Barney Oldfield’s Benz

1908 Benz 75/105HP Prinz-Heinrich Raceabout

Offered by Bonhams | Los Angeles, California | November 11, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

Benz has some automotive connotations, namely its current existence as half of Mercedes-Benz. But if you think back about Benz and know enough to know that Benz sort of started this whole car thing, you probably think of the Benz Patent Motorwagen. But they also built some amazing sports cars. Two engineers working for Benz in the early days developed what is, perhaps, the world’s first road-going sports car. It was built to compete in the Prinz-Heinrich Tour – a demanding 1,200 mile rally.

Hans Nibel and Georg Diehl created this car to compete in that race (note: this car is listed as a “circa 1908” but the catalog makes it seem like this model was first shown closer to 1910). It features a live rear axle and shaft drive (most big power cars from this era sported two semi-frightening chains that drove the rear wheels). The engine is fantastic for 1908: it’s a 7.3-liter straight-four that made 105 horsepower, which is a lot for the time. A team of three of these competed in the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup.

This model was only available through 1912 and very few were made as they were quite expensive. Only a handful survive – including, probably, the three Vanderbilt Cup cars. We pick up the history of this car around 1915 when it was being used by Barney Oldfield in appearances all over the country. He eventually sold it to a brewer in L.A. before it made its way into the Lindley Bothwell collection in the 1930s (where it’s been since).

Restored in 2006, just in time for the 2006 Goodwood Revival, this is an incredible piece of history with just three known owners going back 100 years. This is the type of car that only exists in one of three places: 1. museums 2. historical photos or 3. long-term European collections that are rarely, if ever, broken up. But here it is, straight from Los Angeles for you to bid on. No estimate is being provided because it’s one of the big money cars from this sale (which is likely to be remembered for some time). Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,870,000.

1912 Benz Tourer

1912 Benz 8/20HP Tourer

Offered by Worldwide Auctioneers | Pacific Grove, California | August 17, 2017

Photo – Worldwide Auctioneers

Do you think that when Karl Benz was born in 1844 he – or anyone else alive at the time – had any idea that he would be building attractive touring automobiles at some point in his life? The Benz 8/20HP was one of the more important models the company produced, as it sold well and helped keep them financially stable, especially considering the model was built between 1912 and 1921 – years interrupted by a particularly intrusive World War.

The 8/20 is powered by a 20 horsepower 2.0-liter straight-four. The body is good-looking and was built in Australia. There is enough brass here to really drive home the fact that it is indeed a Brass Era car. Of course, Benz would merge with Daimler’s Mercedes marque in 1926 to form Mercedes-Benz.

Supposedly, this car was one of three delivered to Australia in 1913 for a cross-continent endurance race. That race never happened (you know, the war and all). One of the cars was wrecked, another is now in the M-B museum in Stuttgart, and one is being sold by Worldwide Auctioneers in a few weeks (yes, this car). The restoration was completed last year and it is expected to bring between $175,000 and $225,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $121,000.

Benz Victoria

1893 Benz Victoria

Offered by Bonhams | Paris, France | February 9, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

This is the oldest vehicle we’ve ever featured here on this site (sorry, Roper Steam Motorcycle). That means an older vehicle has not come up for public sale since this site began over five years ago. Karl Benz is more or less universally considered the inventor of the automobile and he was the first to put them into production and sell them to customers – in 1888.

Karl’s first four-wheeled automobile was called the Victoria and it was available from 1892 through either 1898 or 1900. It’s truly a horseless carriage. The engine is a 1.7-liter, three horsepower horizontal single-cylinder that probably revs at such a slow speed that you just might be able to count each cylinder movement. It’s rear-engined, too… so it’s sort of like a supercar, no? It could do 11 mph providing the road wasn’t on an incline.

Benz automobiles were only sold between 1888 and 1926 and never in large numbers. For instance, in 1899 they only built 572 cars – which technically qualified them as the largest automaker in the world at the time. Sure, Mercedes-Benz still exists, but Benz-only automobiles are much harder to come by.

Anything pre-1900 is interesting. Anything pre-1895 is just downright fascinating. This car has no known history but it is thought to have been restored at some point. It should bring between $21,000-$32,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $30,739.

Benz Velo

1896 Benz Velo

Offered by Dragone Auctions | Westport, Connecticut | June 4, 2016

Photo - Dragone Auctions

Photo – Dragone Auctions

This is one of the most important cars of all time. The Benz Patent-Motorwagen is the first automobile. Karl Benz built about 25 of them before altering the design and changing the name. The Benz Velo was the second car he built. Along with the Duryea Motor Wagon, the Velo is regarded as the first production car.

