Grand Prix Racer
Chassis Num: 15364
Engine Num: 19159
Mercedes-Benz made a victorious return to Grand Prix racing in 1914 with this 115HP racer, which had just one overhead camshaft and no front brakes but a strong and reliable chassis. Lightweight materials were used throughout, techniques they had learned from the history with aircraft engine construction.
The 4.5-liter single overhead cam engine had four valves per cylinder, the first Daimler-Chrysler product to feature two exhausts and two intake valves in a single combustion chamber. With this setup, the engine easily exceeded the 3000 RPM limit, making it the sole vehicle that could achieve this feat.
At the 1914 French Grand Prix held at Lyons, Mercedes achieved first, second and third place victories. Christian Lautenschlager won the French Grand Prix with the Mercedes race car. Grand Prix restrictions for 1914 included a 2,425 lbs. maximum weight and a 4500cc maximum engine capacity. The engineering team focused on its recent development of aircraft engines to create a lightweight, efficient motor. With wins in the 1914 French Grand Prix, the 1915 Indy 500 and the 1922 Targa Florio, the 1914 Mercedes GP ranks among the most significant racing cars ever built.
After the French Grand Prix, one of the cars was sent to England to become a showroom display. Just after arriving in England, World War One broke out. Rolls-Royce used the opportunity to carefully study the engine. A short time later, the Rolls-Royce Hawk engine was introduced.
Mercedes won first, second and third in the French Grand Prix at Lyon. This is the winning car, No. 28 driven by Christian Lautenschlager, a German who had previously won the 1908 French Grand Prix for Mercedes. After Lyons, the car was displayed in a British showroom. In 1920 the car was sold to wealthy racing driver Count Louis Zborowski who took it to Brooklands for several races. He sold it in 1922, and in 19223 its aging body was replaced with a touring body from a French Berliet. After several years it was parked in a garage in Essex, England, where it was discovered in 1961. In 1983, the current owner's acquired it and returned it to its proper 1914 condition.
Five of these Mercedes Grand Prix cars lined up among the 37 cars at the start of the French Grand Prix near Lyon on July 4th of 1914, just weeks preceding the First World War. After 4 of the 20 laps, this car, driven by Theodore Pilette, was out, and by the 6th lap only three Mercedes remained in the race. The German team was not so popular with the partisan French crowds who supported the French-built Peugeots and Delages. Yet the Mercedes cars finished in first, second and third, the first time this had occurred in racing history.
Racing team manager Alfred Vischer had transferred this car to the Grand Prix in Lyon to be kept in reserve in case any of the five starting Mercedes GP cars were unable to start. Since the entire Mercedes team went on to start the race on July 4, the reserve car was not called into action. Following the triple victory at the French Grand Prix, Vischer himself drove the reserve car back to Germany. A few months later, the car was sold into private ownership and later, via a stop in England, became part of the Cunningham Collection in the United States. The car was faithfully restored, true to its original appearance.
This vehicle is usually on display on the racing curve in the Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany. After being sold to a customer in 1919, it was bought back by Daimler in 1921 and driven by Mercedes factory driver Christian Lautenschlager at the Targa Florio in Sicily in 1922. In 1924, Count Giovanni Bonmartini drove the car to victory in the 1924 Corsa Merluzza hill climb near Rome, and thus concluded its legendary racing career in appropriate manner. Starting in the early 1930's, the car was being used in historic motoring events and remains in original condition.
The 1914 Mercedes-Benz Grand Prix car was a very advanced machine. It featured an engine with four valves per cylinder, and two exhaust and two intake valves in one combustion chamber. With this setup, the engine had a high RPM rate, with speeds exceeding 3000 revolutions-per-minute. The 4.5-liter powerplant offered 115 horsepower and the use of superior engine continued throughout the vehicle. Though mechanically advanced, it had a conservative and minimalistic design.
At the 1914 French Grand Prix held at Lyons, the Mercedes finished first, second and third. Just a short time later, World War 1 broke out.
By Daniel Vaughan | Sep 2012