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The day I felt Juan Manuel Fangio

The steering wheel is held tightly. The left foot steps on the clutch as the hand grabs the gear lever and puts it in gear. A good acceleration gets the car moving while the engine roars. Inside the cabin the noise is deafening due to the combination of the sound of the six cylinders and the chaperío that vibrates as the vehicle picks up speed. You feel like Juan Manuel Fangio, literally.

Juan Manuel Fangio
Photos: Guillemo Cejas.

Because that green vehicle with the 16 on its sides was once driven by El Chueco. That is why the respect in each maneuver, why the care not to make an extra move that threatens the integrity of the Chevrolet cupecita that Toto Fangio, Juan Manuel's brother, built to recreate the one who is the most important driver in Argentine motorsports. it led to victory in the 1940 International Grand Prix of the North. It is one of the 46 jewels that the Juan Manuel Fangio Museum has, which recalls the memory of the Quintuple and, at the same time, that of other glories of yesteryear.

The experience of driving this vehicle was unique and intense. It began with Juan, one of those responsible for taking care of the Museum units, acting as a driver on a brief tour around the main square of Balcarce. "This car has a particular story ... Toto Fangio put it together based on the one used by Juan Manuel, who later drove it in the film he starred in", he says in reference to the film "Fangio, a life at 300 per hour”(1971) directed by Hugh Hudson.

Juan Manuel Fangio
Fangio at the 1940 Northern GP.

That original cupecita, with which Fangio won his first race after passing through the roads of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru, also has its anecdote since it was the prize of a raffle that had been organized to raise the money to participate in that competition ...

The Chevrolet is immaculate. It is a shade of green that is rarely seen today. “Some say that the original was a little clearer, but the truth is anyone's guess. There are no color photographic records of that time ”, they clarify from the Juan Manuel Fangio Automobile Museum Foundation.

But let's get on with the car. The hood is fastened with leather ropes that go from side to side, in the left sector is the exhaust pipe, which has a protection against burning since it is located very close to the passenger door. The trunk lid was replaced by a canvas one to reduce weight. And for that same reason the huge bumpers that were used at that time were replaced by small metal fenders. The gums, finite ... Very finite.

Juan Manuel Fangio
The condition of the steering wheel clearly speaks of the great use of this ancient car.

At first glance, it is a street car with certain modifications. But everything changes inside. It has no coatings, so the black painted veneers can be seen. Instead of the rear seats there are two huge aluminum fuel tanks and at the bottom, where the trunk area is, there are two spare wheels close at hand. In turn, the crew seats have a very small backrest that reaches the middle of the back.

All these details do nothing but increase the admiration that one has for the pilots of that time, who with conditions that today sound unthinkable were encouraged to participate in tests that lasted several days and thousands of kilometers.

In order to make the experience of driving the Chueco coupe more emotional, the chosen setting was the local racetrack, which has never received national activity since November 13, 2011 when Guido Falaschi tragically passed away.

Juan gave the wheel without problems. "Come on, I'll wait for you here," he said. However, the respect for the tremendous machine made him get on as a companion to take the potatoes out of the fire if necessary (something that happily did not happen).

The pace of the test was that of those who want to enjoy a unique experience. For a few minutes, one felt like Fangio. Although of course, El Chueco would have gone much faster.





Automundo is the blog about news from the automotive industry, motorsport and the culture of the region. Director: Diego Durruty.

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