- Presented in 1958 as a retirement gift from Mercedes-Benz to Juan Manuel Fangio, regarded by many as the greatest racing driver of all time
- Known to have been one of Fangio’s favourite cars, the car he chose for the final chapter of his career
- Driven by Fangio for over 70,000 km on tours of Europe and South America, perhaps the car he covered more distance in than any other
- Kept by Fangio throughout his later life before passing to his family
- Often used by Fangio for his Mercedes-Benz ambassadorial duties around South America
- Displayed at the Juan Manuel Fangio Museum in Balcarce, Argentina, since its foundation in 1986
- Finished in its factory-correct colour combination of Metallic Light Blue over its original Cream leather interior
- Highly original throughout with its matching-numbers body, chassis, differential, engine, gearbox, hardtop, and hood frame
- On museum display for 35 years and now offered for sale as an incredible and unique opportunity to become the second registered owner of a part of motorsport history
The affinity that Juan Manuel Fangio held with the motorsport community simply cannot be understated. From the most ardent of racing fans, to those actively involved in the sport either historically or in the present day, to casual enthusiasts who merely express an interest in the grid—Fangio, affectionately known to many as “El Maestro”, is widely recognised not only as one of the greatest drivers of all time, but also one of the most charismatic and popular.
The Argentinian dominated contemporary Formula 1 racing of his era, racking up five World Drivers’ Championship titles in the 1950s—two of those achieved driving for Mercedes-Benz, scoring consecutive seasons’ victories in 1954 and 1955 behind the wheel of the peerless W196. Given that Fangio’s stature remains strong even after he passed away over 25 years ago, all surviving artefacts that are connected either to the driver or to the Mercedes-Benz racing team of the era are incredibly significant bedrocks in the history of motorsport.
Precious remnants of the Balcarce-born driver’s celebrated life rarely surpass the magnitude of cars that the man is known to have driven. In a golden age of motorsport—when Fangio would go wheel-to-wheel on a regular basis with the likes of Alberto Ascari, Giuseppe Farina, Mike Hawthorn, Sir Stirling Moss, among many more—the Argentinian piloted some of the most important racing cars of all time, not limited to the aforementioned W196 further to the Maserati 250F, and Lancia-Ferrari D50A that he campaigned in his numerous title wins.
In many ways, though, this Mercedes-Benz deserves equal historical footing to any of El Maestro’s racing cars with which he forged his legacy, as it was this road car that he treasured and drove off with into his retirement years.
A SPECIAL CONNECTION WITH MERCEDES-BENZ
Fangio’s successful business career is rightly overshadowed by his extraordinary achievements in motorsport, but before he ventured over to Europe for his first Grand Prix during 1948, he had already risen from being a talented garage mechanic to a prominent car dealer with the GM franchise. In 1951, he recognised Mercedes-Benz’s post-war recovery and became the official dealer in Buenos Aires, making a small fortune from selling 170 “Gasoleros” to taxi drivers throughout the capital.
Presented as a retirement gift to Fangio from Mercedes-Benz in 1958, this Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Roadster is known to have been one of the driver’s favourite cars. Such was the driver’s popularity with the German automotive manufacturer and racing team, the gift came two years after he had left Daimler-Benz AG to join rivals Scuderia Ferrari, where he would earn his fourth Drivers’ title, and subsequently in the following year at Officine Alfieri Maserati, where Fangio would become a five-time world champion. The bond that Fangio had forged with Mercedes-Benz stayed true and the 300 SL Roadster was delivered in time for his 47th birthday. Received at Daimler-Benz AG at Malpensa, Italy, it marked his phenomenal achievements for the Stuttgart-based outfit in motorsport. Soon after, Fangio retired from Formula 1, calling time on a career in which he earned 24 victories out of 52 Grand Prix starts for a 46.15 per cent win ratio—an achievement that has never been surpassed. Additionally, his record with Mercedes-Benz resulted in Fangio winning two-thirds of the World Championship GPs that he entered and playing a major role in the company’s victorious performance in the World Sportscar Championship.
Finished in Metallic Light Blue over a Cream leather interior, the slender figure of the attractively designed 300 SL Roadster was an instant hit with Fangio. El Maestro is pictured on many occasions behind the wheel of the car with its roof down, while its matching-colours hard top can be equipped for driving in all weathers. Thanks to research by Mercedes-Benz Classic it has been discovered that this hardtop was provided by Mercedes-Benz after delivery but was still stamped by the factory with the correct body number; in addition it is believed that the headlamps were changed to U.S.-specification prior to export to Argentina, along with the steering box and kingpins. Further research by Mercedes-Benz Classic also revealed that this 300 SL was proudly displayed on the manufacturer’s stand at the 1958 Kopenhagen International Automobile Show.
