Juan Manuel Fangio
Pieced Together Own Race Car
At 16, Fangio took part in his first race, riding as a mechanic in a Plymouth driven by one of Viggiano's customers. Fangio didn't get to the racetrack the following year because he was sick with persistent pneumonia and spent much of the year in bed. He left Balcarce in 1932 to serve his mandatory military duty.
When Fangio returned, he and his brother, Toto, opened their own garage. During the day, Fangio repaired other people's cars. At night, he worked on his own. Finally, in 1936, Fangio made his racing debut driving a modified taxi, basically a six-cylinder Ford engine fastened to a rusty chassis. Fangio's first races took place on Argentina's infamous dirt-road tracks.
"My mother disapproved of my racing at first, but not my father, though he did not encourage me," Fangio recalled in the book about him.
There's no doubt why Fangio's vocation scared his mother. Argentina's primitive dirt tracks-known as killing fields—offered crowds a spine-tingling spectacle at the cost of many lives. The main problem was the dust, so heavy at times the drivers couldn't see.
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