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Mercedes was a brand in the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG) which began to develop in 1901, after the death of its co-founder, Gottlieb Daimler.
On 30 March 1900, few weeks after the death of Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Bauer decided spontaneously to enter the Nice-La Turbie hill climb but crashed fatally after hitting a rock on the first turn while avoiding spectators. This caused DMG to abandon racing.
Nonetheless, Emil Jellinek came to an agreement with DMG on 2 April 1900 by promising the large sum of 550,000 Goldmark if Wilhelm Maybach would design a revolutionary sports car for him, later to be called the Mercedes 35 hp, of which 36 units had to be delivered before 15 October. The contract also included an order for 36 standard DMG 8 hp cars. Jellinek soon became a member of the DMG Board of Management and obtained the exclusive dealership for the model—that would become the new Mercedes 35 hp—for France, Austria, Hungary, Belgium, and United States of America. The first one was not delivered to Jellinek until 22 December, however.
Jellinek laid down strict specifications for the new model stating "I don't want a car for today or tomorrow, it will be the car of the day after tomorrow". He itemized many new parameters to overcome the problems found in many of the ill-designed "horseless carriages" of the time which made automobiles unsuitable for high speeds and at risk of overturning:
Long wheelbase and wide track to provide stability
Engine to be located—better—on the car's chassis
Lower center of gravity
Electric ignition using the new Bosch system (in lieu of a gas heated glow tube)
A new engine, developed for the model, would be called the Daimler-Mercedes engine, officially, which the DMG chairman accepted readily as it overcame the problem of the Daimler name in France being owned by Panhard & Levassor.
Over the next few months, Jellinek oversaw the development of the new car—at first by daily telegrams—and later by traveling to Stuttgart. He took delivery of the first one on 22 December 1900, at Nice's railway station—it had already been sold to the Baron Henry of Rothschild, who also had raced cars in Nice.
In 1901, the car amazed the automobile world. Jellinek again won the Nice races, easily beating his opponents in all the capacity classes and reaching 60 km/h. The director of the French Automobile Club, Paul Meyan, stated: "We have entered the Mercedes era", a sentiment echoed by newspapers worldwide.
The records set by the new Mercedes 35 hp model amazed the entire automobile world. DMG's sales shot up, its Stuttgart plant was operating at full capacity, and it was consolidating its future as an automobile manufacturer—rather than merely an engine manufacturer who built some automobiles. The number of employees steadily increased from 340 in 1900 to 2,200 in 1904.
Mercedes was not lodged as a trade name for DMG automobile models until 23 June 1902, but soon the company decided to use the name as the trade name for its entire line of automobile models—and officially registered it on 26 September 1902.
The Mercedes Simplex was an automobile produced from 1902-09 by the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG, Daimler Motor Society, a predecessor of Daimler-Benz and Daimler-Chrysler). It continued the use of the Mercedes name as the brand of DMG, rather than Daimler.
The Mercedes Simplex was designed by Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart, Germany. It featured powerful engines whose power ranged from 40 to 60 hp. Its large and wide body had a low center of gravity.
The car's predecessor, the Mercedes 35hp of 1901, had broken with the previous primitive automotive standards. Now, DMG and Maybach intended to improve this further by providing "comfort by means of simplicity", hence the name Simplex. A complementary explanation for the name is that, by the standards of 1901, the car was very simple to operate.
The creation of the previous model, the Mercedes 35hp, predecessor of the Simplex, was due to DMG's industrial might, the know-how of its industrial designer Wilhelm Maybach and Emil Jellinek's enthusiasm for motorsport. Jellinek was DMG's foreign agent based on the French Riviera where he was the Austro-Hungarian consul. That car had resulted in the company's early success.
In 1902, Maybach decided to incorporate a series of modifications to the Simplex, anticipating a large number of sales. To suit their basically high society clients, the new Mercedes would be shown publicly while driving through the most traditional avenues in town or to picnic in a park.
When Jellinek received his first Simplex on 1 March 1902 at Nice, he rushed to incorporate it into his Mercedes race team, competing in the Nice-La Turbie hillclimbing race. He defeated all his opponents again and set new records.
On 7 April 1902, during Nice week, Albert Lemaître finished second in the 'Nice – La Turbie mountain race driving a Mercedes Simplex. He was competing in the category for racing cars weighing more than 1000 kg.
Also in 1902, in the United States, a Mercedes Simplex won the 5-mile track race at Grosse Pointe, Detroit.
In this 1902 campaign, the third step involved William K. Vanderbilt Jr, a US multimillionaire and race car enthusiast who created in 1904 the American Vanderbilt Cup. He had already set several records with the previous Mercedes, in some of the most popular races around the turn of the century, usually long distance ones.
Now, with the Mercedes Simplex, Vanderbilt took part in the 600 mile race to Paris. Later, he broke all records in the Ablis to Chartres race with flying start, with a top-speed of 111.8 km/h. One of his Simplex units is the oldest surviving Mercedes car.
In 1903, Maybach designed a second version of the Mercedes Simplex, of 60 hp.
Mercedes Simplex ' framework was long, wide and with a low center of gravity giving an improved stability at high speeds. The wheelbase was extended to 2.45 meters (8'1").
Its carefully designed frame was made of pressed steel. The engine was welded onto it directly keeping it at a low height.
Other general modifications reduced the overall Simplex weight to 942 kg assuring better results in racing.
The original 1902 wheels were wooden, with 12 non-removable spokes and pneumatic tires. Later, in 1905, the Mercedes Simplex pioneered cast-steel wheels.
The front and rear axles were modernized progressively, becoming equal in diameter around 1909:
1902: 910x90-1020x120. Rear 10% bigger.
1909: 915x105-935x135. Roughly equalized.
Attached to these were the two powerful brake systems, one hand-operated and the other by foot: the main hand brake acted on the rear wheels, with drum brakes, the secondary foot brake acted on the chain drive's intermediate driveshaft.
Both systems were water-cooled by a sprinkling system over hot zones when braking.
Both axles were rigid, featuring semi-elliptic springs. The steering-axles were located at the extremes, decreasing the transmission of road shocks to the driver's hands
The Mercedes Simplex ' engine was mounted over the front axle. The engine's power was taken from a sprocket flywheel, 60 cm in diameter, transmitting it to the rear drive by a long roller chain.
The gate gear manual gearbox featured four speeds and reverse, controlling a coil spring clutch acting on the flywheel system. A lever produced both declutching and deceleration together.
The engine produced 44 hp at 1300 rpm.
Its four cylinders featured; water cooling, lubrication by driver-controlled pressure, 120 mm bore and 150 mm stroke, valves mechanically timed by enclosed camshaft mechanically, engine displacement of 6786 cc.
It used magneto electric-spark ignition system, with single spray-nozzle carburetor, for all cylinders; featuring a new atomization system, improved by preheating.
The engine was started up by a hand crank and helped by the use of a decompressor.
Maybach's tubular honeycomb radiator featured a rectangular grill of 8,070 square shaped pipes of 6x6 mm, with improved airflow.
Originally, when launched in 1902, the Mercedes Simplex radiator's did not have a fan. A set of vanes mounted on the flywheel increased the air-flow throughout the engine/radiator's compartment. Its total water capacity, 7 litres, was smaller than the previous Mercedes model by 2 litres.
The engine compartment was covered by metal sheets. Its chassis base was also covered, something imitated by many other car models later.
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