First Mercedes model set for auction

The machine widely regarded as the first motor vehicle is the Patent-Motorwagen, built in 1886. Around 25 models were built, and this creation sparked the start of modern car making as we know it today.

Gottlieb Daimler was responsible for creating the Patent-Motorwagen, and it wasn’t long until he had competitors refining his formula and creating much more effective motor vehicles.

Daimler needed to build a car to replace the now outdated Patent-Motorwagen. One such model which came to fruition at the start of the 1900s was the Mercedes-Simplex, the first car to wear the iconic name that we are well aware of in the modern era.

Mercedes-Simplex, which is being sold at auction later this week

The car is set to go under the hammer this week, where selling a car with such history is set to attract a lot of attention. With this in mind, we have taken a look at the rather colourful past of the Mercedes-Simplex below.

Early stages

After setting the early pace for the building of cars, Daimler were being left behind and needed to catch up with the rest of the crowd. Unfortunately, there was no easy way to do this, and the company soon found themselves throwing money around trying to find a solution.

The company decided to bring investors on to the board, which caused a bit of a rift. Designer Wilhelm Maybach soon left the project, closely followed by Gottlieb Daimler, but soon returned along with Daimler’s two sons to reignite the project.

The real turning point in the development of the Simplex came in the shape of Emil Jellinek, who was a sales agent based on the French Riviera. People who were looking to invest in a motor vehicle had been telling Jellinek what they were looking for, which he passed on to the design team.

They took these onboard, and by 1901, the car was ready to hit the road!

The name

As we said above, the Simplex was the first car to bear the Mercedes name, a brand we now instantly recognise as a big player in the luxury motoring market. But that certainly wasn’t the case back in 1901, and the name was chosen out of necessity.

A licensing dispute in France meant that the Daimler badge could not be used on the new car, which meant the team had to come up with a different name and badge. Jellinek decided to keep things in the family, and named the car after his daughter.

After a year on sale, Wilhelm Maybach made some significant refinements to the engine, which improved cooling, delivered more power and cut down the weight. After this, Simplex was added to the end of the Mercedes name to reflect the changes, hence Mercedes-Simplex.

Motoring capabilities

Now 112 years old, you may expect the Simplex to be an old wreck, but it certainly isn’t a slouch! Flat out, the car could hit 65mph thanks to a 5.3-litre four-cylinder engine which produces an impressive 32 horsepower.

This power was put to the road through a four-speed manual gearbox, connected to the rear wheels with a chain drive. The suspension was a simple, elliptical leaf spring setup, whilst drum brakes were installed to bring the Simplex to a halt.

The model up for auction

As you would probably imagine from a car which is 112 years old, the Simplex up for auction has seen a few owners in its time. It was originally delivered to a wealthy British timber merchant, who then donated it to the UK’s War Department in 1908.

The car went on to serve on the Western Front, and after doing so, moved to a farm where it stayed until the 1970s.

The vehicle was then sold on to Oliver Gray in the 70s, who managed to restore it and get it up and running again. But rather than leaving it to sit in a garage, it was frequently used in period rallies up until 1999, when it was sold to a family of car collectors.

Since 1999, Mercedes-Simplex #2406 as it is known, has changed hands one more time. The most recent owner refreshed the mechanics, as well as adding red leather seating and a new Royal Blue exterior.

So, how much?

The car is being sold by Bonhams at the Quail Lodge Auction, California, and is expected to sell for between £1.9 million and £2.3 million.