One of the most revered single-seaters of all time is to headline Bonhams' Goodwood Festival of Speed sale on 12 July.
In a special ceremony at the auction house's HQ last night, Bonhams chairman Robert Brooks unveiled the ex-Juan Manuel Fangio Mercedes-Benz W196.
The coup had been cloaked in secrecy and it was claimed that even some members of the Bonhams car department had no idea what was behind the curtain.
If no deal is struck before the sale, the W196 – which propelled Fangio to his second championship and won both the German and Swiss Grands Prix in 1954 – will become the first Mercedes Silver Arrow to come to public auction and insiders predict it will make £10-12million.
The last time it raced in public, chassis 00006/54 was track-tested at Monaco for C&SC by Willie Green – see the August 2000 issue for the full story.
Last night Brooks said: "From a personal point of view, this is one of if not the most exciting machine that we've had the privilege to offer.
"My motoring auction career spans five decades and I have been privileged to have handled some of the world’s most desirable and important motor cars. To handle the sale of this legendary W196 Grand Prix Car – the only one out of captivity – could well be the pinnacle."
Though rather overshadowed by the news of the W196, Bonhams also let slip that it will be selling another car with celebrity connections that could cause a stir.
The same sale will feature the ex-John Lennon Ferrari 330GT 2+2, which Bonhams was due to offer at its Grand Palais sale in 2011 before it was withdrawn. It is estimated at £180-200,000 but, given the frenzy over all Beatles memorabilia, that could prove to be on the low side.
Add to that a long-chassis Alfa Romeo 8C and a 1955 Maserati 300S with impeccable history – ordered by Briggs Cunningham and subsequently owned by Joel Finn and Thomas Bscher – and Bonhams looks set to shatter the record sale total it set last year.
What's more, there is to be another unveiling at the Goodwood press day tomorrow. We are vowed to secrecy until then, but if you are interested in British racing saloons then this is one of the most iconic ever, making the £90-120,000 draft estimate look very conservative. All is now revealed!