Fangio’s Silver Arrow Race Car Captures Record $31.6 Mil at Auction

Argentine legend raced the Mercedes to F1 championship in 1954.

by on Jul.15, 2013

Juan Manuel Fangio scored an F1 world championship in this Silver Arrow - and launched a major Grand Prix comeback for Mercedes-Benz.

With the legendary Juan Manuel Fangio behind the wheel, the sleek Silver Arrow – a Mercedes-Benz type W 196 R Grand Prix race car — dominated the European motor sports circuit in 1954.  And now it has taken the checkered flag – make that the record auction bid – at this weekend’s Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale.

A so far unidentified telephone bidder came up with an offer of nearly 17.5 million British pounds – or $29.6 million – for the grand prix car, apparently the old post-war Silver Arrow that was in private ownership. When fees are added in, that boosted the price to $31.6 million, according to Bonhams, the British auction house that handled the sale.

Take the Checkered Flag!

The Silver Arrow was “the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale,” proclaimed Bonhams Chairman Robert Brooks.  While there might be some debate over that claim, there appears to be no dispute that the gavel came down on a record bid, at least at auction.  According to, the highest price previously gaveled in was the $16.39 million paid in 2011 for a 1957 Ferrari 250 TR prototype.

The W196R race car still bears some scars from the fateful 1954 race season.

However, the all-time record ever paid for a vehicle still appears to belong to a Ferrari. A 1962 GTO built for Sterling Moss reportedly claimed $35 million as part of a private sale last year.

Whether or not money is the ultimate arbiter of a vehicle’s value, there is no question the Fangio Silver Arrow was an important and historical automobile.  With the then 43-year-old Argentinian piloting it, the W196R took the checkered flag at the 1954 German and Swiss Grand Prixs and went on to win the Formula One World Championship. That also marked a successful return to F1 racing by the once-dominant Mercedes-Benz.

But the car also helped transform the way race cars both looked and were built in that era. Among its many innovations, the Silver Arrow introduced such breakthroughs as fuel injection, eight-cylinder engines and the tubular spaceframe chassis.

The car auctioned off over the weekend was stamped with chassis number 006/54, and is among 10 of the 14 originals produced still in existence.  Six are owned by Mercedes, another three survive in museums in Turin, Vienna and Indianapolis.  Fangio’s Silver Arrow was, in fact, once in the Mercedes family but in 1973 the car was donated to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu, England.  The museum sold the car seven years later,

Before the auction, the W196R was subject to extensive verification to ensure it was the historic vehicle claimed, and Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic, said the check-up “fully and unequivocally confirms the history and originality of the vehicle.”

That includes a number of dings and dents, perhaps even a few sweat stains in a grand old race car that looks like it might have just come off the track after claiming one final victory.

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One Response to “Fangio’s Silver Arrow Race Car Captures Record $31.6 Mil at Auction”

  1. Jorge M. says:

    That’s a very cool car and will make some collector very happy.

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