GREAT RACING MARQUES
133, E. K. 11. KARSLAKE. all the great marques whose names have faded from the motoring world, there is none which must
distress the enthusiast so keenly by its passing as that of Mors. Later than Panhard or Peugeot, earlier than Merced.Cs or Fiat, the Mors won for itself far back in the dawn of the automobile era a name which should have lived for all time. But to-day one seeks in vain for the descendants of the victor of Paris-Madrid in the lists of 1931 cars. I remember that shortly after the war those huge advertisements painted on the sides of houses which are such a prominent feature of a French landscape consisted very often of the words, “Mors—simples, simples, silencieuses ” ; but now even these reminders of past glories have gone, and the name of Mors lives on only in history.
A 5 h.p. Racer.
It was in 1897, the third, year of real motor races, that the first racing Mors appeared. The great race of that year was run from Paris to Dieppe, the distance being 106 miles, and for it three 5 h.p. Mors were entered. These first racers of the marque had flat twin-cylinder engines, with a bore and stroke of 70 x 110 mm, the capacity thus being 847 c.c. The inlet valves of course were automatic and ignition was by low-tension magneto, while transmission was by belts giving three forward speeds and final drive by side chains. One of these cars fitted with a 2-seater body was driven by Mors himself, while in the 4-seater class two more were steered by Monter and Viard.
In the first class Mors soon showed himself well able to compete with the racers of such well-established firms as Panhards, Peugeot and Bollee, and finally he finished seventh in his class, averaging 19.6 m.p.h. for the 106 miles, against the winner’s 23.1 m.p.h. Both the other Mors cars finished being sixth and seventh in their class and finishing within a quarter of an hour of each other.
A month later, in August, the second great race of the year was held, the course this time being from Paris to Trouville, a distance of 108 miles. Once more three 5 h.p. Mors started, one of the drivers being again Mors himself, who was now accompanied. by Andre Michelin, the sporting tyre manufacturer, and Marcel Callen. Mors proved himself the fastest, and finished eighth among the cars, averaging 21.1 m.p.h., with Michelin ninth, and Callen. fourteenth. Thus the Mors’ first season ended with great promise of success.
The 5 h.p. racer, however, appeared again in 1898, in which year the first important race was run from Marseilles to Nice, a distance of 141 miles, in March.
This time the two brothers and L. Mors both drove cars, while the third machine was entrusted to Chesnay. Again E. Mors showed that he was capable of keeping up well with the famous Panhards, and at Hyeres he was seventh, while when Nice was reached he had. climbed to fifth place, his average speed, for the race being 18.2 m.p.h. His brother Louis finished, eighth and. Chesnay fifteenth, out of thirty-three finishers, and once again the Mors team had come home complete.
An Early Team. In May of that year the first of the famous series of races was held. from Paris to Bordeaux, and again the Mors team was entered,. Emile Mors as usual drove one of the cars, but now for the first time he had as his second driver the great Levegh, who was later to score famous victories for the marque, while the third car was entrusted to Antony. On this occasion, however, the team did, not enjoy its usual good fortune. Antony dropped out before Tours was reached, and Levegh having long clung to the tail of de Kn.yff’s car in second place, was also forced to retire before Bordeaux. Mors himself collided. with a cart near Angouleme and was thrown out, receiving
a broken collar bone ; and, thus none of the team succeeded in finishing the race.
The great race of 1898, however, was the famous Paris-Amsterdam-Paris which was run in July, and for this event a set of entirely new Mors racers were constructed. These cars had 6 h.p: motors with four cylinders arranged in a V at the back of the car. The bore and stroke were as before 70 x 110 mm. and the capacity therefore 1,694 c.c. The cars still had, belt transmission, but now only two speeds were provided, and for the first time a tubular radiator was fitted to cool the water.
23 m.p.h. for 889 Miles.
