Mar 12 2011

Direct from Stuggart: The Two “Oldest Surviving” Mercedes Automobile


Newsday reporter David Fluher recently commented on the recent VanderbiltCupRaces.com post Willie K’s Cars #3:The 1902 40-HP Mercedes Simplex- The Oldest Surviving Mercedes.


David Fluher: "I was very interested in your latest Mercedes posting. Last August, I did a Newsday blog item on a 1902 Mercedes tourer that was also said to be the oldest surviving Mercedes. The car is owned by Arturo Keller and I spent some time talking with John Bentley, the driver, who confirmed to me that Mercedes considers that car to be the oldest. I was wondering if you knew about that car. It might make an interesting "which one is older?"


World’s oldest Mercedes treks 1,600 miles from Seattle to Pebble Beach

Newsday.com, Friday August 13, 2010 12:38 PM By David Fluhrer


 

Photo credit: Copyright © 2010 by Riverview Media Photography, Tia Gemmell. Courtesy of Pebble Beach Concours.


The world’s oldest surviving Mercedes has finished a 1,600-mile drive from Seattle to California to compete in Sunday’s Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, one of the world’s premier classic car shows. The 28-horsepower 1902 Mercedes Simplex was among two-dozen classic cars winding their way around mountains and through valleys for the eight-day trip. The Mercedes will vie for a trophy Sunday in the show’s “antique through 1915” category along with seven other rare vehicles in that class.


Bentley said the Mercedes – considered a technological marvel in its day -- performed flawlessly, requiring only the daily draining of an oil sump and other minor maintenance. He found the car for California collectors Arturo and Deborah Keller, who bought it in 1993 and also took turns at the wheel on the long drive. With much research, as well as help from the manufacturer, Bentley then did a painstaking restoration so it could be shown at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours.


To help determine the "oldest surviving" Mercedes, David Fluher went right to the source; the Mercedes- Benz Product Archives in Stuggart, Germany. Here is what David discovered (images added by Howard Kroplick):


David Fluher: "Howard, you were spot on in writing that Willie K's car is the oldest. The tourer could have been built in March 1902, while the Willie K car was being delivered. It would be interesting to know what happened to Willie K's earlier 35hp model. Imagine if it was sitting in a barn somewhere on LI."


Response from Gerhard Heidbrink, Manager Product Archives, Mercedes-Benz Classic Brand Communications


Dear Mr Fluhrer,


Thank you very much for your enquiry which is on a very interesting subject indeed.


In order to be able to answer your question properly, I have to give you a little bit of background information regarding the history of early Mercedes models.Probably you already know most of it.



 

- The 35 hp Mercedes was the very first model which used the name Mercedes as product or brand name.

- The very first car of the 35 hp Mercedes model was delivered in December 1900 to Emil Jellinek in Nice.

- Jellinek had initiated the development of the innovative car and had proposed the name of his daughter Mercedes for it.

- Of the 35 hp model, 29 cars were delivered until early 1902.

- The 35 hp Mercedes is regarded as the first modern automobile differing completely from a motorized carriage.

- Along with the 35 hp model which was a high-performance sports car (like the SLS AMG today) there were the 12/16 hp and 8/11 hp models completing the model line.

- These were designed according to the same principles, but were a little smaller and had a less powerful engine.



 

- One of the 35 hp Mercedes cars was delivered to Willie K. Vanderbilt, Jr.

- Of the 29 cars which were built of the 35 hp model, none is in existence any more (or at least not known to exist).



 


 

- In March 1902, just one year after the 35 hp Mercedes, the slightly improved successor appeared.

- It was called 40 hp Mercedes-Simplex, the word simplex indicating that operating the car would be very easy.

- By May 1902, two less powerful models were introduced: the 28 hp and the 20 hp Mercedes-Simplex.

- In our Museum, a 40 hp Mercedes-Simplex is on display - the one which was collected by Willie K. Vanderbilt, Jr. in Cannstatt in March 1902.

- We would have preferred a 35 hp Mercedes - but there is, as I have pointed out, no car left, and we are happy to have the 40 hp Mercedes-Simplex which is the fifth 40 hp model ever built.



 

- We do not have detailed information on Arturo Keller's 1902 Mercedes tourer (no VIN to check the date of delivery), but we found a photograph.

- From the shape of the radiator you can identify this 28 hp Mercedes-Simplex (as well as our 40 hp) as early 1902 cars.

- In the late summer of 1902, the rectangular shape of the radiator top was changed to a rounded shape.


Thus, without having further data, the photograph of Arturo Keller's 1902 Mercedes seems to indicate that it was built between March and September 1902 whereas our 40 hp was built (or rather delivered) in March.

So the two cars are rather close together: In case Arturo Keller's car is older indeed, it can only be a question of days.

And the "worst case": It can not have been built after September - so if it is younger than our 40 hp, it can be six months at a maximum.

I hope I have cleared up things at least a little bit.


Best regards from Stuttgart,



It does seem that Willie K.'s 1902 40-HP Mercedes is the "oldest surviving" Mercedes. However, Arturo Keller's 1902 28-HP Mercedes can lay claim to the "oldest Mercedes still on the road." Thanks, again David Fluher and Gerhard Heidbrink for the great discussion!

Check out David's informative Newsday In the Garage" column. If you would would like you car featured in the column, please contact David at thegarage@optonline.net .


Links to related posts on VanderbiltCupRaces.com and the Internet:

1902 Mercedes to Traverse 1,500 Miles on Its Way to Compete at 60th Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance

Photos of the 1902 Mercedes 24-HP

Willie K’s Cars #3:The 1902 40-HP Mercedes Simplex- The Oldest Surviving Mercedes.

Question of the Day: Searching for Willie K’s Oldest Surviving Car

Willie K.‘s Cars #1: 1900 28-HP Daimler "White Ghost"

Willie K.'s Cars #2: 1901 35-HP Mercedes “Red Devil”- The Fastest Machine in the Country

Archives: William K. Vanderbilt, Jr.






Comments

Mar 13 2011 Howard Kroplick 8:59 AM

From Price Team Racing:

“Wow, Very cool! Howard Jerry”

Mar 13 2011 Tim Helck 11:27 AM

Howard,

I’ve built a page that has some more pictures of these early Mercedes cars: http://worldupclose.com/exec/page/72/

This is a wiki-style site—so feel free to log into it and correct any errors I’ve made.

Regards,

Tim

Mar 13 2011 Howard Kroplick 8:35 PM

Hi Tim:

Great photos of the two Mercedes! Thanks.

Howard

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