Rust spots, chipped paint and a totally worn interior: This Mercedes 300 SL Roadster is in a pitiful condition. Nevertheless, it is likely to be expensive, which is not only due to the prominent previous owner.
The connection between Juan Manuel Fangio and Mercedes-Benz is a very special one. No wonder: the Argentinian won two of his five driver's titles in Formula 1 in Silver Arrows: in 1954 and 1955. But the mutual respect was not limited to motorsport. Even before he became a Mercedes works driver, Fangio was trading in Stuttgart products in Buenos Aires; selling taxis was his specialty. He later set up an engine plant for the Swabians in his homeland and also acted as head of the Argentine Mercedes-Benz branch and as a brand ambassador for South America. In 1987 Mercedes-Benz appointed him Honorary President for life.
Although Fangio completed his final seasons for Mercedes rivals Ferrari and Maserati and won his last two world titles there, it wasn't the Italians, but the Swabians, who were generally notorious for being stingy, who gave him a special farewell gift: the record at the time -Champion was presented with a 300 SL Roadster, which was given a light blue metallic body and a cream-colored interior in a nod to Argentina's national colours. The car will soon be auctioned off by RM Sotheby's in the posh Swiss ski resort of St. Moritz as part of a private event.
One of Fangio's favorite cars
The history of open Swabia is well documented. The SL with the chassis number 198.042.8500083 was built in the Stuttgart-Untertürkheim plant in 1958 and presented to Fangio in London on the occasion of his 47th birthday. From there it went directly to a big European tour. It wasn't until 1960 that he went to Argentina. After "El Maestro" finally got his driver's license (he completed his entire career without official permission to drive a car on public roads), the Mercedes became one of his favorite cars. The experts at RM Sotheby's assume that Fangio was behind the wheel for almost all of the 72,951 kilometers driven and used this car in preference to his others. At least, numerous historical photos show him in the driver's seat of the light blue roadster.
The racing pensioner employed a mechanic who was responsible for maintaining the car, and he even sent him to Stuttgart so that he could learn the necessary tricks for handling the SL there. But the Maestro used it in wind and weather: if the conditions were good, he naturally drove the Mercedes with the top down. When the weather was bad, the hardtop was simply put on. Fangio is said to have used the car at various racing events, although this cannot be verified.
Chipped paintwork, rust, worn interior
The condition of the roadster today shows that it was by no means spared in Fangio's hands. The car is in exactly the same condition it rolled into the official Fangio Museum in its hometown of Balcarce in 1986; there it sat side by side with the Argentine's most famous racing cars. Many body parts have chipped paint and even rust, whereby the thoroughly worn and partly dirty interior is particularly pitiful. Here, according to RM Sotheby's, shows "all the wear and tear caused by the big man himself - including the spot where his knee collided with the lower dashboard while clutching the clutch". The gear knob retrofitted by Fangio himself, the case in the luggage compartment he used on his travels and the sticker referencing his membership in the "Grand Prix Drivers' Association" are still there.
In view of the unrestored original condition, it's no surprise that the attribute "matching numbers" applies here without restrictions. Whether chassis, body, engine, transmission or differential: nothing was exchanged, all these relevant parts are still those that were installed in 1958 in the Untertürkheim plant. Another fact that should make the SL particularly desirable is that whoever gets the bid in St. Moritz will only be the second owner of the car after the Fangio family.
The fact that this car is something very special is also illustrated by the unusual procedure in which RM Sotheby's auctioned off Fangio's 300 SL. There won't be the usual bidding competition: if you want the Roadster, you have to name the final price in advance, which is also handed over face down. The interested party with the highest bid is awarded the contract. An interesting process that unfortunately has one major disadvantage for us: the auction house will not publish the sale price.