Juan Manuel Fangio
Developed Childhood Interest In Cars
Juan Manuel Fangio (FAHN-jee-oh) was born June 24, 1911, in Balcarce, Argentina, a town about 220 miles south of Buenos Aires. Fangio was the fourth of six children born to Loreto and Herminia Fangio, both of Italian descent.
As a child, Fangio excelled at boxing and soccer. Because he was bowlegged, Fangio's teammates called him "el chueco" or "bandy legs." The moniker was used affectionately throughout his racing career. By age ten, Fangio was so fascinated with cars that he spent his free time at a local garage volunteering to fetch tools for the mechanics.
At the age of 11, Fangio started up a car on his own for the first time and considered taking it for a spin. He described the moment in a book titled Fangio, noting "with my foot on the accelerator, I could call as much as forty horsepower into play. Had I dared I could have driven off and made two tons of metal answer my will."
By 13, Fangio had dropped out of school and was an assistant mechanic at Miguel Viggiano's Studebaker shop. In this way, Fangio learned racing from the inside out—he made friends with the internal combustion engine, learned what made it tick. At the shop, one of Fangio's duties was to deliver customers' cars from Buenos Aires to Balcarce. Driving Argentina's dirt roads, which were particularly treacherous in the rain, Fangio perfected his driving skills. Thus, the teenage Fangio was already learning the intricacy of driving in slippery conditions, a skill he would later become famous for.