It is powered by a 1.0-liter single-cylinder engine making 1.5 horsepower. Top speed is 15 mph, which would probably be slightly terrifying for modern drivers. This car is listed as well “preserved” with its original body and lamps. That’s remarkable. It’s 120 years old. To put that in perspective… 9/11 was as far in the past when compared to today as the Gunfight at the O.K Corral is to the time when this car was built.

The Velo (which is short for “Velocipede, by the way) was built between 1894-1901. Only 67 were built in 1894, but that jumped up to 134 in 1895. In all, slightly more than 1,200 were built. That’s a low number, but that number stopped growing over 100 years ago. These are historical artifacts – that you can use. This one had one owner from 1922 to 1972, which is kind of crazy. It’s just incredible, all around. No estimate is available, but get ready to outbid museums. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Star Benz

1899 Star Benz 3.5HP Vis-a-Vis

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | October 30, 2015

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

England’s Star Motor Company built its first car in 1898 and it was a German Benz vehicle built under license in Wolverhampton. The company continued to build this model through 1902. This car is one of those.

The engine is a single-cylinder making 3.5 horsepower of Benz’s design. Star was one of England’s largest automobile manufacturers before WWI. A series of ownership changes, coupled with the Great Depression, spelled the end to what could have been one of England’s biggest post-World War II automakers.

This car has known ownership back to 1932 and it was restored in 1954. It has run in over a dozen London-to-Brighton runs – going back to 1938! For the past three decades, this car has been on museum display, so it’ll need a little work to get it roadworthy – but it looks great considering the restoration is over 60 years old. It should sell for between $92,000-$110,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $141,463.

Benz Toy Tonneau

1911 Benz 45/60HP Toy Tonneau by J.E. Demar

Offered by Bonhams | Stuttgart, Germany | July 12, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Benz built cars as a separate marque up until it merged with Daimler in 1926, but it seems like you so rarely see them. This 1911 45/60HP is a marvelous example. And so is that giant castle of a house in the background.

This car was imported as a bare chassis into New York City from Germany in 1911. In those days, a Benz chassis could cost an insane $8,500. So this was among the highest of luxuries in its day. It uses a 6.75-liter straight-four that makes 45/60 horsepower. The body is by Joseph Edward Demar, a coachbuilder in New York who operated for only four short years.

The car was discovered in Philadelphia around 1980. The restoration was completed in 1984 in the U.K. and the current collection acquired the car in 1994. It has spent some time in a Portuguese museum and has its original engine, body and chassis – rare for a car so old with such little history known. But it really is spectacular – and the price reflects it: there is an estimate of $1,200,000-$2,000,000. Click here for more info and here for the rest of Bonhams’ Mercedes-Benz lineup.

Update: Not sold.

An Incredible, 1901 Benz

1901 Benz Ideal 7HP Twin-Cylinder “Contra-Motor” Vis-a-Vis

Offered by Bonhams | Stuttgart, Germany | July 12, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

What’s so incredibly cool about this horseless carriage cannot be summed up in just one point. First, it’s from Benz – the originator of the automobile (you could argue otherwise, but we’ll ignore you). And it’s about as early a Benz as you can get your hands on that isn’t a replica or on permanent display.

The Benz Ideal was an evolution (and final iteration) of the Benz Patent Motorwagen, the earliest of automobiles, that featured a horizontally-mounted single-cylinder engine between the rear wheels. By 1901, competitors were many and they had advanced in design. So for the Ideal, Benz kept the engine between the rear wheels but added coachwork up front to make it look like many of the other vehicles on the market.

The Ideal, towards the end of its run (read: 1901), was offered with a two-cylinder engine. It’s a 2.1-liter flat-twin making seven horsepower. Ownership history here is known from new and this car completed (and won its class) in the London-to-Brighton run in 1937. The restoration was completed in 1972. You can purchase this fascinating piece of automobile history – and use it – for between $150,000-$200,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams’ inaugural Mercedes-Benz sale.

Update: Sold $641,004.

A Late Benz

1921 Benz 8/20 HP Doctor’s Cabriolet by Forton & Bettens

Offered by RM Auctions | London, U.K. | September 8-9, 2013

1921 Benz 820 HP Doctor's Cabriolet by Forton & Bettens

The Mercedes and Benz merger happened in 1926. Prior to that, Benz had been building road cars for a remarkable 40 years. This was one of their later designs as it was introduced in the 1910s.

The company actually built two different 8/20 HP models. This was the second type and it used a larger 2.0-liter straight-four engine making 20 horsepower (it was basically 70cc larger than the earlier engine). The body is by an almost-unknown British coachbuilder called Forton & Bettens and this car is one of two existing that uses one of their bodies.

