The great Argentine Formula 1 champion Juan Manuel Fangio is remembered as one of the most charismatic and talented drivers of the 20th Century, but back in the Fifties that wasn’t necessarily enough to make a living. As soon as he retired in 1958 he went back to his day job as a car dealer (he’d spent the War with a GM dealership), opening a new Mercedes-Benz franchise. Still in business today, Fangio was active at Fangio Concesionarios through his death in 1995.
In 1987, 17-year-old Martin Varrone was working a soda delivery route in the Buenos Aires suburb of Palermo, where one of his stops was at the Fangio household. As he tells it, Varrone grew close to the family, and six years later when he wanted to start his own delivery and trucking company Fangio extended him the credit to buy his first vehicle.
Over the next decade Varrone bought 17 Mercedes trucks from Fangio Concesionarios, and spent a lot of time in the dealership, where they had an old Mercedes-Benz 170SD delivery wagon filled with assorted ancient parts, rusting away. After years of negotiation Varrone acquired it, even tracking down one of Fangio’s old delivery drivers. With the help of his friends in the Fangio family, Varrone restored it to its 1954 specifications, and it’s been displayed in a museum since.
Varrone tried to sell it at Silverstone Auctions in 2014 with a £60,000 – £80,000 ($97,545 – $130,060) estimate, which usually means a $97,545 reserve; it was a no-sale. Now Bonhams, who does pretty well with old Mercedes, is giving it another shot at the Goodwood Members’ Meeting on March 20th. Someone over there talked some sense into the seller, and the estimate is way down to $65,000 – $72,000, which is where pricing on that Platinum Nissan Titan starts. You know, if you’re comparison shopping for a delivery vehicle. Because only one of them is going to depreciate.