Record price for Fangio’s Silver Arrow.
A final last-minute bid.
When lot 320 was called out, reverent silence fell upon the tent of Bonhams the auctioneers. The vehicle drew so much attention prior to the auction that Robert Brooks, automobile fan and member of the Bonhams’ Board of Management, took charge of the auction hammer. Even John Lennon’s Ferrari which fell under the hammer beforehand was no match for the Mercedes-Benz W 196 R Silver Arrow, the original winning car driven by Juan Manuel Fangio from 1954. Sorry, John! As – not only – the world of experts expected a record sale, bidding began at 3.5 million pounds (around 4.05 million euros) and increased in steps of 500,000 pounds. Bidding reached double figures very quickly and when a new (telephone) bidder joined in at 15 million pounds, a murmur spread through the tent. Until then two other telephone bidders had been having a neck-and-neck race.
At the 16-million-pounds mark there was a longer pause; auctioneer Brooks called “last chance” and a new bidder joined in at 16.5 million pounds.
Appreciation for historic vehicles with a star.
The thriller ended shortly afterwards at 17.5 million pounds: a new auction record for a vehicle and the topic of conversation at the anniversary of the Goodwood Festival of Speed at which the auction took place. The anonymous bidder who joined in shortly before the end won the bid, paying a total of 19.6 million pounds (22.7 million euros). “The result of the auction just shows the extraordinary appreciation that historic Mercedes-Benz vehicles enjoy in collector’s circles,” said a delighted Michael Bock, Head of Mercedes-Benz Classic. “We congratulate the unknown bidder on his purchase and – if required – would be happy to support him during the next steps.” He hopes that the owner appreciates the historic importance of this cultural treasure enough to make it accessible to the general public.
“Is that the Silver Arrow for 22 million?”
The increased interest in vehicles with a star was apparent at the very latest on the day after the record auction. Whilst Paul Stewart, starting for Mercedes-Benz in the sister vehicle of the W 196 R joked with typical British humour (“If I had the money, I would have bid too”), the first fans were coming forward in the Mercedes-Benz Formula 1 Paddock and asking: “Is that the Silver Arrow that was auctioned yesterday?”
No it was not. However this did not stop British motorcycle racing legend, Stuart Graham, from taking a seat in the W 196 R of which he has a 1:8 scale model at home.
Detailed manufacturer’s expert assessment.
“We are in possession of six of the ten Silver Arrows of this type that still exist”, Michael Bock explained to journalists beforehand. He estimates that the new owner will have to invest a high six-figure amount of money in order to restore the car which bears the vehicle identification number 006/54 to a roadworthy state. In principle the Silver Arrow is in the same state as in 1973 when it was donated by the then Daimler-Benz AG to the National Motor Museum in Beaulieu in England which then sold it to a private collector in 1980. The authenticity of the vehicle was proven by a detailed manufacturer’s expert assessment for which Mercedes-Benz Classic examined the vehicle and researched and documented its history in detail – which most probably contributed towards increasing the value of the vehicle.
“Priceless in fact.”
The 120-page manufacturer’s expert assessment contains a diverse range of documents (details such as the weather during operation on 1 August 1954 at the German Grand Prix at the Nürburgring which was stated as being “dry, cool”), inventory cards, technical data sheets, pictures and posters showing Silver Arrow victories as well as press releases and reports. It also includes “design ideas” originating from Fritz Nallinger, member of the Board of Management for development and the deed of donation dating back to 1973. The active racing career of the W 196 R ends with the memo “Vehicle was run, preserved and stored for transport on 9.12.1955”. In view of the successes which Juan Manuel Fangio achieved with the car, Mercedes-Benz brand ambassador, Hans Herrmann, then a team colleague of Fangio, Moss and Kling, believes the vehicle to be “priceless in fact”.
His former team colleague, Sir Stirling Moss, puts the whole thing into perspective: “The state of the Silver Arrow is shocking.” Does he think that the new owner will take better care of the vehicle? “It would be enough, if he kept it dry,” joked the British racing icon.
