Automotive

First Mercedes model to go under the hammer

The Mercedes-Simplex goes up for sale at the Quail Lodge Auction later this month
The Mercedes-Simplex goes up for sale at the Quail Lodge Auction later this month
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The Simplex can hit 65 mph
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The Simplex can hit 65 mph
This car has seen a broad and varied history of owners
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This car has seen a broad and varied history of owners
The car was restored in the 70s, and then again recently 
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The car was restored in the 70s, and then again recently 
The details on the car are beautiful, right down to the wheel nuts
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The details on the car are beautiful, right down to the wheel nuts
The blue paintjob came courtesy of the most recent owner
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The blue paintjob came courtesy of the most recent owner
The Mercedes name came from a dealer's daughter, and was used because Daimler was already taken
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The Mercedes name came from a dealer's daughter, and was used because Daimler was already taken
Compared to the wooden trim you get on modern dashboards, the polished metal Simplex is simply gorgeous
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Compared to the wooden trim you get on modern dashboards, the polished metal Simplex is simply gorgeous
The car was a successful racer in its day
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The car was a successful racer in its day
The chassis plate on the car has been polished to look like new
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The chassis plate on the car has been polished to look like new
The number plate on this car signifies it was one of the first on British roads
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The number plate on this car signifies it was one of the first on British roads
The Mercedes-Simplex goes up for sale at the Quail Lodge Auction later this month
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The Mercedes-Simplex goes up for sale at the Quail Lodge Auction later this month
With seating for five, the Simplex could be used to drive the kids to school in 2016
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With seating for five, the Simplex could be used to drive the kids to school in 2016
Passengers enter through the rear door, drivers get in through the side of the car
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Passengers enter through the rear door, drivers get in through the side of the car
Back in 1904, this is all people would've seen of the Simplex
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Back in 1904, this is all people would've seen of the Simplex
This was one of the first occasions where Mercedes was linked to luxury and speed
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This was one of the first occasions where Mercedes was linked to luxury and speed
Mercedes was the name of a French dealer's daughter
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Mercedes was the name of a French dealer's daughter
Power was shunted to the rear wheels through a chain drive
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Power was shunted to the rear wheels through a chain drive
These don't look like the sort of seats you'd find in a racer, but in 1904 they were the height of sophistication 
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These don't look like the sort of seats you'd find in a racer, but in 1904 they were the height of sophistication 
No, it's not a horse and cart, this is what cars used to look like 
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No, it's not a horse and cart, this is what cars used to look like 
The Simplex is expected to sell for more the $3 million at auction
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The Simplex is expected to sell for more the $3 million at auction
Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
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Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
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Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
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Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
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Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
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Some of the original documents describing the Simplex
The car's history can be traced all the way back to 1904, and did work in World Wars and on farms
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The car's history can be traced all the way back to 1904, and did work in World Wars and on farms
Even though it's fitted out like a living room, the Simplex will hit 65 mph
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Even though it's fitted out like a living room, the Simplex will hit 65 mph
The car has been restored multiple times over the course of its life 
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The car has been restored multiple times over the course of its life 
After just a year on sale, the Mercedes was made faster and lighter. The Simplex was born
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After just a year on sale, the Mercedes was made faster and lighter. The Simplex was born
The Simplex is finished in royal blue with red leather 
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The Simplex is finished in royal blue with red leather 
Power is put to the road through a four-speed manual gearbox
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Power is put to the road through a four-speed manual gearbox
The dials expected in a fast car have changed significantly in the last 112 years
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The dials expected in a fast car have changed significantly in the last 112 years
The four-cylinder engine powering the Simplex
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The four-cylinder engine powering the Simplex
With 32 hp, the car was a tearaway in its day
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With 32 hp, the car was a tearaway in its day
A look at the engine component numbers 
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A look at the engine component numbers 
Detail on the Mercedes-Simplex
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Detail on the Mercedes-Simplex
All the details on the car are beautifully wrought
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All the details on the car are beautifully wrought
The Simplex sits on elliptical leaf springs 
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The Simplex sits on elliptical leaf springs 
A look at the driving seat on the Mercedes-Simplex
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A look at the driving seat on the Mercedes-Simplex
The steering wheel on the Mercedes-Simplex from 1904
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The steering wheel on the Mercedes-Simplex from 1904
112 years later, the car still runs and drives
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112 years later, the car still runs and drives
A badge chosen from necessity has become one of the world's most recognisable
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A badge chosen from necessity has become one of the world's most recognisable
112 years later, the car still runs and drives
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112 years later, the car still runs and drives
Lighting, 1904 style
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Lighting, 1904 style