Emile Mors, not having completely recovered from his accident in the ParisBordeaux, Levegh now headed the team and was accompanied by Chesnay and Roseoff. But it was soon apparent that the 6 h.p. Mors was not as fast as the 8 h.p. racers entered by Panhard, Boll& and Peugeot. Roseoff fell out soon after starting the return journey from Amsterdam, but Levegh finished ninth, averaging 23 m.p.h. for the full 889 miles of the race, and Chesnay got back to Paris in eleventh place. It was, however, apparent that for racing something more powerful than the 6 h.p. car was necessary, although this model lasted on for some time as a most successful touring car. In fact Mors had by this time collected so enthusiastic a band of owners of his cars that in October he organised a special race for Mors ears only from Saint Germain to Vernon and back, a distance of 79 miles. The winner proved to be Levegh, who averaged 29.3 m.p.h., while it is interesting to note that the fifth car to arrive was driven by no less a person than Brasier. Levegh and Roseoff also ran early the next year in the Nice-Castellane-Nice race on Mors cars of the same type ; but against the big racers which were now being built by other firms they were only able to finish tenth and eleventh. During the winter, however, the
brothers Mors had been busy on the construction of some new racing cars which could worthily uphold the firm’s colours against the sternest competition. These new cars were entirely unlike the earlier machines from the factory, and followed much more closely the now almost universal Panhard pattern. The engines developed 16 h.p. and had four vertical cylinders with a bore and stroke of 98 x 140 mm. while trans
98 x 140 mm. (5,078 mission was now by a conventional 4-speed sliding pinion gearbox and, side chains.
Four of these cars were entered for the first big race of 1899 which was the second Paris Bordeaux event, and had as their drivers Levegh, Antony, Broc and Fougerat. Levegh was early in trouble, but Antony kept up well with the Panhards, finally finishing sixth and averaging 26.4 m.p.h. for the 351 miles. Broc, the next member of the Mors team to arrive, was tenth, Levegh fourteenth and Fougerat sixteenth. Thus the traditional Mors achievement of the whole team finishing was once more repeated. This race, however, was looked upon by all the competitors merely as a prelude to the great race of the year styled the Tour de France. In this event the course led the competitors right round France, the total distance of the race being 1,350-miles divided into seven daily stages. For this event the four 16 h.p. Mors were entered, three of their drivers being as before, Levegh, Antony and Broc, while the fourth car was now handled by the famous Camille Jenatzy, who thus made his first appearance in the great races. Both Antony and, Broc fell out during the second stage from Nancy to Aix-les-Bains, but Levegh kept well up with the leaders. On the penultimate stage from Nantes to Cabourg he actually made the fastest time of the day, but he was then too far ehind to hope for victory, and he had to be content to finish eighth, averaging 16.8 m.p.h. Jenatzy in the meantime had been experiencing innumerable troubles, not the least of which was that his car ran off the road into a ditch and br oke a wheel. Nevertheless he continued and, completed the whole course after driving throughout one night to catch 1-11), his average speed being just over 8 m .p .h. I
Vany Victories. The last year of the old century was not however to prove devoid of victory for the new 16 h.p. Mors. At the end of July, a race was run from Paris to St. Alai°, and in it Levegh, Antony and Jenatzy started on their Mors racers, The cars soon showed that they had, got over the troubles which had delayed them in the Tour de France, and finally Antony and Levegh finished first and second, the former averaging 30.7 m.p.h. for the 231 miles, while Jenatzy was seventh. The success of the first two was repeated a month later when they again finished first and second, this time in the Paris-Trouville Race when Antony’s average was 35.2 m.p.h. for the 105 miles. There followed Paris-Ostend at the beginning of
September in which an amazing result was witnessed : for the cars were given a massed start, and Levegh on his Mors and Girardot on a Panhard raced neck and neck for the full 201 miles, finally finishing in a dead. heat at 32i m.p.h. ! Jenatzy and Broc had also started in the race and succeeded in finishing fifth and sixth. A fortnight later was run. Paris-Boulogne, and the Levegh-Girardot duel was refought on the new course. This time, however, Girardot got home first and Levegh had to be content with second place, less than two minutes behind his great rival, while Broc was third. The season’s racing was, however, still not over for by the 1st October the Mors team had moved down to the SouthWest to take part in the Bordeaux-Biarritz race. In this event they scored another victory, Levegh proving the winner at 37 m.p.h. for the 163 miles, with Antony second and Broc fifth. Thus by the end of the old century, Panhard realised that in Mors they had at last found a really worthy opponent.
