Vintage Postbag, August 1970

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“The Restoration of the Decade”

Sir,

Thank you for a delightful article on Philip Mann’s 1914 Mercedes, including such beautiful colour pictures. I am especially pleased with them as I am at the moment engaged in a model of that very car in one-forty-third scale, which I hope, if successful, to market as a metal kit some time next year when I return to England.

However, having studied all the contemporary photographs I could lay my hands on, there are two things which I feel are not as per 1914. (I wonder if you could comment?)

First, the front axle. For a long time I had assumed it to be of I section, but I suddenly realised that all the photographs I had seen of the 1914 race appeared to show it tubular. Only in pictures of the cars at a later date, with front brakes, is it clearly I section. However, your picture on page 625, taken from a works drawing, shows it I section. For photographs, see “Profile” No. I.

Secondly, the tail. The car in the Mercedes-Benz museum would appear to have rather a rounded tail, similar to that (now) on the Philip Mann car. Most pictures I have seen of No. 28 in 1914 do not show the tail—but to the best of my recollection (all books in England!) there is a glimpse of No. 28 just appearing in the photograph of the line-up at the start in T. A. S. O. Mathieson’s “Grand Prix Racing 1906-1914”. This shows that tail to be more square, similar to the Sailer car—as drawn in the profile drawing.

I am very pleased to have such a clear photograph of the tank top, though I thought that the air pressure gauge was turned further round in the direction of the mechanic? Nit-picking, perhaps, but I like to know as much as I can about an original before modelling. Then anything that is not as standard on my model is because I decided it would have to be made like that, and not because I made a silly mistake! If you could comment on these I would be most pleased.

BFPO 64. Paddy Stanley(Retd.)

Sir,

I was most interested to read your article entitled “The Restoration of the Decade” referring to Mr. Philip Mann’s 1914 Mercedes. I was Mr. C. G. Brocklebank’s mechanic from 1919 to 1929 and can furnish you with more information on this car, which may be of interest.

Firstly, Mr. Brocklebank bought the “Little White Merc”, as it was known in 1922, straight from Count Zborowski, who was a friend of his. I was at the sale and Mr. Brocklebank bought the car with the idea of making it into a fast touring car and a tender to the 1913 GP Peugeot, which was bought in Euston Road for £75 in 1920 by Mr. Brocklebank. The body of the Mercedes was made by Storys of Camden Hill Road to Mr. B.’s drawings and Rudge Whitworth wheels – 880 m 120 Michelin tyres, beaded edge, with 13 security bolts in each wheel, were fitted, which could be interchanged with the Peugeot. We also fitted the Zenith carburetter for easy hand starting.

We toured France with this car in 1924 and on the return journey left it in Paris to be fitted with f.w.b., and as the brake rods were complicated it was decided to fit direct to the hand-brake lever only. We used this car extensively for two years and then fitted a Berliet engine from a car Mr. Brocklebank had raced a couple of times, without success. The work was carried out by L. C. Rawlence & Company of Lower Marsh, Waterloo. After six months Mr. Brocklebank ordered one of the 200 supercharged Mercedes which, I believe, was the first new design Mercedes produced after the 1914/1918 war, and was on the show stand. Capt. G. Fane bought the “White Merc” from Mr. Brocklebank and the original engine, and I believe it was reinstated in a garage near Mr. Fane’s home.

It may also be of interest to you to know that Mr. Brocklebank bought No.3 3-litre 1922 Vauxhall (from the same team which Mr. Cook raced so successfully) from Capt. Gallop. Mr. Brocklebank took this car to Storys who fitted a new body to it with a streamlined tail, but Mr. Brocklehank was not happy with this car. However, at this time he married and racing for him was “out” and the car was sold to the late Mr. Jack Barclay, who cut two feet off the tail and raced it and collected 11 class records with it. Incidentally. I founded the Fiat 500 Club in 1948 and used your journal many times to advertise our meetings.

London, W6. J. A. James

Sir,

I read with great interest your account of the restoration of the 1914 French Grand Prix Mercedes, and this prompted me to look further into the matter, particularly with respect to the car which De Palma took to America.

The information contained in this letter is summarised from contemporary American weekly journals and race reports, in which there is a most infuriating lack of technical detail on specific cars. We are informed that when De Palma left America for Europe, to drive in the French Grand Prix, “he announced his intention of bringing back a Vauxhall racer”. It is probably safe to assume that this was the car in which he was entered for the Grand Prix, particularly when the following article is borne in mind, which, because of its importance (or at least its implied importance) is quoted exactly as printed :

“Ralph De Palma arrived in New York last Wednesday, August 5th, with the Mercedes with which Lautenschlager won the French Grand Prix, having left Germany just in time to prevent the car being commandeered for military purposes. He was on the sea when war broke out.