When Daimler created the Patent-Motorwagen in 1886, it was the height of sophistication. It didn't take long for that to change, as competitors quickly refined the formula set out by Gottlieb Daimler, so by the early 1900s the world's first automobile was looking like old news, and a replacement was needed. Out of a flurry of ideas came the Mercedes-Simplex, the first car to wear what would become one of the world's most recognizable names. We'll know what that's worth when a 1904 Mercedes-Simplex goes up for auction at the Quail.

Trouble in the ranks

The chassis plate on the car has been polished to look like new
The chassis plate on the car has been polished to look like new

After the success of the Patent-Motorwagen, Daimler needed to catch up with the crowd. Unfortunately, there was no quick or easy formula for how to do that at the time. The company splashed money around, trying to find that formula, to the point where investors were brought on board. These investors spelt trouble, and designer Wilhelm Maybach promptly left the project, followed by Gottlieb Daimler. Eventually both returned, along with Daimler's two sons.

The turning point in the Mercedes-Simplex's development came in the form of Emil Jellinek, a sales agent based on the French Riviera. Buyers had told him what they wanted, and he passed that information on to the Daimler design team, which took the requests on board. In 1901, the car was ready.

What's in a name?

The car was restored in the 70s, and then again recently 
The car was restored in the 70s, and then again recently 

Today, Mercedes is instantly recognizable as a giant of luxury motoring, but that wasn't the case in 1901. Instead, it was chosen out of necessity. In France, a licensing dispute meant Daimler badging couldn't be used on the new car, forcing the team to come up with the first example of badge engineering. Jellinek decided to keep it in the family, naming the new car after his daughter.

Thankfully, Simplex wasn't Jellinek's other daughter. After just a year on sale, Wilhelm Maybach made significant refinements to the car's engine, which cut down weight, improved cooling and delivered more power. Simplex was tacked onto the Mercedes name to reflect the changes.

Lighting quick... for 1904

The four-cylinder engine powering the Simplex
The four-cylinder engine powering the Simplex

It might be 112 years old, but the Simplex is still able to give modern speed limits a nudge. Flat out the car could hit 65 mph (105 km/h), thanks to a 5.3-liter four-cylinder engine churning out a staggering 32 hp (24 kW).

All this power was put to the road through a four-speed manual gearbox that was hooked up to the rear wheels with a chain drive. Suspension was a rudimentary elliptical leaf spring setup, and drum brakes were tasked with keeping the driver out of the weeds.

A shining example

Mercedes was the name of a French dealer's daughter
Mercedes was the name of a French dealer's daughter

As you'd expect of a 112 year old car, this particular Mercedes-Simplex has seen a few owners in its life. After originally being delivered to a wealthy British timber merchant, the car was donated to the UK's War Department in 1908. Having done service on the Western Front the car moved to a farm, where it stayed until the 1970s.

A chance conversation in the 1970s saw the vehicle sold on to Oliver Gray, who set about restoring it. Once it was up and running again, the car didn't just sit idle in a garage. Instead, it was frequently used in period rallies right up until 1999, at which point it was sold to a family of well-known car collectors.

Since 1999, Mercedes-Simplex #2406 has changed hands one more time. The most recent owner has treated it to a mechanical refresh, along with the new Royal Blue exterior and red leather seating.

Bonhams is expecting it to sell for between US$3.2 million and $3.9 million when it goes under the hammer at the Quail Lodge Auction next week.

Source: Bonhams

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