Mercedes 28/50HP Chain Drive Touring by Daimler

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28/50HP Chain Drive Touring by Daimler





German-built, bodied in America and named for the daughter of an Austrian-born French auto dealer, this Mercedes is as cosmopolitan as they come, even before its recent world travels.

Gottlieb Daimler was a talented but conservative engineer, his financial partners more conservative still. The backers felt their new company, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, should concentrate on stationary engines. However, Daimler and his colleague Wilhelm Maybach continued experimenting with automobiles and by 1895 were able to put several models into production. They had five different engines, each available with several types of bodies, but none of them could reasonably be called “sporting.”

Enter Emile Jellinek, an Austrian-born entrepreneur and Daimler agent who delighted in racing cars and lent much to the company’s development. Having raced a Daimler in the 1900 Nice Automobile Week, Jellinek came away disappointed and wanted a faster car. He badgered the factory to build him what could be called an early muscle car, a light chassis powered by a 35-horsepower engine. In order to provide incentive to the company, he undertook to order 36 such cars if he were given the exclusive sales franchise for Austro-Hungary, France, Belgium and America—and further that the cars be named for his eleven-year-old daughter Mercedes. It was a deal that Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft decided not to refuse.

Mercedes cars were of front-engine, chain-drive design, a concept adopted at the insistence of Jellinek, and were powerful, with engines of six to nine liters giving 40 to 60 Pferdestärke (German horsepower, literally “horse strength” and abbreviated PS), although smaller 1,760 cc, 8 PS cars were available. In 1905, the 15/20 PS became the first Mercedes to use shaft drive, an architecture that gained wider use across the range, although the large sporting cars continued to use chains. These sports models were made in sizes to 100 PS. The Daimler factory scored big in 1908 when Christian Lautenschlager won the French Grand Prix in a new 140-horsepower Mercedes.

Mercedes cars were equally suitable for the boulevard. By 1908, several European heads of state had adopted them for official travel. These included Kaiser Wilhelm II and King Leopold of Belgium. England’s Edward VII used British Daimlers at home but kept a Mercedes for his Continental journeys.

America had been an important market from the time that Jellinek obtained his distributorship. By 1904, a quarter of Mercedes production went there, a territory so successful that a plant was established that year at Long Island City, New York. Prominent customers included the Astors and Vanderbilts, Henry Clay Frick and Isaac Guggenheim. However, U.S. production ceased after a factory fire in 1907. 

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