RM Sotheby sells Fangio’s Benz

It’s commonplace for major auction houses to list a pre-sale estimate when they offer an atypically significant vehicle for sale, which usually means that the estimated selling price is in the milliions, and frequently gets exceeded when the hammer actually drops. This sale is different in a couple of ways: First of all, it’s not an auction in the usual public-bidding sense of that term, but rather a sealed-bid selling process that adds both anonymity and uncertainty to the drama. And when you consider the car being sold, the process makes sense. RM Sotheby’s is listing the 1958 Mercedes-Benz 300SL roadster that the manufacturer presented to Juan Manuel Fangio, the five-time Formula 1 world champion considered by many to be the greatest racing driver who ever lived, as a gift recognizing his retirement from competitive motorsport that year.

It was a fitting gift, given that Fangio won two of his five F1 titles consecutively while driving for Mercedes-Benz, and later became the marque’s lead business representative in his native Argentina. The 300SL later occupied a place of distinction in the Maestro’s personal museum in Buenos Aires, and is presented in as-used, untouched, unrestored condition, a totally complete but emphatically well-driven car. Its color scheme reflects the pattern of Argentina’s flag, right down to the cream leather interior, spiderwebbed by wear creasing and cracking to the hides. The sealed-bid process runs from February 28th through March 4th. For the record, RM Sotheby’s is offering pre-auction estimates privately to those deemed worthy to inquire. We’ll say this: The 300SL is essentially the open-top variant of the fabled Gullwing, and restored examples routinely command seven-figure auction prices. How much do you think an unrestored example, owned and driven by one of the greatest drivers in racing history, ought to command?

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