Fangio's Mercedes 300 SL retirement gift goes up for auction


The Mercedes 300 SL given to Juan Manuel Fangio as a retirement present is now being sold on behalf of his family

Juan Manual Fangio's Mercedes 300 SL a gift from Mercedes

Fangio's prize Mercedes 300 SL is going up for auction

RM Sotheby's

The stunning Mercedes 300 SL given to Formula 1 legend Juan Manuel Fangio as a retirement present from Mercedes, and described by his nephew as his uncle’s “preferential” car, is going up for auction.

The – almost – priceless convertible, finished in metallic light blue with cream leather seats, was gifted to the Argentinian by the Stuttgart marque upon his retirement from racing in 1958 for his key role in putting it on the post-war motor sport map by winning two F1 drivers’ titles in ’54 and ’55.

RM Sotheby’s are now auctioning the car on behalf of the family from February 28 to March 6. Whilst no estimate has been given, a 300 SL Gullwing recently sold for almost $7m (£5.1m). It’s possible a 300 SL with such a provenance as this could go for even more.

The French Grand Prix; Reims, July 4, 1954. At this race Mercedes introduced their new streamlined W196 Grand Prix cars. The new machine was victorious in this its first outing, with Juan Manuel Fangio, seen here in the ultra-fast right hand bend after the start/finish line, the easy winner ahead of his colleague Karl Kling and the privately-entered Ferrari of Robert Manzon. To some motor racing observers, it was almost as if Mercedes had come back right where they had left off in 1939. Lying on the ground right at the apex, Klemantaski captures Fangio's concentrational sangfroid perfectly. (Photo by Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images)

Fangio won 24 world championship grands prix, 8 of them for Mercedes

Klemantaski Collection/Getty Images

The five-time world champion was presented with his car at The Dorchester Hotel in London on his 47th birthday (June 24), and instantly became one of his most prized possessions.

Fangio wasted no time in putting the 300 SL through its paces, immediately setting off on a driving tour of Europe in the car with his girlfriend Andrea Berruet, in fulfilment of his role as an ambassador for the Mercedes. He can be seen at the wheel of the 300 SL pulling up alongside a Maserati 250F before driving the latter in a demonstration film made at Modena Autodromo.

From the archive

The rarefied roadster would carry on doing the rounds with Fangio until it was shipped to – as a ‘trophy’ to avoid car import tax – Argentina in 1960. Once back in his home country the car was well used, eventually clocking up 72,000 km (45,000 miles) with nearly all of them driven by Fangio as he toured South America, helping Mercedes raise its profile on the continent as it opened new dealerships.

The car would then re-enter the spotlight when the former F1 star used it to chauffeur the 1978 ‘Miss World’ Silvana Suárez on her parade in Buenos Aires after being crowned.

The Argentinian campaigned the 300 SL in 1000 Millas endurance race twice before it was then retired to the Juan Manuel Fangio Museum in his hometown of Balcarce, where it was put on permanent display from 1986.

“That car marked my childhood, it is a car that awakened special feelings in me,” said his nephew and fellow, Juan Manuel Fangio II. “That car identified my uncle after his retirement. It occupied a preferential place among all the vehicles he had, not only because of the characteristics it had, but also because of the importance it gave having been a gift from Mercedes-Benz.”

The 64-year-old SL is in remarkably good condition, whilst still bearing all the hallmarks of use by an F1 champion in retirement. It has a different gear knob – installed by Fangio – and UPPI sticker, a pre-cursor to the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association.

It still has the original engine, body, gearbox, differential, hood frame and hardtop, as well as the suitcase used by the F1 champion on his travels, the scuff marks where his knee would rub against the dashboard still visible.

Juan Manuel Fangio's Mercedes 300 Sl

The car retains its original interior


Whoever buys the car will be its second-ever owner, after the Fangio family itself.