and his all-conquering 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Formula One Silver Arrow.
The man, originally a humble mechanic from a potato-growing town in Argentina, is already firmly cemented as one of the true icons in the history of motor racing, thanks to his relentless domination of Formula One, winning 5 world championships along the way. Now, quite rightly, the machine that delivered him safely through the peril and regularly fatal carnage of 1950’s Formula One has sealed its very own place in automotive history, becoming the most valuable car ever sold at auction.
At £19,601,500 the W196R almost doubled the previous record for a car sold at auction, held by a 1957 Ferrari 250 TR Prototype and didn’t fall too short of the record for a privately sold car set back in 2012 by Sterling Moss’s 1962 Ferrari GTO at £22.8 million.
As if that wasn’t enough, the 1954 Silver Arrow has also scooped the joints honours of most expensive F1 car ever sold and most valuable Mercedes-Benz in the world.
The 2.5 litre straight-8 W196R is certainly no stranger to the limelight, propelling Fangio to back-to-back race wins at the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prix, the first achieved by the re-emerging Mercedes Formula One team in its post-war racing comeback. Its frontier-pushing design also earned it great plaudits, heralding the entrance of fuel-injection, the tubular spaceframe lightweight chassis and the in-line 8 cylinder engine layout to Formula One.
Undoubtedly, the Mercedes W196R is a car whose history alone justifies its somewhat hefty price tag. And it doesn’t even have DRS…