‘Forgotten’ car expected to fetch $6.5 million

1954 Mercedes W196

A Formula One car that sat practically forgotten in a warehouse for almost three decades is expected to fetch nearly $6.5 million at auction.

The 1954 Mercedes-Benz W196, driven by five-time world champion Juan Manuel Fangio, is described as “one of the most significant motor cars of the 20th century.”

Fangio drove the 2.5 liter straight-9 Mercedes, seen above, to victory in the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prix races.

The iconic car contains many features which were innovative at the time, including a fuel-injected engine, lightweight chassis and improved brakes.

“The first time I saw this car I needed oxygen,” racing historian Doug Nye said. “It’s landmark technology and it was driven by a landmark driver.”

British auction house Bonhams unveiled the car Monday night and said it will put the German-made automobile under the hammer in July at the Goodwood Festival of Speed.

Bonhams would not comment on where the car was found.

It will be sold in its current condition with noticeable blemishes and dirt.

“What’s so special about it is that it has this wonderful, untouched patina,” Nye said. “Some people think it looks grotty – that’s not the point – the really rare cars today are the unrestored ones.

Juan Manuel Fangio driving the famed Mercedes W196 at the German Grand Prix in 1954.

Juan Manuel Fangio driving the famed Mercedes-Benz W196 at the German Grand Prix in 1954.

“Every car that’s restored has lost a part of its history because it’s been obliterated by repainting or by rebuilding,” he added. “Nothing’s been obliterated on this, it’s just a beautiful survivor.”

Auction house chairman Robert Brooks, in his fifth decade in the business, said it was the most exciting discovery he’d made.

“We’ve had a couple of cars that have made over 5 million (euros) and our thought is that this will exceed that,” he told The Daily Mail.

Brooks said that before it went into storage it had been recently run, and had run well.

“It’s complete, and essentially a trip back to the Mercedes-Benz works – which would be the perfect place to get the thing running again – would probably see it back on the track or on the road in demonstration,” Brooks added. “It’s all there to be put back together.”

Fangio dominated the first decade of Formula One racing, winning titles in 1951, 1954, 1955, 1956 and 1957. His record of five championships wasn’t broken until Michael Schumacher did it nearly half a century later.

Fangio’s dominance was evident in 1954 when he won eight out of the 12 races.

The Argentine was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in 1990 and died in 1995 at the age of 84.

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