1908 Mercedes-Simplex 65HP

1908 Mercedes-Simplex 65HP Two-Seater Raceabout

Daimler-Benz records reflect that the car with this engine number was delivered in September 1908 to the Paris agent and a month later transferred to the Mercedes Direct Agency in New York as a 40/45hp with unknown coachwork. Today, evidence of component numbers listed on those same records, of 760 and 718 can still be found in numerous places on the car, including rear sprockets, braking components, the starter handle surround and hood, which is clearly original. While its J.M. Quinby & Company coachbuilders plaque (#2790) indicates it was probably bodied in the U.S. prior to delivery to its first owner.

The car has always been attributed with a connection to the Vanderbilt family, numerous members of which were both racers and owners of the early Daimler product, but no documentary evidence supports this claim and its early history is not known. However by the time it was acquired by Lindley Bothwell in the 1930s or 1940s it wore the two-seat Raceabout body it has borne ever since. The debossed three-pointed star radiator it so proudly bears today also was a later addition, that style having been first used by Mercedes in 1909, a year after the chassis was first delivered.

It now has a displacement of 576 cubic inches (9,439cc), as documented on the AAA Competition Car plaque from 1952 on its footboard. Mercedes 65hp engines were 564 cubic inches (9,236cc) indicating a small overbore during the many rebuilds it must have had during its active life, particularly during Lindley Bothwell's ownership.

The Bothwell Collection vehicles were famously used not only around the family ranch but also in events and shows, some of which were produced entirely by Lindley Bothwell with cars from his collection making up all or a large part of the field driven by fortunate friends.

In those early days the Mercedes sported a white paintwork scheme. It is documented as being used during the famed "First Annual Avalon to Isthmus Road Race" on Santa Catalina Island August 4-5, 1951. Sanctioned by the AAA Contest Board, the Santa Catalina race was run over tight, twisting dirt and gravel roads as a two-day event, the first day from Avalon to Santa Catalina's Isthmus, returning the next day taking the winner (not surprisingly, Lindley Bothwell in a 1910 Pope-Hartford) a combined time of 1:32.51.

At Santa Catalina the Mercedes-Simplex was driven by Jesus Sanchez, described as a well-known Mexican driver, and did not finish. It was probably also a participant in the Santa Monica Road Race revival put on by Bothwell, his friends and his unparalleled stable of antique race cars on July 16, 1950 over the original street circuit in Santa Monica.

It is equipped with bell-shaped acetylene headlights, cycle fenders, detachable rim wood spoke wheels and a pair of spare wheels and tires at the rear behind a cylindrical bolster fuel tank and useful trunk for luggage or tools and spares. Careful analysis of the structure of the bodywork, shows that the underpinnings of wood rails and supports of its original body probably still remain intact, albeit they were leveled to enable a more sporting guise.

It is a proud giant among automobiles of the first decade of the last century, the product of Emil Jellinek's vision and Wilhelm Maybach's engineering.

Descrptions and pictures by bonhams

Production Start 1908
Country of origin Germany