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1905 Mercedes-Benz Simplex 28/32 Phaeton : Classic Cars

As the world motor industry enters its third century it is very hard for even the most hardened, knowledgeable enthusiast to imagine the sheer frenetic pace at which matters were developing as the Veteran era shaded into the Edwardian almost eleven decades ago. When the first sputtering one-lunger dog carts clattered down the roads the whole concept of the automobile was so fresh that there was no preconceived idea of how this novel thing (only just beginning to be called ‘an automobile") should be laid out, let alone driven. Since German engineering had a head start over virtually every other country in this matter it is scarcely surprising that the Mercedes name (still decades from being called Mercedes-Benz) should have produced the earliest models in which the modern orthodoxy of the radiator at the front of the car, ahead of the engine and subsequently the gearbox, driving the back axle should develop.

The merest glance at the typical ‘Brighton Run" entrant shows how distant the average car prior to 1905 was from the stupendous Edwardian Coys is proud to offer today. It is one of the earliest surviving 28/32 HPs to have survive, and is one of the earliest survivors of a courageous marketing experiment which was to establish Mercedes among the pre-eminent Europeans to establish itself in the US market. The engineering philosophy was summed up in the phrase ‘comfort brought about through simplicity" hence leading naturally to the name Mercedes Simplex; the name does seem to have annoyed the Kaiser himself who is said to have remarked at the German Motor Show ‘but the engine isn"t all that simple, you know" to the puzzled Mercedes designers, who one assumes concurred politely with his verdict.

The engine was a massive thirty-five horsepower four-cylinder of five and a half litres, and what was equally striking was the way it was mounted low between the front chassis legs, enormously improving the balance and consequently the handling. The coachwork is a Phaeton of remarkable elegance due mainly to its startlingly Spartan design, with two individual bucket seats for the driver and front passenger, and an only slightly less exposed rear bench. The flared front wings were presumably judged enough to protect the occupants from the worst of the weather, for a very elegant if not particularly functional ‘Victoria"-type hood covered only the rear passengers. Clearly aerodynamics was yet another imperfectly understood science at the time...

The car made its way to the Unites States in the late summer of 1905and remained there for the rest of the twentieth century. By then it had passed into the justly famous car collection of Arturo Keller in Napa, California. Mr Keller is famous as one of the most regular and successful Concours entrants on the international stage (including multiple victories at Pebble Beach), and in his hands the car was treated to a truly magnificent restoration, leaving it in the remarkable condition in which the car remains today. This includes a complete rebuild of the great engine, and restoration of the superb, massive brass lighting set, and the beautiful artillery wheels. There are of course in the car"s history file photographs showing the nature and quality of the work.

The work was carried out not merely to be ‘skin deep" but to render the car thoroughly usable. By the time the car found its way back to its native region in South-West Germany about a decade ago it was capable of making an overwhelming impression both in Mercedes driving events and also at the Schwetzingen concours d"elegance. Now offered for sale by auction for the first time in its life of close to one hundred and ten years, this extraordinary car, surely among the greatest and most prestigious of all Edwardians in the world, will adorn any world-class collection.

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Sources : 1905 Mercedes-Benz Simplex 28/32 Phaeton Photo | 1905 Mercedes-Benz Simplex 28/32 Phaeton Article


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