The first weekend of November hosts a firm fixture in the international classic car calendar: the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in England. At the 2010 event, held on 7 November, Mercedes-Benz Classic will be entering two vehicles – a 1902 Mercedes-Simplex racing car and a 1904 Mercedes-Simplex touring car.
The 2010 event will take place just a couple of months before celebrations get underway to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of the automobile in January 2011. Not long after Carl Benz invented the first automobile in 1886, automotive design took the decisive step from what was essentially a motorised carriage to something resembling the modern vehicle – of which the Mercedes-Simplex cars are two outstanding examples.
The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is held exclusively for vehicles built before 1904. The oldest car to enter this year’s event dates from 1894. The annual event marks the Emancipation Run of 14 November 1896, which was organised in celebration of a new law that raised the maximum permitted speed for automobiles from walking pace of 6.4 km/h (4 miles per hour) to 22.4 km/h (16 miles per hour). The new law also abolished the requirement that vehicles be preceded by a man waving a red flag.
This year the annual event, held over a 96-kilometre (60-mile) course, has attracted 550 vehicle entries. As many as 500,000 spectators are expected to line the route. The start is in London’s Hyde Park, where the first of the vehicles will depart at sunrise, calculated by the Meteorological Office to be at 7.04 a.m. this year. From there, the cars will head to a checkpoint in Crawley, before setting out on the second half of the route towards the Channel coast and the finishing line on Brighton’s grand promenade, Madeira Drive.
All vehicles will take part in an eve-of-event concours from 11.00 a.m. until 3.00 p.m. on London’s Regent Street on Saturday, 6 November 2010, when each car will be individually introduced and spectators will have an opportunity for closer inspection.
Mercedes-Simplex: the modern automobile
The two Mercedes-Benz Classic cars taking part come from the company’s own collection. From 1901 to 1905, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft created a range of automobiles bearing the Simplex designation at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim. These vehicles had two things in common: they were all designed by Wilhelm Maybach, and they were superior to all other cars of the day. For they embodied the decisive design step that elevated them from motorised carriage to purpose-built car.
The most notable technical features of the Mercedes-Simplex were its four-cylinder, front-mounted engine with cylinders cast in pairs, the U-section pressed steel frame, a low centre of gravity, honeycomb radiator and inclined steering column. These features are what lent the vehicle the familiar car-like appearance that distinguished it from contemporary carriage-type automobiles. Along with the 38/40 hp Mercedes-Simplex, the 28/32 hp was the more compact automobile.
Technical data for the 38/40 hp Mercedes-Simplex racing car
Year of construction: 1902
Cylinders: 4 (in-line)
Displacement: 6558 cm3
Output: 40 hp (29 kW) at 1050 rpm
Top speed: approx. 75 km/h
Technical data for the 28/32 hp Mercedes-Simplex touring car
Year of construction: 1904
Cylinders: 4 (in-line)
Displacement: 5315 cm3
Output: 32 hp (24 kW) at 1200 rpm
Top speed: approx. 60 km/h
Source: Daimler AG