Throughout its years of personal ownership as one of Fangio’s most treasured cars, the 300 SL was known to follow the driver around the world. It is believed that almost all of the 72,951 km currently showing on the odometer was accrued at the hands of Fangio. He received the car in England and immediately embarked on a driving tour of Europe with his girlfriend Andrea Berruet ensconced in the passenger seat, playing out his new role as an ambassador for Mercedes-Benz. One of the most memorable pieces of footage of Fangio is an “onboard” of him drifting a Maserati 250F at alarming angles around the Modena Autodrome; it is more than fitting that at the very beginning of the film, Fangio draws up alongside his 250F in this very 300 SL. This 300 SL would be used by Fangio for his Mercedes-Benz ambassadorial work in Europe up until 1960.
AN ARGENTINE HOMECOMING
Thereafter, Fangio worked with senior figures from the German marque to develop Mercedes-Benz’s market share in the driver’s native South America. The 300 SL Roadster was exported from Europe to Argentina—curiously, declared in the transfer as a “trophy” to circumvent contemporary taxes on bringing automobiles into the country—and Fangio would resume the ambassadorial role that he started in Europe, much of which was achieved from the behind wheel of this car.
First registered in Argentina in March 1960, care of this special 300 SL was entrusted to one mechanic whom Fangio sent to the Mercedes-Benz factory in Stuttgart in 1963 to learn all that would be necessary to maintain the sports car on the other side of the world. From the early 1960s, Fangio would continue to use the Roadster extensively throughout the next two decades. Fulfilling appearances at new Mercedes-Benz showrooms as the German company expanded its dealer network in South America, Fangio was known to travel between appointments in his beloved 300 SL. A national hero, the racing driver would also act as a famous representative for the state-run Argentine fuel provider, YPF, and would arrive at the opening of new fuel service stations in the car. Fittingly, YPF would later name a line of performance fuel after the driver, labelled “Fangio XXI”.
The easy open-top access of the car proved useful when Fangio’s compatriot, Silvana Suárez, was crowned “Miss World” in 1978 and paraded on the streets—perched atop the rear seats with Fangio at the wheel—on her successful return to Argentina. According to Luis Barragán, Fangio’s close friend and assistant, the great man and his 300 SL twice attended the 1000 Millas, a thousand-mile endurance race in Argentina, although it is not currently known whether he entered the race. Many of the most special memories of this car in Argentina are personal. As told by Fangio’s nephew, Juan Manuel Fangio II: ‘That car marked my childhood, it is a car that awakened special feelings in me. 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.’
Fangio’s efforts for Mercedes-Benz in South America were ultimately successful. While cars wearing the famous three-pointed badge are now commonplace in the region—ultimately, justifying his efforts—Fangio went onto become President of Mercedes-Benz South America in 1974 and was made honorary President for Life in 1987. Even 26 years on from his passing, Fangio’s influence with Mercedes-Benz is still evident today through the company’s evergreen relationship with compatriot Horacio Pagani. In 1986, as El Maestro approached his twilight years, this 300 SL was put on permanent display by the driver at the Juan Manuel Fangio Museum, located in his hometown of Balcarce, Argentina. The car stood pride of place in the museum collection for many years, displayed alongside many of the other significant cars that Fangio drove in his celebrated career.
Even without this 300 SL’s unique connection to the legendary driver, it would be regarded as a great survivor with remarkable originality. It retains its matching-numbers chassis, engine, body, gearbox, differential, hood frame, and hardtop. Most importantly, its original Cream leather interior, with all the wear and tear caused by the great man himself—including where his knee would have collided with the lower dash—is present. In addition, the interior features a unique gear knob fitted by Fangio, and a UPPI sticker, reflecting an organisation preceding to the Grand Prix Drivers’ Association of which Fangio was a founder member. In addition to this 300 SL’s unique story and remarkable condition, the next owner will be the second registered owner after the Fangio family.
After its prolonged museum sojourn, RM Sotheby’s Private Sales is honoured to present this incredible 300 SL Roadster for sale in an exclusive and rare opportunity to own this highly significant part of motorsport history. Preserved in the amazingly original condition in which the car was entrusted by Fangio to the museum that bears his name, the chance to own such a special car with a direct connection to one of motorsport’s true icons must not be missed. The car even carries the same cream-coloured suitcase in the boot that Fangio would have used on one of his picture-perfect drives across Argentina. This incredible 300 SL could easily be enjoyed just as Fangio did; with its open-top roof, engaging manual gearbox and straight-six 3.0-litre engine, or simply preserved as a perfect homage to El Maestro.