That missing 1914 GP Mercedes

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Sir,

Although I did not see the earlier articles on the subject, I was fascinated with the David Scott-Moncrieff piece on the dePalma 1914 GP Mercedes holding, as it did, the however slight hope that such an historic racing car might be found, and thus allowing each of us to conjure his own delicious daydreams of the romantic circumstances under which we discover this treasure. While the matter could be thus (temporarily) laid to rest, we may prefer to prolong the fun and perhaps expand the mystery, so we write from America, not with any further definitive information but to raise some questions. I enclose some significant pictures from my collection:

One (car number 17) shows the dePalma car more or less in the same condition as the photograph you previously published (which I assume was taken after Mr. Klauder’s father acquired the car). This picture was taken at the Beverly Hills (America) Board Track, and, while I do not know the date nor can I identify the crew, I believe the first race at the Beverly Hills Speedway was run on February 29th, 1920.

The second picture (car number 19) was most certainly taken at the Ascot Track* during November, 1919.This same racing car appeared earlier that year at Indianapolis; the interesting book, “The Indianapolis 500”, by jack C. Fox, which tabulates and illustrates hundreds of entrants, shows its picture and contains. the following item for 1919:

Number: 19.
Car: “Detroit”.
Driver: Charles Kirkpatrick.
Entrant: Frank P. Book.
Engine: Mercedes copy.
Cylinders: Four.
Displacement: 274 cu. in.
Chassis: Mercedes copy.
Colour: Silver.
Qualifying speed: 90.
Start: 11.
Finish: 20.
Result: Out lap 19, con.-rod.

*Corrections to Mr. Klauder, Junior’s, information:
1. Ascot Speedway was not a board track.

2. Ascot Speedway nearer to Los Angeles than Pasadena.

3. Long-tailed racing body not from a Packard.

The first question that comes to mind would be as follows:

“If one owned a 1914 GP Mercedes, why would one also build a copy?” Apparently Mr. Frank Book did. Unfortunately the bonnet is raised on the wrong car in the two pictures enclosed, but careful examination of the original prints will reveal a striking similarity of features (example, frame rails), although the Mercedes “copy” has a spreader bar at the extreme front end of the frame, and the front cross member appears to differ. The “copy” has a non-standard radiator core, different arrangement of shock-absorbers, and the body differs mainly appearing smoother and a bit lower, etc.

If nothing else, perhaps this information will help a potential discoverer of the dePalma Mercedes avoid the disappointment of later learning that he has discovered a “copy”. Such an event would perhaps present a lesser dilemma than that facing the possible unearthing of another Indianapolis Mercedes, for the car with which dePalma most heroically lost the 1912 race ran in 1914 with a Peugeot engine!

Frederick A. Usher.
Los Angeles.