60HP Mercedes-Simplex

1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60HP Roi-des-Belges by J. Rothschild

Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | February/March 2024

Photo – Gooding & Company

The holy trio of Gottlieb Daimler, Wilhelm Maybach, and Emil Jellinek were responsible for the Mercedes-Simplex, which was the first in a long line of top-tier grand Mercedes road cars. Think of this as the predecessor to the current Mercedes-Maybach sedans.

The car came about because Jellinek, who was Daimler’s Nice-based sales guy, needed a better car than the earlier Daimlers to sell to his rich clients. The new cars were named for Jellinek’s daughter, Mercedes. The first Mercedes was the 35HP model of 1901. It was followed by 1902’s 40HP. The 60HP, which was developed through ’02 and ’03, was even… more.

These were performance cars in their day, used at time trials and other competition events. Even this car was run at the 1903 Nice Speed Trials (setting the fastest time) and an Irish hillclimb later that year (also winning). The car is powered by a 9.2-liter inline-four that was rated at 60 horsepower and a downright low 1,100 rpm. It has a four-speed manual gearbox, and the entire design was meant to be easy to use. Hence the Simplex name.

These were capable of 80 mph and were long and low. Just 102 examples of the 60HP were built between 1902 and 1905. Only five are known to exist. This J. Rothschild et Fils-bodied car was purchased new by publisher Alfred Harmsworth, he of The Daily Mail and The Daily Mirror. It was the 740th car registered in London.

The car was inherited by Harmsworth’s son around 1922 and, in the 1950s, was restored and put on display in the Beaulieu Motor Museum, where it stayed from 1956 through 2023. It has remained with two other members of the Harmsworth family since. That is 121 years of single-family ownership. Gooding has an estimate of “in excess of $10,000,000” on this, the ultimate veteran era car. More can be read here.

Mercedes-Simplex Raceabout

1908 Mercedes-Simplex 65HP Two-Seater Raceabout

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

Photo – Bonhams

The Daimler marque became “Mercedes” in 1902 and the Mercedes-Simplex is largely considered to be the first “modern” car – a departure from the horseless carriages that preceded it. Available as a number of models between 1902 and 1910, the Simplex had engines ranging from 18 horsepower all the way up to 65 – as in the beast you see here.

The 65 horsepower (which is available at a rumbling 1200 rpm) comes from a very large 9.4-liter straight-four that. A normal 65HP Simplex would only have 9.2-liters, but this one has probably had many engine rebuilds over the course of its life, thus slightly increasing its displacement.

The biggest of all Simplexes, this model was offered between 1903 and 1909. The chassis you see here originally sported a 40/45HP engine when it was sold new in New York. It was acquired by Lindley Bothwell in the 1930s or 40s already sporting this… sporting body. What the original coachwork looked like is a secret lost to time.

This is going to be one of the more expensive cars to find a new home at this sale and no pre-sale estimate is available. These big horsepower, early German machines are incredibly hard to come by today. This is a rare chance to acquire one with known history going back 80 years. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,072,500

Big Mercedes-Simplex

1904 Mercedes-Simplex 28/32 Five-Seat Rear-Entrance Tonneau

Offered by Bonhams | Monterey, California | August 19, 2016

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

The Mercedes-Simplex was one of the premier cars of the pre-1910 era. They were big, powerful, and fast. The Simplex was produced by Daimler between 1902 and 1909 and was the successor to the Mercedes 35HP, a car largely considered as the “first modern automobile.”

There were multiple Simplex models, the largest being the 60 HP model. This is the mid-range 28/32HP – meaning it is powered by a 32 horsepower 5.3-liter straight-four. It will do 65 mph+. Imagine being able to keep up on the interstate today in a car from 1904… that has dual chain drive.

When new, a Simplex would have cost roughly $7,500 – an absolute fortune in 1904. This example was sold new in England and later used by the British military during WWI. It was discovered on a farm in the 1970s and has been completely restored (and “refurbished” a couple of times since the restoration was completed). It’s extremely usable and has seen its fair share of use at the London-to-Brighton run.

In total, 1,500 Mercedes-Simplex cars were built and only 20 pre-1905 Mercedes cars still survive. Only six of those are this model. It’s a beautiful machine and should bring between $2,500,000-$3,000,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $2,805,000.

Mercedes-Simplex Roi-des-Belges Tourer

1909 Mercedes-Simplex 35HP Roi-des-Belges Tourer

Offered by Bonhams | London, U.K. | November 30, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

Wilhelm Maybach was a brilliant automotive engineer and he does not get the recognition today that he deserves. Unfortunately, today, his name is more likely associated with a short-lived, over-priced Benz driven by rappers than the brilliant cars he designed before WWII.

The Mercedes Simplex was his design. This 35HP model is from 1909, the last year for the model, and the penultimate year for the Simplex. The engine is a 5.9-liter straight-four driving the rear wheels via a shaft.

This car was used by a sheep station in Queensland, Australia. It was the station manager’s car from 1914 into the 1930s and was regularly used in the very-inhospitable Australian outback. The car was sold to another outback outpost where it remained until the 1980s. The beautiful restoration you see here was completed in 2010. It runs and drives and it’s simply incredible it survived such a harsh, early life. But that’s a testament to Maybach’s industrious design. It should sell for between $640,000-$960,000. Click here for more info and here for more from Bonhams.

Update: Not sold.


1905 Mercedes-Simplex 28/32 Phaeton

Offered by Coys | London, U.K. | December 3, 2013

1905 Mercedes-Simplex 28-32 Phaeton

Daimler was one of the first automobile companies founded anywhere in the world. It was started in 1890 by Gottlieb Daimler and Wilhelm Maybach. In 1902, they introduced a model called “Mercedes” and it soon became the name under which Daimler sold cars. In 1926, Daimler would merge with Benz and Mercedes would become Mercedes-Benz.

One of the first Mercedes models was the Simplex. Shortly after its introduction, they followed it with a number of other Mercedes Simplex models (hence I classify it as a separate, short-lived marque).

This model is powered by a 5.5-liter straight-four making 35 horsepower. The 28/32 model was in production from 1902 through 1909. This regal Phaeton was delivered new to the U.S., spending time in the Arturo Keller collection and was restored under his ownership. The restoration still looks outstanding and the mechanicals have been rebuilt more recently.

The Simplex was an important automobile – as it made often-clunky early automobiles easy to operate and standardized the way in which their controls were laid out. These are very rare today and this one is one of the best examples still around. You can read more here and check out the rest of Coys’ lineup here.

Update: Sold $1,174,900.