Sold for $2,805,000 at 2016 Bonhams
The Daimler-Benz history traces back to 1886 with the introduction of the Patent Motorwagen, which is universally considered the 'birth of the automobile.' As time progressed, the Patent Motorwagen began to look dated, especially alongside the Panhard et Levassors of France, which had a very successful early motor racing career.
New ideas quickly replaced old ones, and Daimler struggled to stay relevant. They introduced the first mass-produced four-cylinder and an inline eight-cylinder engine which consumed his capital, forcing him to accept investors. After disagreements, engineer Wilhelm Maybach soon left. Within a year, even Daimler left his eponymous company. Within three years, the two were persuaded to return, along with Paul and Adolf Daimler, Gottlieb's sons, who gradually took over his responsibilities.
Emil Jellinek was the agent to the southern region of France. At Nice on the Cote d'Azur he presented a new Cannstatt built Daimler, but due to ongoing battles over the licensing of the Daimler-Phoenix engine in France, he decided to present it under a different name - the name he chose was 'Mercedes.' Thus, at Nice, in March of 1901, Jellinek introduced a 'new' automobile.
A year later, Maybach introduced a redesigned series of Mercedes cars which were named Mercedes-Simplex. They had several important improvements and upgrades including having a lighter engine and improved cooling.
By 1906 Mercedes had its own showroom in Times Square where it was represented by the company's longtime agent, William Steinway of the piano-making family. There were five models, ranging from 18/22hp to a 60hp model. Maybach continued outfit the cars with lightweight engines which greatly improved their performance, when compared with similar vehicles from other obese competitors.
The four-cylinder T-head engines were backed by 4-speed manual transmission in unit with the differential on the cross-shaft to the double rear wheel drive chains.
The cars lightweight persona, performance attributes, and luxurious amenities had an equally impressive price tag, which was achievable only by the wealthy and elite in society. An example such as this particular car was priced at more than 20,000 marks in Germany, which equated then to roughly $7,500, a sum which would have bought you 8 Cadillacs at that time, or 3 Packards or Wintons. Nevertheless, more than 1,500 Mercedes-Simplex were sold in this era. However, it is believed that only 20 pre-1905 Mercedes of all models exist in modern times, and just 6 of which are of this larger model size.
This particular example is a 28-32HP Five Seat Rear Entrance Tonneau. It was commissioned by Emil Jellinek on July 24, 1903 for delivery to the British Agency J.E. Hutton Ltd on London's Shaftesbury Avenue. Their client was Richard Bayly of Plymouth, in the Southwest of England. It was given a body by Messrs. Thrupp & Maberly.
The car has a history which is known from new. It was registered new with the local Devon County Council license plate 'T 136', as the 136th car registered in that area. It is understood that the Bayly family kept the car until 1908, and that by the outset of the war it was out of use and was donated to the War Department for military use. It is believed that after the Great War of 1914-1918, the car returned from the Western Front in France to one of a series of vehicle depositories located near Plymouth. There it was sold by the War Disposals Board to a local farmer.
It was discovered there in the 1970s by a Veteran Car enthusiast. At the time, the car still had its commission plate on the dash toe-board. Its discoverer, Oliver Gray acquired the car at this point and set about restoring the Mercedes. The project progressed slowly over the next decade. Mr. Gray carefully constructed a new four/five seater body of the type frequently fitted to these cars. It was not until 1983 that the car was 'fired-up' and returned to the road.
Mr. Gray regularly campaigned the car, competing on many London to Brighton Veteran Car Runs and always completing the event. In the late 1990s with his age advancing, Mr. Gray made the decision to part with the Mercedes. It was presented at a Brooks (Bonhams) auction in April 1999 when it passed to the Corner Family. In their care, the car received refurbishment once again and was exercised frequently, attending London to Brightons and other events associated with the marque as its Centenary and other anniversaries for the brand took place in this era.
In the last few years, ownership has passed to its present custodian. It was given a full mechanical refreshing. The car has continued to be used, including a handful of London to Brighton Veteran Car Runs, two Gordon Bennett reenactment runs and other 'Brass Era' car events.
The car is finished in Royal Blue with deep red button back leather upholstery, and is fitted with large brass accoutrements.By Daniel Vaughan | Nov 2016
Production of the Mercedes Simplex lasted from 1902 through 1909. The vehicle was a continuation of the impressive Mercedes 35hp car of 1901, and brought with it an increase in technology and design. The Mercedes Simplex was designed by Gottlieb Daimler's chief designer, Wilhelm Maybach. The early Simplex models were powered by a Model 40/50 hp four-cylinder, water-cooled engine. They were lightweight internal combustion engines and powered the world's first motorcycle. Their design was very versatile, and could be adapted to land, water, and air vessels. Top speed was in the neighborhood of 80 km/h for the early cars. A World Speed Record was set in 1904 at 97.25 mph in a Simplex.
The design was very advanced and the body sat much lower compared to other vehicles on the road. This, coupled with a wider wheelbase, made the Simplex safer and sportier and improved the vehicles handling. Located in the front was a honey-comb designed radiator which gave the vehicle a unique appeal. There was a four-speed transmission with a spring-pressure clutch. The elegantly designed bodies sat atop a steel frame.
The Simplex was a civilized vehicle suited for touring motorists. It was comfortable and refined, yet its sporty characteristics made it suitable for competition. In 1901 the vehicles potential was demonstrated by Wilhelm Werner at the Nice Speed Trials and La Turbie hillclimb where it was driven to an overall victory. US billionaire and race-car enthusiasts, William K. Vanderbilt Jr., aided in the capturing of endurance records in the Mercedes-Simplex.
By Daniel Vaughan | Apr 2007