MOTOR SPORT Veteran Types
A SPORTS CAR OF 1913. THE 80-90 MERCEDES
AFTER Lautenslager’s victory in the 1908 French Grand Prix, driving a thirteen litre four cylinder car, the ambition of every true motor sportsman was to own a “giant Mercedes.” The large four-cyinder type enjoyed a great run of popularity in the days before the War, and even when the Peugeots showed in 1912 the superiority in racing of a smaller and handier chassis, the old type persisted. • The car which is the subject of this article was imported to this country by its first owner, an English nobleman, at the end of 1913 and though the engine dimensions still
seem to our modern ideas rather large, in ease of handling, chassis rennera.ents and overall height it was ahead of its time. . The engine has four cylinders cast m pairs, bore and stroke 130 by 180 mm., giving a total capacity of 8,850 c.c. Each cylinder has three overhead valves, one inlet and two exhaust, seating in detachable cages and operated by push rods on the near side of the engine. An enor
mous piston-type carburettor was originally fitted, but this was Changed by its last owner to an S.U. off a 30-98 Vauxhall, as being a little simpler to understand. On the other side, driven in tandem, is a water-pump and a Bosch
double magneto. This instrument has two contact breakers, one set Slightly in advance of the other, and fires two plugs in each cylinder. B
The bottom of the crankcase is divided into two sumps, the rear one a storage tank, as it were, and the forward one, fed from the former, from where a high-pressure feed is carried to the bearings. The engine has three oil-filling apertures into one of which the owner emptied several gallons of oil some time ago, since when no trace has been seen, but evidently it must have got to the right place.
At the back of the engine is a colossal flywheel with inclined fiat spokes, which act as a fan. The clutch mechanism is very ingenious, combining a large area of contact, which was very necessary in view of the power, with an absence of end thrust when the pedal is depressed. The back of the flywheel carries a casing with two internal cone faces, and against these are pressed two steel cones, each cone being carried on a sleeve. One sleeve slides within the other, and transmits the drive through splines on to the carden shaft.
• Normally a large spring between the steel cones forces them apart and holds them in engagement with the leather faces on the flywheel. When the clutch pedal is depressed it forces wedges between ball-races carried on the sleeves, and draws the cones together, freeing the assembly. Cunning indeed ! The gear-box is a very massive affair, and all the shafts run in enormous ball races. Its size is partly explained by the fact that it has
to contain the bevel gears–ratio 1 to 1—and the differential. The cross-shaft carries two brakedrums and the friction is provided by external cast-iron shoes. In order to dissipate excessive heat, water is squirted in each time the brakes are applied. A special tank is carried for the supply, and an air-pressure pump belt-driven off the cardan shaft supplies the necessary force. The hand-brakes work direct on the back-wheels, but the chain-covers prevented one from seeing their construction. The back
wheels are, of course, driven by two single chains, one on either side of the chassis. Seen from the front, the Mercedes really has quite modern lines. This is partly due, no doubt, to the body, which is almost certainly not the original, but the reason lies deeper than that. The front axle is dropped, and the front springs are flat, just as they would be in its 1933 counter part, and the H section back-axle
Is of similar construction, since it merely has to carry the weight. Chain drive did simplify chassis design. The rear spring shackles connect to a cross-stay, which ro tates in bushes but is checked by volute springs. An early form of auxiliary springing, but the present
owner thinks that the fitting is not original, but copied from Panhard practice. The controls are the normal three, but the brake-pedal is reinforced by another on the extreme right,
which also applies the brakes, but in addition accelerates the engine, and is evidently intended for changing down on a corner. A short gear-lever works in a normal gate, and the hand-brake is powerful. The dashboard carries some unusual instruments. One is a dripfeed for setting oil-feed to the
steering-box. Another is a waterlevel gauge for the brake-water tank, while a large handle worked a greaser for the water-pump spindle. All racing fittings, and just as dear to the enthusiast of that time as are the independent fuel systems, blower gauges, and individually wired lighting systems are to his brother of the present day. The rev, counter was unfortunately out of order, but read up to 2,000 r.p.rn. Actually maximum revs. are about 1350. Starting the car was quite easy, as the engine had already been running before we arrived. Pulling a lever under the radiator moves the camshaft endwise and brings into position half-compression cams which make it possible to swing the engine. A couple of turns and she starts to tick-over, sounding more powerful when the half-compression
handle is pushed home. The present owner had to stuff one of the enormous silencers with chicken-wire in order to muffle its hearty boom. We climb on board, and the driver puts down the clutch pedal about a foot and inserts first gear. The car shudders slightly, then surges forward as the clutch goes home. Chugging majestically on an 8 to 1 bottom gear, we make our way on to the busy main road. Changing up through the gears, the acceleration was quite brisk, and we were soon burbling along on the 1.5 to 1
top in a very comfortable way. At an estimated speed of 50 m.p.h. one had to talk loudly to be heard, the boom of the exhaust, the sound of the wind over the narrow windscreen, which was drumming in its frame, and general mechanical noises, blending into what can only be called a confused sound, which was, all the same, distinctly soothing. It was impossible to get the car going fast in the short run we took, but the owner thinks she is good for about 85 in top and 75 in third. The present carburettor is much too small, and the mixture control has to be opened when one wants to accelerate, and driving is difficult under such conditions.
On the return journey the writer took over. Control was light for a 24 ton car of 12 foot wneelbase, cornering being steady and safe. The gears were easy to change, third and top especially, and the brakes were smooth and surprisingly powerful. With a car like that, tile motorist of 1913 had no reason to worry about distance, and we would have cheerfully set off in it for a hundred-mile run.
The joy of a car like this is that one is constantly finding out how new parts of it work. During the afternoon we discovered the valves controlled by the foot-brakes for releasing water on to the drums, and also a tap with a long extension for finding the oil level in the sump. But it is a really practical vehicle, as was shown by its beating a number of Hornets and other small fry in a quarter-mile sprint on a private drive. “loch das Merc !
Incidently, for particulars as to engine dimensions, date of manufacture, and various matters we must acknowledge our gratitude to Messrs. British Mercedes-Benz, who on this and various other occasions have furnished us with invaluable information regarding Mercedes cars.