But it was already apparent that chances of victory in the great races would be largely enhanced by the use of a more powerful engine and for the 1900 season Mors set about the production of some new racers which were destined to be outstandingly successful. The new cars had 4cylinder engines rated at 24 h.p., with a bore and stroke of 119 x 165 mm. and a capacity of 7,343 c.c., while the rest of the chassis followed closely that of the 16 h.p. racer from which it was developed. The first of these cars was ready by March, and Levegh decided to try it out in the Nice-Marseilles Race which was run in that month. It was soon apparent that the new Mors was the fastest car in the race, but Levegh was delayed for half an hour with tyre troubles and was only able to finish fifth. But the real speed of the car was amply demonstrated in the speed trials which were held shortly afterwards on the Promenade des Anglais at Nice when1Levegh covered the flying kilometre at 50.3
kilometre at 50.3 m.p.h. The next important race took place at the beginning of June and was run from Bordeaux to Perigueu.x and back, a total distance of 198 miles. By this time two of the new Mors were ready and Levegh had Farman as his teammate. Great excitement attended the race as after Levegh’s performance at Nice it was wondered whether the new Mors were not really faster than the Panhards. Levegh set off in great style and reached Perigueux nearly three minutes ahead of Giraud on the first of the Pan.hards. On. the return journey he increased his lead, and finally won the race by more than eleven minof 48.4
utes at an average speed of 48.4 m.p.h., while Farman who was fourth averaged 41.7 m.p.h. Thus the Mors claim to be the fastest car of the year was well on the way to establishment.
A Remarkable Performance.
The great race of the season, however, was to be the Paris-Toulouse-Paris, run at the end of July, and for this event three of the new Mors were entered, their drivers being Levegh, Antony and Hourgieres. The race was run in three stages, Paris to Toulouse, Toulouse to Limoges and Limoges to Paris. On the first day Levegh went marvellously and made the fastest time by almost exactly one hour, and although he had minor troubles on the second and third days his adversaries could never catch him and he finally came home the winner. His time for the 837 miles of the race was 20 hours 50 minutes 9 seconds, and his average 40.2 m.p.h., a truly remarkable achievement. Antony on the second, Mors finished fifth, while Hourgieres fell out soon after the start of the return journey. Thus for the first time Mors had won the great event of the motoring year. The 24 h.p. Mors made one more appearance—in the Nice-Salon-Nice race which was run in March, 1901. The solitary Mors was driven by de Caters who finished third, covering the 244 miles at 33.7 m.p.h., the race being won by one of the new Mercedes. But for the important races of the 1901 season Mors had decided to build a set of still more power
ful cars. The new racers had 60 h.p. engines with a bore and stroke of 130 x 190 nun. and thus a capacity of 10,092 c.c., no striking alterations being made in the chassis. One of these cars, which was to be driven by Levegh, was chosen as one of the French team for the Gordon Bennett Cup, which was to be competed for in conjunction with the Paris-Bordeaux race at the end of May. In the open class of the race there were three more Mors which were driven by Hourgieres, de Caters and Fournier, who now joined the team for the first time.
Levegh as usual got away Well and at Chartres he was leading with Fournier fourth, and before Tours the latter had moved up into second place. Soon after leaving this town, however, Levegh dropped out with gearbox trouble, and, the race was finally won by Fournier who covered the 328 miles at 53 m.p.h. Thus the new Mors had scored first blood, and the factory set about preparations in earnest for the great race of the year, Paris-Berlin. No fewer than six 60 h.p. Mors arrived at the starting line, and it was obvious that they formed a
very strong team. Levegh had now dropped out, but his old, team-mates Antony and Hourgieres had two of the cars, Fournier, after his victory in ParisBordeaux, had a third, and. Brasier the fourth, while the other two cars were driven by two Englishmen, the Hon. C. S. Rolls and Foxhall Keene.
