Bonhams made automotive history at the Goodwood Festival of Speed Sale today, when the car that took five-time champion Juan Manuel Fangio to the second of his Formula 1 world titles achieved a record-breaking figure of $29.5m. The auction as a whole realised $53.6m to become the highest-grossing auction of motor cars in Europe.
The ex-Fangio car becomes the most valuable motor vehicle ever sold at auction, beating the previous record of $16.4m set by a Ferrari in 2011.
Robert Brooks, Bonhams Chairman, said: “It was a personal privilege to preside over the sale of the Mercedes-Benz W196, which is not only one of the most significant motor cars of the 20th century, but also the most important historic Grand Prix racing car ever offered for sale.”
Doug Nye, racing historian, said: “If he were here today Fangio would shake his head and smile his slow smile. He was a humble man, originally a mechanic from a potato town in Argentina – and he never forgot his roots. As a driver, he was simply a genius. As a man he had no enemies. He was universally loved, even by those he regularly beat on track. No standard-setting sportsman could have a better epitaph.
“Mercedes has long been recognised for the world-class quality of its products and in 1954/55 they set out to rebuild their reputation for automotive excellence post-war. With this W196 and its sports car sisters they did just that… and how!”
Bonhams also set a new world record highest price for a Maserati at auction, when a 1955 300S Sports-Racing Spider sold for $6.1m. The previous record was $3.5m set in 2012.
The result means Bonhams now holds the world records for the following marques at auction: Aston Martin ($4.9m), Bentley ($7.9m), Maserati ($6.1m), Mercedes-Benz ($30m) and Rolls-Royce ($7.3m).
The sale took place before a packed audience of more than 1,000 people in the marquee, with bidders from 32 countries around the world taking part.