1911 Benz 45/60hp Toy Tonneau

  • Brand: Benz
  • Car Code: 111074

1911 Benz 45/60hp Toy Tonneau with Victoria Hood

By the end of the 20th Century's first decade, the automobile had left its primitive 'horse-less carriage' antecedents far behind, thanks, in no small measure, to Karl Benz. In America meanwhile, the focus of development had been on production techniques that effectively 'democratised' the motor car, making it an affordable means of transportation for the masses and no longer the exclusive preserve of the wealthy dilettante. In the halcyon days before the outbreak of the First World War though, there were sufficient numbers of the latter to make the production of large luxury cars a highly profitable enterprise.

The major overseas players on the American scene at this time were Rolls-Royce and Benz, the latter's distributorship - the Benz Auto Import Company of America - being located on Broadway, New York City. In 1911, when the 45/60hp model offered here was imported, Benz chassis prices ranged from $3,250 for the 18hp up to $8,500 for the 60hp, and this at a time when a new Ford Model T could be purchased for under $700! If custom coachwork of the finest quality was specified, the total cost of a Benz could reach stratospheric heights.

Few early Benz cars have survived and this one is almost certainly unique. The 6¾-litre 45/60hp engine has its four cylinders cast in pairs, with separate camshafts for inlet and exhaust valves in 'T-head' configuration. Lubrication is automatic by means of a low-pressure pump driven off the timing gears and there is twin-plug ignition: one set sparked by coil, the other by magneto. Drive is taken via a cone clutch to a four-speed gearbox complete with transmission brake. Only the rear wheels are braked. The coachwork is of the 'Toy Tonneau with Victoria Hood' type, a style rarely seen in Europe, and is the work of J E Demar of New York. This short-lived and little known coachbuilder had been set up in 1907 by Joseph Edward Demar, holder of the Baker electric car agency in New York. The company filed for bankruptcy in 1911 so this 45/60hp Benz must have been one of its final commissions.

The Benz's history in the USA is not known prior to its discovery in the Philadelphia home of the late Blackie Shaefer by Stephen Langton circa 1980.

Descriptions & pictures by bonhams & other

Production Start 1911
Country of origin Germany