Fournier soon showed, himself a worthy successor to Levegh and took the lead from the outset. By the time Aix-laChapelle was reached he had a lead, of nearly ten minutes over de Knyff who was running second, and he held it all the way to the finish at the trotting track in Berlin, finally winning at 44.1 m.p.h. for the 687 miles. Fournier actually had been marvelously lucky, for no sooner had the cars moved, off after the finish for the procession through the Brandenburgher Tor, than the winning Mors broke a chain link, and, the driver had to repair it. Brasier finished fourth, Hourgieres twelfth and Rolls twenty-ninth, and the reputation of the Mors, which had thus won the great race of the season two years in succession, was made for all time.
No sooner was Paris-Berlin over than the A.C.F. set about the organisation of the next year’s great race which was to be from Paris to Vienna. For the first time a weight limit of 1000 kgms. with an extra allowance of 7 kgms. if a magneto was fitted., was imposed, and as the ParisBerlin Mors had weighed some 1,300 kgms. it was necessary to set about constructing a new set of racers for 1902. The engines of the new cars, although still rated, at 60 h.p., had, a larger bore and a shorter stroke, the dimensions being 140 x 150 mm and the capacity 9,240 c.c. The chassis of course was built very much lighter, the clutch was a leather cone instead of the previous all-metal arrangement and a device was incorporated by which the drive on top speed was direct and not through the gearbox, while a further improvement was the fitting of shock-absorbers working on the dash-pot principle. Fournier after his victory in ParisBerlin was chosen as one of the French team for the Gordon Bennett Cup, which was being competed for in conjunction with the Paris-Vienna race over the stage Paris-Innsbruck. The rest of the Mors team for the race consisted as before of de Caters, Foxhall Keene and Rolls, who were now joined by the later so famous Gabriel and the American enthusiast Vanderbilt, while smaller 40
cars were driven by Augieres, and d’Arnand, and Godard-Desmarest and Fraignac drove 20 h.p. machines in the light car class.
Fournier, as in Paris-Berlin, took the lead from the outset and covered the 871miles to ‘Troyes in 80 minutes. But he was not destined to repeat his performance of the year before, as just before reaching Chaumont he was put out of the race with transmission trouble. The Mors in fact were not lucky, as Rolls, Keene and. Fraignac had, all come to grief early on in the race at the level crossing at Ozoir la rerriere, and the first of the team to finish was de Caters who reached Vienna ninth in the big car class.
Thus Mors had this time failed to repeat the success which had, been gained in the most important race of 1900 and 1901. But the season was not yet over, and at the end of July the Belgian Club set about the organisation of the first Circuit des Ardennes race. For this event four of the big 60 h.p. Mors were entered, their drivers being Gabriel, de Caters, Vanderbilt and Augieres. The race was very hotly contested., but Gabriel soon gave a taste of his future quality by getting into second, place on the first round and staying there till the finish, his average speed being 52.6 m.p.h. for the 318 miles. Baron d,e Caters meanwhile had, fallen out on the second, lap, but Vanderbilt finished third, and Augieres seventh. Thus was the defeat of Paris-Vienna to some extent revenged.
During the ensuing winter the Mors factory was busy on the construction of the new racers for 1903. This model had an engine rated at 70 h.p. as against the previous 60 h.p., and the bore and, stroke were both increased. The dimensions now were 145 x 175 mm., and the capacity 11,564 c.c., while for the first time a great innovation was added, in the shape of mechanically operated inlet valves, which were overhead and directly above the exhaust valves. The old solid axles were now discarded in favour of tubular members, and the new cars, of which thirteen were built had novel bodies much resembling an inverted boat.