“Ralph will be seen in action with this car at Elgin and may drive it in the Vanderbilt and Grand Prix races at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition next winter. If De Palma can win another Vanderbilt Cup Race with a Mercedes, the famous William K. Vanderbilt, Jr., trophy will become his permanent property. Should De Palma decide not to drive the Mercedes in California, he may be seen on the new Vauxhall racer which the Vauxhall Co. in England is building for him. This, of course, depends upon war conditions a few months hence. De Palma drove the Vauxhall in the recent French Grand Prix and, while he had transmission trouble, he believes the car’s motor to be one of the most phenomenal he has seen.”

Now this, of course, does not prove that the winning car went to America, but nevertheless is very interesting, and another quote one or two weeks later states that “the De Palma Mercedes will probably receive the most attention of the European cars, because it is the same car with which Lautenschlager defeated the crack drivers of the Old World and won the 1914 Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France”. This is a reference to the entries for the Elgin races in August, 1914, and it is noted that the car was entered by a Mr. E. C. Patterson.

De Palma went on to win both Elgin races with the car, and later ran it at the Brighton Beach track in early September, at Kalamazoo in late September, Brighton Beach track again in mid-November, and in the Carona road races late in November. There is a rather poor photograph showing the car at Elgin, but I don’t think that it is possible to draw any conclusions regarding identification from it.

The reference to Mr. Patterson is interesting, since he is stated to be the owner of the car in a May, 1915, preview of the 500-mile race at Indianapolis. A photograph of him is printed, and there is reference to him as “saving the car for the 500-mile race”. Exactly who this man was I do not know, but he was obviously involved with the car in August, 1914, and it was possibly (or maybe probably) he who instigated its removal to America. In any case, we know that the car did, in fact, appear in races in 1915 in addition to the 500-mile at Indianapolis.

By early 1915 it must have been known in motoring circles that the car was not, in fact, the winning car of the 1914 French Grand Prix, since we have in a May article a reference to “the little Mercedes that finished second in the Grand Prix of France last year”.

So here we have two references stating the car to have been both the winner and the second in the Grand Prix. These references are from the same American weekly publication (Horseless Age), and it is possible that the actual Grand Prix history of the car was not known at all, either by Patterson or anyone else across the Atlantic. This is understandable, considering the correspondence in The Autocar during July, 1914, between Mr. Gordon Watney and Milnes-Daimler-Mercedes Ltd.

None of this information may be new to you, but it provided me with some enjoyable moments in researching it.

Warley. I. J. Jeavons.

Sir,

I read with great interest the article concerning the 1914 GP Mercedes and hope the following information will be of interest. In the early thirties a certain McClive Halley of New York had a sports/racing car built for him. This would appear to have been constructed by a Charles Zumbach and used a 2-litre Miller engine in the ex-De Palma Mercedes chassis. The machine was fitted with a bodyshell formed from stainless steel and was used for racing and road driving. Unfortunately, after 10 or 12 years’ use, the car was burned out in a road accident. Maybe some American readers could enlarge on this?

Luton. John Fry.

[The article on Mr. Philip Mann’s 1914 GP Mercedes rebuild has aroused widespread interest but was marred by a couple of printing errors, the outside fuel lines being described as “upper” instead of copper and the car’s gait being rendered as “gate”. The fuel lines may well be a means of identifying individual cars of the team, because they emerge from the last o/s scuttle louvre on some cars, from further forward through the bonnet boards on one or more of these cars and the anti-fracture loops were not used on all the cars. So far as the Rev. Stanley’s query is concerned, the front axles were of I-section but poor quality photographs made them appear tubular in some cases. Finally, we are informed that we were in error in saying that the ex-Peter Clark Mercedes went to Briggs Cunningham on the death of Cameron Peck. Apparently Mr. Peck is very much alive in Tucson, Arizona, although he liquidated his collection of old cars when he moved to this address in 1952. Our apologies.—Ed.]

The Parnacar

Sir,

I enclose some photographs which may be of interest showing the chassis/engine block and various other component parts of what I believe was known as the Parnacar.

The parts were, I believe, designed and manufactured by Mr. A. E. Parnacott at his premises at Penge, and he was assisted in this venture by my father, the late J. W. W. Munro. The chassis, engine block and rear axle housing comprised one assembly, the engine block and rear axle housing being made of aluminium, giving demonstrable lightness, as a picture of the whole structure supported on the back of one man proves. [This picture not reproduceable. – Ed. ]

It appears from the photographs that the power was supplied by an in-line vertical twin, which may have been air-cooled, judging by the fins.

I would be interested to hear from anyone who can throw any further light on this vehicle, and in particular whether it was ever actually driven, as I seem to have recollections of being told that it had four-wheel steering (and wheels which banked on corners?).

Wimborne. I. A. B. Munro

[I remember attending a war-time IAE lecture by Mr. Parnacott. The second picture probably depicts his independently-sprung (?) trailer loaded with parts of a Parnacar, outside the Penge premises.—Ed.]

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