1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60HP Roi-des-Belges by J. Rothschild
Offered by Gooding & Company | Amelia Island, Florida | February/March 2024
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.