THE HISTORY OF THE 1914 FRENCH GP MERCEDES TEAM CARS

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Car. No. 1.—Driven in the GP by Sailer. On show in Mercedes concessionaires in Paris on outbreak of war. Requisitioned by military authorities. Saved from active service by Baron Petiet, Inspector of Motorised Troops. Believed to have been purchased in 1934 by Daimler-Benz after Sailer discovered it in the Baron’s possession while at Montlhéry with the Mercedes-Benz team for the French GP.

Car No. II.—See text.

Car No. III.—Driven in the GP by Salzer. Thought to be the car shipped to America and used by Ralph de Palma to win the 1915 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race. In this race, interestingly, it had a streamlined tail. (See text.)

Car No. IV.—Driven in the GP by Wagner. Made available to Count Masetti for competition work, and won 1922 Targa Florio, etc., painted Italian red.

Car No. V.—Driven in the GP by Pilette, Mercedes’ Belgian agent. Thought to have been sent to Brussels to be put on display, but to have been hastily railed back to Germany on the outbreak of war. Possibly one of the two works entries, fitted with fw.b., in the 1922 Targa Florio.

Car No. VI.—Reserve car for GP. Sent to London for display and taken from Long Acre showrooms on the outbreak of war for Rolls-Royce to strip and examine, possibly being driven up to Derby. Meanwhile a Major Veal had paid a deposit against its purchase. However, it seems that immediately after the race it had been bought by an American, a Mr. Harrison. It seems likely that the transaction was done at Lyons and the car driven to Le Havre, probably to be delivered to America after a suitable publicity stay at Long Acre. Some accounts say the car was shipped to Mr. Harrison in America in 1919 but returned to England in 1922 for a “softer” camshaft and a touring body to be fitted. It was found at Hoopers, under a dust-sheet in 1925, and at last passed into Major Veal’s ownership, with two-seater tourer bodywork (MOTOR SPORT, October 1940). Is it not logical to wonder whether, a deposit having been taken by Long Acre on a car already sold to an American in France, the Mercedes may have been the subject of litigation, and been interned here from 1919 until 1925? There are some objections to this theory, such as its reputed journeying back and forth across the Atlantic and its alleged ownership by the well-known Mercedes fancier, Mr. Edward Mayer. But at all events it was bought by Mr. Peter Clark in 1939, and rebuilt with a replica GP body (MOTOR SPoRT, October 1941). After appearances in VSCC and other suitable events it was sold to Mr. Cameron Peck in America and in 1952, after his death, was bought for the Briggs Cunningham collection.

There is a car in the Daimler-Benz Museum at Stuttgart, believed to be a hybrid built up from various parts, around the two ears entered by the factory in the 1922 Targa Florio, i.e., car No.V and another, the identity of which constitutes a pretty mystery. There is also an engine in the Deutsch Museum in Munich, built up from spare parts. The identity of these Mercedes is obscured by the fact that the race number of the winning car was painted on several of them, for publicity purposes, after the GP, although Sailer’s car seems to have retained its own number. An example of how confusion arises occurred when the No, 40 on the radiator of Masetti’s car was taken as proof by one writer that it had been Wagner’s in the GP, until T. A. S. O. Mathieson pointed out that this was in fact Masetti’s number in the Targa Florio and that the No. 59 it also carried was put on for the subsequent Consuma hillclimb—although that does not rule out the possibility that Masetti asked for No. 40 in the Targa Florio for sentimental reasons! Readers who wish to adopt the cloak of Sherlock Holmes and attempt to take the matter further should read a most interesting article on this fascinating subject, by Mr. R. H. Johnson, which appeared in the journal of the Mercedes-Benz Club of June/July, 1968.—W. B.

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