Vintage Postbag - Sixty Mercedes, October 1973

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Sir,

Your interesting article on the three Mercedes 60s in England reminded me that I had seen another one in the Transportation Section of the Smithsonian Institute Museum in Washington, D.C.

Being there again last week, I had a closer look at it, and it is indeed a 1903 60 h.p., presented to the museum by a man named Gibbs. It has an open four-seater body, but the height of the tonneau and seat backs scarcely rises above the bonnet line, and it could be that the high back, more typical of its day, has been cut down to give a more sporting appearance in later times. It is painted in the traditional red. Numerous oil drip feeds include pipes to lubricate the driving chains while in motion. Front mudguards are simply stretched canvas, but there are flat metal guards over the rear wheels and chains. It is shod with unused Dunlop cord tyres, larger on the rear wheels. Lighting is from a fine pair of brass acetylene lamps, labelled “Rushmore Mirror-lens Searchlight”, and made by the Rushmore Dynamo Works, of Plainsfield, N.J. A cylindrical tank on the right-hand side, above and behind the oil tank, houses the acetylene generator, and the rear lamp is oil fed. The brass handle at the base of the radiator, which I took to be a drain tap is presumably the half-compression handle referred to in your article. There was also an unknown device, not apparent on the cars in England, which looked like a header tank protruding through the bonnet just in front of the scuttle, having a filler cap, a pipe leading into the engine compartment, and a pressure gauge reading, I believe, to 5 p.s.i. Could this be a modified fuel pressure system, replacing the exhaust pressure in the original design? I was not able to see the engine, but the general fine state of the car suggested that it would be very much a runner. It might be interesting to discover more of its history.

Other fine cars in this section include a sporting two-seater 1912 50 h.p. Simplex, the body built by Holbrook of New York, and a 1912 36 h.p. Pierce-Arrow Runabout, a two seater with a quaint single dickey seat behind. And, of course, the inevitable T-Ford tourer, of 1913 vintage. In fact, everything from Stage coaches onwards, the star exhibit being a magnificent Pacific Class locomotive.

This, and the Aviation and Space Section, in a different building, are ‘musts’ if you are in Washington. Beats Watergate hollow!

Wimbourne Manor. GEOFFREY HALL.

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