The W 196 R was the first formula racing car built by Daimler-Benz after the war. Following their pre-war success, no one doubted that Daimler-Benz would return to formula racing. The first entry of the new W 196 R in the French Grand Prix at Reims ended with great success: Drivers Juan Manuel Fangio and Karl Kling would score a double victory. The next entry at Silverstone, however, was less successful, probably due to the streamlined body which was unsuitable for that track. This experience resulted in the development of the open wheel 'monoposto' body. Subsequently, various versions of the car were manufactured with different wheelbases, engine displacement, and braking system configurations.
The W196 was the Racing World Champion of 1954 and again in 1955. It dominated Formula One racing as few cars have or since. It was a complete departure from previous Grand Prix cars and revolutionized racing engine design with a valve system that used positive control of valve operation without valve springs. This system prevented fluttering and thus higher RPM. Another unusual feature was the power takeoff by means of gears in the middle of the crankshaft between the fourth and fifth cylinder, which considerably improved the elasticity of the engine.
The car featured here was driven in the monoposto form by Fangio to victory in the Grand Prix of Buenos Aires. Sir Stirling Moss piloted the car in streamliner configuration at the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.
The fuel-injected 2496cc normally aspirated 290 horsepower straight eight W196 changed the face of Formula 1 overnight and signaled Mercedes-Benz's return to a championship level in international grand prix competition. It made history as Mercedes-Benz's first Formula 1 racer and first F1 World Champion's mount. In just a season and a half, Mercedes-Benz racers took the streamlined W196 and its open-wheel 'slipper' bodied sister ship to nine World Championship victories in 12 races led by 5-time World Champion Juan Fangio and teammates Stirling Moss, Hans Herrmann, Karl Kling and Piero Taruffi.