REBUILDING THE 1914 GRAND-PRIX MERCEDES
Some further notes by Peter Clark on this historic car, which made a first appearance at Chessington I.N Ins wport Or tilt nal.,nt Clicssintgisin flatly the L’ditor referred to flu 1914 Grand-Prix Mereedes, widell Was then making’ its first public appearance since being rclinilt. lle asked me at the Rally, and has repeatell the request: in writing; since, to let. him have some notes tin the rcbuilding, Si) I hope all you readers share his greatinterest in the car. ,1etually it has been so mueli written about of late that I fear people may be heartily sick
Of it, lnut I hope I Inn wrong. There is not. a great deal more to say, for the car was very fully deseribed in NIOToi; Seiner for October, 1940. .lorcover, 1 (Ape( t most readers saw AISO the Motor ” Milestones id. Speed article No. 3 (October 9th, 1940), odtich was devidei l. VA this car. If they did not. I am stire MOTOR SpORT Will IPA Mind My recom metating them to do so, for art istenthusiast Creswell’s explialed drawings, drawn iiiHilentally from the act-flat parts ilepieted, are magnificent and excelled wily by
his Mon’ recent presentation of the 1921 3-litre 13allot. I nerd hardly say that so major an operation its the total dis mantling and reassembly of a 25-years-old. car was not accom plished wit hind. a, fair sliare of those alartutts anti exeursions Nvidvn go to rnake such Nvork both plc:tsurtble and MCMorable, And I IA di begin, instead of tacking the bouquet on as a postseript if I remember, by saying that the job could never have been done Ivii
out iimy trusted helper and adviser. Pete Odertnatt. Thk w., 1,t hy gen t1ema ii from Switzerland vas intrndueed t;) me as one Who Was ” familiar Nvith Ilerc&les up to 1008 and anxious to learn about a modern one.” I can only sav
that he applied himself to his studies with an enthusiasm. patience and perseverance in the fzitie of the seemingly impossihle Aviden was a constant inspiration to me. Things were not made easier by the erratic manner in whieh the work hail to be earried cult, in tits and. starts, the long aw ailed arrival of certain parts coinciding pciliaps with an especially busy spell in Mr. 0.’s ” affairs when so many ears
were clamouring for at in his garage that even an hour a night on tla. AlercC(U‘s was mit of Ihe quest 11111. Thus. after hi lapse of or viii lIlohhlIl’l, we would find we had completely nu-it-oil ten how thaws went. and Hai most intensive I Ititiking w neeessary to) tV, ijit tOOnSh
mistakes. Aly wife and 1 first began to feel the urge for an Edwardian towards the end of the 1939 season. It all goes baek to the last he Mans rave week, dull Anthony who had business to do in Zurich, new away and kit his helkived 30/9s ” Vauxhall in our hands. Laugh not, ‘try fricnils ; I neither bust it nor (Tasked it, but I did feel that 1he ;;.tood iNe we matte of it contributed to the overhaul it received on its return home, and thus it came aholit that Anthony’s fitnams Fiat was towed to several late ’39 IneOinw, behind my trials 3-litre Bentley (see MOTOR SPORT, February, 1939). This, of course, brought us into closer contact. than ever before with the 10-litre Fiat car, and produced a keen realisation of the charm of these machines. ‘Nre be( ann. pritspcctive
A viczy of the ent.:Inc )(lotus inlet and exhaust manifolds. Looking down the Picture from. top to bottom, one sees the face-cam shock absorbers in their leather boots, and Ilze It`hib-ihead Bowden-cableoperated ,front brakes. At the back of the engine are the two magnetos and the camshcfji drive, the starter ring on flywheel ceing a relic of added touring gear. Through the spokes of the steering wheel, on -nearside front of the gearbox, can be seen the little pump which supplies air pressure to the fuel system, Finally, behind thc gearbox are the metal-lined transmission brake and the massive CYO’S member which carries the front anchorage ol the torque tube buyers, and I was advised to SVC )A110011.1′ ‘NI”j”r Vu’iti would ciinsidAl. seniiii2: his 1911 It..rci:cdCs, for which he had been refusing offers for the past. 10 yearsor more. VI.. met z•itil convineed the gallant Major that \*. ii mlii love, cherish and restore the car, :oat on this understanding he agrecil ticsell. I much respect his stubliorn refusal 10 sell the car to those who wished to girl-kr(‘ Llt,wcrs with bootlaces and essay the lirooklands lap record or other such teats, for I agree with him that, successful or otherwise, the car would afterwards have been east upon the junk heap and so lost to imsterity. I shall also not forget thtit, realisingwe could not fetch the car until just after petrol rationing
egan, the Major thougldlUlly Iihk U the tank brimhil hefore it was too late. Five IT( le journeyed, much conTressid, in the heal Vauxhall now in superb order once -to nisey, uid, a triumphant return ‘‘ 1111.M. mite)) de-com presscd. Anthony heal. Sam Chinon and I taking it in turn to drive the Mercedes, while the Vauxhall towed, a trailerful iii spares and accessories, including numerous wheels. The ‘Mercedes was not ex.t . tided beyond 2,000 rpm. (some tiO m.p.h. in top), bee:tits(‘ things sourtdcd nAlter 111f,51′ and there was very lit Ile oil pressure, but the usual gamut of expressions, rangircr from Hank incredulity to was iv tired on UR’ dicers’ faces we hurtled past. We had no untoward eVulds, not eNTII a IM/1( IOW, although two of
