We note that the rebuilt Ninety Mercedes which appeared at some of last year’s VSCC meetings was among the cars in the Beaulieu auction sale by Christies on December 8th. The catalogue entry for this formidable car poses a very minor but interesting mystery. It states that the car (Reg XK 3202) was built as an experimental chassis for Werner Ducker of Dusseldorf but that he received another Mercedes, this one going to the Mercedes agent in Paris and being supplied in 1913 to a Mr Eddie Spencer. h is then said to have had a brief Brooklands’ association, being raced at the Track by Major R. F. “Shugger” Cooper. Its appearance in the eighth Lightning Short Handicap at the 1921 Easter Meeting was quoted as a memorable occasion, being the race in which Cooper’s friend Count Zborowski brought out for the first time in public the famous Chitty-Bang-Bang, — which won, with a best ‘lap speed of 108.51 mph.
It is true that in this race both the Cooper brothers entered their Mercedes cars, J. H. Cooper his venerable 12.8-litre black car, which non-started, and the Major his smaller white Mercedes. The latter was the slowest of the runners, with a lap at 73.78 mph, although that, implying a top speed of about 85 mph, was quick for a Ninety. But my Brooklands’ records show that not only did this car have an engine of 130 170 mm (9,026 cc) whereas that of the car that was auctioned is given as of 130 180 mm (9,530 cc), but that the engine and chassis numbers are different. So in this respect one is compelled to doubt the accuracy of Christies’ description. However, the rest of the story falls properly into place. The old car is said to have gone to the Wallingford fire-brigade in Berkshire in 1925, when they required a fast auxiliary appliance, and I remember hearing during the war or just afterwards that it had been seen in that locality, by I think D. B. Tubbs, abandoned, and mistaken for one of the Zborowski Chitty-Bang-Bangs. Zborowski had an interest in his local Kentish fire-brigade, which may have been how the Berkshire Brigade heard of the old car, although as neither Cooper nor the Count lived near there, this is pure surmise. It was saved in the mid-1950s by Halkyard, who appeared with it in VSCC events, whether “very successfully” as the auction catalogue says, is a matter of opinion. In 1973 the pre-sale owners took it in hand, rebuilding it and fitting a replacement body. It must be the only Ninety Mercedes in running order in this country and one hopes sincerely that it will remain here after the auction sale. WB