When do you ever have the opportunity to come face to face with one of the most famous racing drivers of all time and even take a seat behind the wheel of his Silver Arrow? This is not possible in the exhibition at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, but it is possible directly in front of the building.
Slightly to the side in front of the Museum, a two-part sculpture cast in bronze has stood since 2006, consisting of the life-size male figure of the five-time Formula One World Champion Juan Manuel Fangio and his legendary Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Silver Arrow – also in real size.
The sculpture corresponds to the actual size of the racing car and driver. Fangio has his right hand on the steering wheel and his helmet under his left arm. One foot stands on a deflector plate of the vehicle. His gaze is directed right into the eye of the beholder: It seems as if he is ready to get in and drive off at any time.
But Fangio does not get in. The racing driver allows his visitors to take a seat in the W 196 R from 1954/1955. The sculpture clearly shows how much people like to take advantage of this opportunity: the bronze around the entry and on the steering wheel is shiny from the many hands that have held it from all over the world. Hardly anyone misses this opportunity for a selfie or photo.
Juan Manuel Fangio wins a total of five World Championship titles with racing cars from four brands. In 1954 and 1955, he becomes Formula One World Champion with the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R racing car and thus leaves his mark on the second generation of Silver Arrows like no other driver.
Two versions of the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R racing car exist and are used depending on the race track: with free-standing wheels (as in the sculpture) for winding courses and with streamlined bodywork for high-speed tracks. The eight-cylinder in-line engine develops up to 213 kW (290 hp) from a displacement of 2,497 cubic centimetres and takes the racing car to almost 300 km/h. In Legend Room 7: “Races and Records”, the Mercedes-Benz Museum showcases both versions of this Silver Arrow as originals.
The artwork, which defies wind and weather at the Mercedes-Benz Museum, is a cast of a monument that stands at the Circuit de Catalunya racetrack in Barcelona, Spain. The work has been created by the Catalan artist Joaquim Ros i Sabaté on behalf of the Real Automóvil Club de Cataluña (RACC). The sculpture impresses, and DaimlerChrysler Classic at the time initiates further versions in agreement with the artist. Supporters of the project are the Fangio Foundation in Balcarce, Argentina, where Fangio was born, and as a further sponsor the oil company Repsol YPF (today: Repsol). The Spanish foundry Barberí makes five casts.
The legendary motor sportsman dies in Buenos Aires in July 1995 at the age of 84. Thus, all casts will be placed posthumously and in sites related to Juan Manuel Fangio: at the Nürburgring, in Monaco near the Rascasse curve, in Monza at the local Autodromo, in Buenos Aires in front of the head office of Mercedes-Benz Argentina – and at the Mercedes-Benz Museum. The sculpture is set up for the Museum’s opening in 2006.