the tyres w( balti and a third showed canvas all round. Arriving home, Sam and A nthinlyt’c’hI aniirily mien the touring \ink the new tew’llers grittiginirly fulfilled It longstanding social date, and w ithin three hours the :iota ;trance had been greatkaltered from that
shown in Altyrua Stioar, tober. 1 11 10. I’nfortiiiii;telv, this flying start was nut maintained iii fact, very little else was (lone before luminary, 1910. From then on wards wiJrk proeeeded fairly steadil:y, al the rate of about two hours let’ evenitnt. for some four or live months, and, as can he imagined, consideridle progress S%’11 s made. Assisted by doses of penetrating oil, the dismantling process was not. especially difficult, hut stripping the chassis of its several coats of paint took literally weeks. 1Vc used every available brand of solvent, some 1,1 them extremely painful to the human skin, a ml relays of blowlamps. We made our first real bloomer reasscniblitet the gearbox, getting it almost completely assembled before we realised that the reverse arrangements. Nv hick We had kept till last, must necessarily go in first
Work came to a standstill in June, 1940, or thereabouts, as Laystall’s had most of the engine, and when the air ” blitz” on London started there were many moments of great anxiety. Frankly, I never thought we should see that engine back. By the time it did return, business reasons in the shape of the removal of part of my work to a safe area and the impending arrival of that new competitor, Anthony Phillip Clark, had compelled a similar removal of our home. Moreover, the Odermatt establishment was working at full pressure unbending damaged ears, and, in any ease, evening work was out of the question for some months. With the advent of double summer time in 1941, however, work was resumed, and when the Chessington Rally was first mooted it was apparent that with a not unreasonable spurt the car could be ready. This spurt became a fairly hectic rush by the week-end and week-day evenings immediately before the event, and in every possible way there was all the atmosphere of getting ready for a peace-time race. We worked very late the night before and were towed forth bright and early on the appointed day. I need hardly say that it rained ahnost the whole way to Chessington, a monotonous downpour, broken only by a veritable cloudburst which occurred on the Kingston By-pass. At this juncture the victim in the Mercedes insisted upon entering the Delage in order to strip off all his clothes and wear only his overalls, so as to have something fairly dry to wear all day. While he was doing
this the umbrella from the -Mercedes blew away and was later reported by Bunny Tubbs to have passed under one of the pedestrian bridges doing about 75 m.p.h. We reached Chessington about 1.15, which Sam Outten said was very inconsiderate of us, our appearance at the luncheon table being further delayed by (a) our panic-stricken confusion when a rather mangy stuffed camel, which had obviously been dead for a century or more, got up and walked away ; and
(b) the fact that the Delage, whose clutch was not unduly amused by the towing entertainment at the best of times, refused to tow us up the field to our allotted place, so that we had to start the Mercedes. I suppese I should apologise for the aluminium paint, which was apparently offensive to a good many people. It was, of course, easy and quick to apply without preparation of the surfaces, whereas white is the very devil. I suppose it will have to be white, although the modern Mercedes racers used aluminium and I rather hoped to get away with it Incidentally, the oversize back tyres Fre correct, being the exact inch equivalent to the metric sizes originally used. Also the silencer, which your Editor thought was purely ornamental, is too effective, it being quite impossible to hear from the driving seat whether all cylinders are firing. [Surely we heard the engineer explain that a pipe ran nearly straight through ?—Ed.] All these things and many others will be dealt with, for the car, although Mechanically complete, is far from finished in superficial detail. Incidentally, if
anyone would sell me a Mercedes star with a 70-mm. diameter outer ring, I shall be eternally grateful. John Jesty, late of the Cambridge University A.C., very kindly sent me one, but I really need the pair.
The journey home was equally realistic and reminiscent of the real thing. We left our departure much too late, and thus darkness was falling as we approached Slough. However, we managed to buy a tail-light off a soldier’s push-bike for half-a-crown, to hang on the Mercedes, and the soldier seemed quite pleased ; as someone remarked afterwards, it probably wasn’t his bike, anyway. Shortly after this the Delage’s clutch began to get really weary and we had to start the Mercedes again to push her up a hill—yet another of the benefits of towing on a bar rather than a rope. This, and increasing fatigue, and the knowledge of several steep hills ahead, led us to abandon the Mercedes in the space awaiting Anthony Heal’s Ballot at Penn. This caddish trick did not matter, as it happened, for Anthony had pulled the back-end oft his Alvis saloon and had had to abandon the Ballot in Slough !
One evening shortly afterwards we allowed ourselves. the luxury of driving the Mercedes under her own power the remaining 20 miles to my home near Berkhamsted, and thus, with no more fuss than the modern saloons which were her companions on the road, this lovely lady came home.