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1954 Mercedes-Benz W196R Streamliner

54 Mercedes W196 40

Of Juan Manuel Fangio’s five world driving championships, two came behind the wheel of the same model car, the Mercedes-Benz W196.

Following a successful return to auto racing in 1952 with the 300SL gullwing sports car, Mercedes-Benz turned its attention to the pinnacle of motorsports competition, grand prix racing.

A new set of rules calling for 2.5 liter, normally aspirated engines went into effect for the 1954 season, and the Mercedes designers’ and engineers’ creative interpretation of these new guidelines went on to produce one of the most successful race cars of all time.

The W196 featured a tube frame chassis with an eight-cylinder inline engine with desmodromic valve gear and direct fuel injection, five-speed gearbox and inboard brakes.

The most striking feature of the car on its debut, however, was its bodywork. Though the rules specified a single seat in the car, they said little else, and Mercedes designers challenged conventional wisdom by enclosing the wheels within a streamlined body for high speed tracks. This design would go to be called the “streamliner.” A second, exposed-wheel “monoposto” version was built for the more twisty courses with lower speeds.

Without grand prix experience for 15 years, the Mercedes team took its time building and developing the new cars and intentionally missed the first two races in 1954.

The Silver Arrows debuted in France at the Reims circuit where they sealed a one-two victory, and the streamlined speed machines finishing a full lap ahead of their breathless pursuers.

The silver masterpieces, of which 14, including a prototype, were built, drove its competitors to despair in the following two years.

The W 196 R’s final track record: nine victories and fastest laps, plus eight pole positions in twelve Grand Prix races, and Juan Manuel Fangio’s world championships in 1954 and 1955.

This car, chassis 00009/54, was raced by both Juan Manuel Fangio and Sterling Moss in 1955.

Fangio would race the car in its open wheel configuration at the Buenos Aires Grand Prix coming 2nd, and Moss would drive the car in its streamliner body at the Italian Grand Prix where he would turn the fastest lap of the race.

Daimler-Benz donated 00009/54 to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum on May 28, 1965. It was presented to Mr. Tony Hulman at the ‘Driver’s Meeting’ held on Saturday before the 1965 Indianapolis 500 Mile Race.

The streamliner is on gracious loan from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

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