The Mercedes Simplex 50 HP was launched in March 1902. The suffix 'Simplex' was intended to indicate how easy the new model was to drive. The previous model, the Mercedes 35 HP, marked the end of the carriage style that had dominated the industry; the 40 HP is now considered to be the first modern motorcar, especially in the world of motorsport. The pioneering British racer, E.T. Stead drove a 40 HP to first place in the 1902 La Turbie Hillclimb near Nice, reaching speeds of more than 60 mph and beating Georges Lemaitre and Wilhelm Werner, who were driving similar models.
This car, delivered to its first owner in March of 1903, is one of the oldest Mercedes in the world. It has taken part in the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run on several occasions.
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
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