It is a convertible, even though the top looks very rigid. It all folds back and looks rather pleasant. I also like the aluminium side panels. This rare example of a late Benz should sell for between $265,000-$310,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $83,500.

S/N: 24782.

Bonhams Paris 2013 Highlights

Bonhams’ sale held in Paris (in conjunction with the giant Rétromobile-fest also going down in that city) was a fascinating sale with a lot of interesting cars. Let’s get to it: the top sale was this 1929 Bentley 6.5-Litre Speed Six Tourer for $1,110,000. (Top sale that is, unless they later post that the Grand Prix Bugatti actually did sell).

1929 Bentley 6.5-Litre Speed Six Tourer photo 1929Bentley65-LitreSpeedSixTourer_zpsa18f6114.jpg

Among our feature cars, the 1938 Bugatti Type 57C Coupe Special that was formerly owned by Ettore Bugatti himself sold for $924,600. Our featured Bugatti Type 54 Grand Prix failed to sell. As did the Brasier Berline. Another highlight was this 1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet by Vanden Plas. It sold for a cheap $901,000.

1938 Mercedes-Benz 540K Cabriolet by Vanden Plas photo 1938Mercedes-Benz540KCabrioletbyVandenPlas_zps4d5236c5.jpg

Our next highest selling feature car was the beautiful Lancia Astura Cabriolet. It brought $893,700. Other interesting cars included this pair of Delahayes. First, this 1911 Type 48 Open Drive Opera Coupe (below) sold for $32,000. And then there was a 1902 Type O 6hp Vis-a-Vis (second below) that brought a more substantial $107,800.

1911 Delahaye Type 48 Open Drive Opera Coupe photo 1911DelahayeType48OpenDriveOperaCoupe_zpsca865141.jpg1902 Delahaye Type O 6hp Vis-a-Vis photo 1902DelahayeTypeO6hpVis-a-Vis_zpse6a679bc.jpg

This 1947 Talbot-Lago T26 Record Cabriolet was one of three Talbot-Lagos that sold at this sale. It was the cheapest at $231,000.

1947 Talbot-Lago T26 Record Cabriolet photo 1947Talbot-LagoT26RecordCabriolet_zps9667dc97.jpg

Some other French marques were represented here, including Mors and Renault. First, this 1922 Mors 30HP Torpedo (below) sold for $64,700. And the 1927 Renault Six-Cylinder Torpedo Double Phaeton by Kellner (second below) sold for $223,000.

1922 Mors 30HP Torpedo photo 1922Mors30HPTorpedo_zps4cba16b0.jpg

1928 Renault Six-Cylinder Torpedo Double Phaeton by Kellner photo 1927RenaultSix-CylinderTorpedoDoublePhaetonbyKellner_zpsb50d7ca5.jpg

The rest of our feature cars sold as follows: the 1957 Minerva C22 brought $55,500. The 1911 Marion Bobcat rightfully blew past its estimate and sold for $67,800. And the 1904 Pierce Motorette sold for $80,100. While not as old as the Pierce, this 1912 Benz 8/20HP Sports Wagen sold for $100,100.

1912 Benz 8/10HP Sports Wagen photo 1912Benz8-20SportsWagen_zps0960e103.jpg

And finally, this 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Playboy Roadster by Brewster – a bodystyle of Rolls-Royce I really like – sold for $385,000. You can check out complete results here.

1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I Playboy Roadster by Brewster photo 1928Rolls-RoycePhantomIPlayboyRoadsterbyBrewster_zps986ae815.jpg

1914 Benz Runabout

1914 Benz 18/45 Four-Passenger Runabout

Offered by RM Auctions | Nysted, Denmark | August 12, 2012

I’ve been trying to feature this car for about three weeks, but other cars kept popping up and I’d slot them ahead of it. But here we go, a pre-Mercedes Benz. Benz is one of the oldest nameplates in the world – okay, the oldest, as its namesake sort of invented this whole “car” thing – the company was founded in 1885. (Yes I realize there are nameplates that can trace their lineage back farther than Benz, but as an internal-combustion automobile manufacturer, they are the first).

This model, the 18/45HP, was produced from 1914-1921, making this from the first year of production. It was available as a sedan or a runabout, as you see here. The 4.7-liter four-cylinder engine makes 45 horsepower. The wheelbase is 133 inches – just four inches shy of the gigantic Ford Expedition mega-SUV. So it really is as long as it looks. And the bordello-like seats are a nice touch.

Benz became Mercedes-Benz in 1926. As rare as pre-war Mercedes-Benz’s are, you see a lot more of them come up for auction than you do any kind of Benz. Estimates are not available for cars at this sale yet, and I don’t have a record of a similar car selling. You can check here to see what it says whenever it is posted and for more information. And click here to see more from this amazing sale.

Update: Sold $370,900.