1904 Mercedes-Simplex

The Mercedes, with its pressed steel frame, honeycomb radiator, mechanically operated inlet valves, gate-change gearbox and other advanced features was truly the fore-runner of the modern motorcar, and in its day was widely copied by manufacturers both in

The Mercedes, with its pressed steel frame, honeycomb radiator, mechanically operated inlet valves, gate-change gearbox and other advanced features was truly the fore-runner of the modern motorcar, and in its day was widely copied by manufacturers both in Europe and America.

If it was the “Sixty” which first established the marque as an international race winner, however it was the German factory’s less ferocious and more civilized models for the touring motorist which were destined to sweep aside all competitors and to advance the cause of automobilism in one giant leap. The man responsible for this was Daimler’s chief engineer, Wilhelm Maybach, and his original 1901 car first showed its paces to the public driven by Wilhelm Werner at the Nice Speed Trials and La Turbie hillclimb, where it took the victor’s laurels.

The new car had been built largely as a result of pressure put upon the Daimler factory by Emil Jellinek, a wealthy admirer of Daimler cars who had a seat on the board of directors since 1900. He was already acting as unofficial agent for Daimler cars, but since the company had sold its patents and the license to produce to Panhard et Levasor in France, its cars could not be sold using the Daimler name there.

Under the threat of legal proceedings from Panhard, therefore, Jellinek adopted his daughter’s name Mercedes, and so successful were the cars that Daimler adopted the Mercedes name as a new brand name for their products in 1902. From that first 35 hp La Turbie car, Maybach and Paul Daimler developed a whole new range of touring and competition cars like the 28/32 model pictured.

Factory records indicate that the car was supplied in 1904 through Jellinek and the Paris agent C.L. Charley destined for New York, and certainly it was in America when found by the late Peter Helck. It then passed to the Long Island Automotive Museum of the late Henry Austin Clark Jr., being swapped in 1953 for another car. It was then restored by Roland Beattie, who in 1956 met a previous owner, Otto Hammer, who had acquired it in 1915 from his employer, a prominent banker from whom he had acquired the car on his retirement as chauffeur. When acquired by Beattie, the car was missing bodywork, but is stated by Hammer to have been returned to the Daimler Manufacturing Co. of Long Island in 1907 for the chassis to be changed to accommodate a larger body by Healey & Co. of New York. Fortunately, Beattie found a suitable body from a De Dietrich and attributed to Brewster of Long Island, and that is the body the car now wears. The car has spent time on exhibition in the National Motor Museum, and has taken part in several Brighton Runs. This important Mercedes has recently been formally dated by The Dating Committee of the Veteran Car Club of Great Britain and the year of 1904 has been confirmed.

This is a magnificent multi-cylinder “Brighton” car, of which “Classic & Sportscar” said in 1991, “The truly amazing thing about it is that it’s so modern. Had Toad learned to drive on this Mercedes, he could climb into a current 560 and feel instantly at home.It’s easy to see why the Mercedes became the model on which all other motorcars from then on were based. Not only was it safer, faster, and more logical to drive it, it was also easier. Simplex indeed!”