“Shifting the gears lovingly.”
In contrast, automotive treasures are in the very best hands possible when in the care of the mechanics at Mercedes-Benz Classic. This is proven by the Benz “Prinz-Heinrich” car from 1910, one of only two authentic examples of the car still in existence. After being restored for two years, it started several times at Goodwood and was driven by Dutch collector Ewert Louwman, who has the second surviving and recently restored vehicle in his collection. What is the challenge involved in driving this elegant special touring car which many experts consider to be the first true sports car ever? “Little braking and shifting the gears lovingly.” “It is easily steered but you have to be at one with the engine and pay attention to the ignition when going uphill,” recommends Louwman. The Dutchman goes into raptures about the “dancing valves”: “It is like a piano’s keys.”
Star at the stand: the SLS AMG Electric Drive.
At the Festival of Speed, visitors could find spry contemporaries of the Prinz-Heinrich car in the “Cathedral Paddock”: the Mercedes Grand-Prix racing car from 1908 and the 60 hp Mercedes-Simplex from 1903 were prepared for their attempt at the energy-sapping hill climb here. Those who wanted to experience the current Mercedes-Benz vehicle models visited the stand in the vehicle exhibition and took a seat in the new S-Class or the AMG versions of the A-Class, CLA and CLS Shooting Brake which staff lovingly freed from the smallest amount of fluff with a duster. A popular bonus for customers: anyone who had a Mercedes-Benz key on their person could obtain a place in the AMG grandstand with the best view of the racing track from the “Keyholders Club”.
The blue shimmering, highly visible SLS AMG Electric Drive reigned in the middle of the well-visited stand – in Goodwood it could only score visually and of course with its fuel consumption and emission values. It would probably have been too quiet for the racing track ...
Goodwood Festival of Sound.
In actual fact, the Festival of Speed should probably really be called the Festival of Sound. The noise of chugging, roaring and rattling is everywhere. The public cheered every loud test run frenetically and experts differentiated skilfully between the hissing of the turbine vehicles and the whip-cracking sound of backfiring. Most probably almost no one would have wanted to change places with the four marshals standing at the starting line who were sending the cars on to the track every minute.
What are the additives which provide for the biting smell from the exhaust on old motor sport veterans such as the W 154 Silver Arrow from 1938? Ethanol, Benzene ... it doesn't really matter; the main thing is that there is a lot of smoke and noise. You don't need to have petrol in your veins to get your money's worth at Goodwood - but it really helps.
Appearances by Lewis Hamilton & Co.
On Saturday Charles Gordon-Lennox, alias the Earl of March and Kinrara – known here to everyone as Lord March – received a somewhat unexpected yet equally appreciated co-host: the sun, which shone constantly from then on and turned the festival on Lord March’s motor sport-friendly estate into a family festival for picnicking. At the same time, the historic vehicles received some serious competition in the struggle for attention and enthusiasm: the current Formula 1 racing cars. The number of celebrities increased in the Prestart Area: Nick Heidfeld (the present track record-holder at Goodwood with 41.6 seconds), Sergio Perez and of course Lewis Hamilton who started on the track in his Silver Arrow. A collector himself, the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS driver has five classic cars in his garage.
However he felt that the price for which Fangio's Silver Arrow, the pre-predecessor of his own racing car, was sold at the auction on the previous day was 'madness': “It is an unbelievable car, but that is a huge amount of money”, the Briton commented.
A popular picture: the very first car.
However much enthusiasm there is for Formula 1, the first automobile, Carl Benz's Patent-Motorwagen from 1886, a replica of which was exhibited in the paddock, still enjoys unbroken fascination. Even young girls wanted to take a seat in it for a souvenir photo – and their mothers listened spellbound to the story of the first long-distance journey that Bertha Benz undertook together with her sons in 1888.
In the meantime, cars of the future such as hybrids, electric cars and drive systems with fuel-cell technology started in the 'Michelin Supercar Run'. At no other place can past, present and future be found so close together as at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. See you in 2014!