The great event of 1903 was to be another international race, this time from Paris to Madrid. The enthusiasm aroused by the race was enormous and the entry list was the largest ever recorded, and. included all thirteen of the new Mors. Henri Fournier was of course to drive again, and he was accompanied by his brother, by Augieres, Gabriel, Salleron, Rigal, Vanderbilt, the Baron de Forest and other drivers not as yet so well known.
Paris-Bordeaux at 65 m.p.h.
The story of Paris-Madrid is so well known and is so great an epic that I do not presume to try and tell it here. But beneath all the tales of woe and. disaster, of the triumphant tragedy of the Renault brothers, of the dramatic action of stopping the race at Bordeaux, there must never be forgotten the fact of Gabriel’s wonderful drive. Starting number 168 he brought his 70 h.p. Mors through all that line of struggling cars and humanity and actually was the third driver to reach Bordeaux. On, time of course he was an easy winner and, in face of the colossal obstacles on the route he actually covered the 342 miles from Paris to Bordeaux at an average speed. of 65.2 m.p.h. ! It was an event that must make the name of Mors live for ever, make it a name which would never be forgotten if the firm had never won another race. But Gabriel’s win was not all. Henri Fourier, Vaaderbilt, Rigal and de Forest dropped out of the race ; but second place in the big car class and third, position in the general classification was taken by Salleron. A. Fournier was seventh and Augieres was twelfth. Never had the fame of Mors stood higher.
After his wonderful victory in ParisMadrid it was only to be expected that Gabriel and his Mors should be chosen as one of the French team for the Gordon Bennett Cup. This year as a result of S. F. Edge’s victory in 1902 the race was held in Ireland but Gabriel was unable to repeat his recent triumph and had to be content with fourth place.
Thus ended the 1903 season, and manufacturers retired, to construct their new racers for 1904. More power was still the aim of every designer and the new Mors engines were rated at 100 h.p. These were the days of big bore-stroke ratios, and the dimensions of the new Mors engine were 170 x 150 ‘um., the capacity thus being 13,624 c.c. These engines had the novel feature of being desaxe, but the chassis of the cars did not differ materially from those of 1903, except that, presumably to save weight and keep within the 1,000 kilo limit in spite of the larger engine, three speed, gearboxes instead of four-speeds were now fitted.
Three of these cars were entered, for the French Eliminating Race for the Gordon Bennett Cup team which was run over the Circuit de l’Argonne near the Belgian border on 20th May, the Mors drivers being Salleron, Leger and. Lavergne. Salleron completed. the first round, in. sixth place but he gradually crept up to finish second behind Thery’s Brasier, covering the net racing distance of 331 miles at an average speed of 58.4 m.p.h., his average speed over the timed flying kilometre being 74.5 m.p.h. Thus, although the other two Mors fell out, Salleron secured a place in the French Gordon Bennett team for the race which was this year to be run in Germany, and in which he finally took seventh place at 43.8 m.p.h.
A Spell of M-luck. The Mors team appeared once more in 1904 in the Circuit des Ardennes race, but their former triumphs were not to be repeated. Lavergne fell out on the third
round, but the other two cars finished, Leger being tenth and Salleron fourteenth. Whether owing to disappointment at the comparative lack of success of the 1904 racers or to some other cause, no new Mors were built for the 1905 events, and it was not until 1908 that the famous French firm made its reappearance in racing. In that year the Grand Prix, which had now become the premier event
of the season, was for cars with cylinder bores limited to 155 mm, and the new 100 h.p. Mors engine thus had dimensions of 155 x 170 mm, giving a capacity of 12,836 c.c. The cars had been prepared at the very last moment, and out of the three entered, only two actually reached the starting line. Of these one was driven by Landon and the other by no less a person than the great Jen.atzy. Even he, however, was
unable to make much of a showing, and he finally finished sixteenth with Landon seventeenth.
Thus ended the racing history of Mors. One would have liked perhaps to have concluded the story with Paris-Madrid, but most true stories have something of an anti-climax, and whatever may have happened subsequently, the memory of Gabriel’s wonderful drive must remain for ever.