This is the steering wheel out of a 1939 Chevrolet Turismo Carretera coupe, but it wasn’t just any old Chevy, this car personally belonged to Juan Manuel Fangio who is arguably the single greatest racing driver who ever lived.
Much later in the steering wheel’s life it made its way into the personal collection of Car and Driver Magazine writer David E. Davis, who then gifted it to Brock Yates. Yates was a fellow writer at the magazine, as well as a successful automotive author and the co-founder of the Cannonball Baker Sea-To-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash – the now infamous Cannonball Run).
Yates would later write and co-write a number of screenplays including Smokey and the Bandit II (1980) and The Cannonball Run (1981). Interestingly he had first intended to give the lead role in The Cannonball Run to Steve McQueen, who was both an actor and a skilled racing driver, though sadly McQueen was diagnosed with cancer and was unable to take the role. It instead went to Burt Reynolds whom Yates had met during Smokey and the Bandit II.
Juan Manuel Fangio – “El Maestro”
Juan Manuel Fangio is widely regarded as one of the greatest racing drivers of all time. Born in Balcarce, Argentina in 1911, Fangio’s rise to fame was meteoric. He competed in 52 Grand Prix races, winning 24 of them, and was Formula One World Champion five times between 1951 and 1957. He is often referred to as “El Maestro” or “The Master.”
Fangio’s career began in 1936 driving a humble 1929 Ford Model A that he had rebuilt for racing. He would soon switch to Chevrolet and become the Argentine National Champion in 1940 and 1941, followed by strong showings in some of the most iconic South American races of the era, like the Grand Prix Getúlio Vargas in Brazil which he won, and the Gran Premio del Norte which was a grueling 10,000 km (6,250 mile) event that traversed jungles, deserts, and snow capped mountain ranges.
Fangio would move to Europe in his late 30s, an age when many drivers have already retired, and began competing in Formula One. He defied the odds against him and handily beat the best drivers in the world, often while sliding his car around corners in a way that delighted spectators.
He won the Formula One World Championship of Drivers five times, a historic first and a record that would stand for another 46 years until it was beaten by Michael Schumacher. Though still to this day Fangio remains the only driver to win the Drivers’ Championship driving for four different teams – Alfa Romeo, Ferrari, Mercedes-Benz, and Maserati.
Fangio’s Steering Wheel
As noted above, this is the steering wheel from a 1939 Chevrolet Turismo Carretera coupe that was personally owned and driven by Fangio. It ended up in the ownership of David E. Davis who gifted it to Brock Yates when they were both writing for Car and Driver Magazine.
The plaque says:
“Juan Manuel Fangio, Five-Time World Champion, Used This Steering Wheel In His Own ’39 Chevrolet Turismo Carretera Coupe. I Pass It Along To You With Unbounded Gratitude And Affection.”
It’s now coming up for sale with Mecum in May, the steering wheel measures in at 17 inches in diameter and the listing notes that the wheel does have some markings due to age and wear, minor chipping.
If you’d like to read more about it or register to bid you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Mecum
Articles that Ben has written have been covered on CNN, Popular Mechanics, Smithsonian Magazine, Road & Track Magazine, the official Pinterest blog, the official eBay Motors blog, BuzzFeed, Autoweek Magazine, Wired Magazine, Autoblog, Gear Patrol, Jalopnik, The Verge, and many more.
Silodrome was founded by Ben back in 2010, in the years since the site has grown to become a world leader in the alternative and vintage motoring sector, with well over a million monthly readers from around the world and many hundreds of thousands of followers on social media.