Tag Archives: Collings

It’s Not Simplex – Mercedes Simplex

On the 1st of March 1902 the; former organiser of steam train races on the Morovian railway, diplomat, tobacco trader, insurance inspector and entrepreneur who sat on the board of the Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft (DMG), Emil Jellinek took delivery of the very first Mercedes Simplex in Nice, France, a month ahead of the Nice – La Turbie Hillclmb into which it was entered for E.T.Stead. A second Simplex was entered in the same event to be driven by Albert Lemaître, official winner of ‘the world’s first competitive motoring event’ from Paris to Rouen in 1897.

Mercedes Simplex, Exeter Trial,

As the 35hp Mercedes, driven by Wilhelm Werner, of 1901 had done the new Simplex model swept to a 1-2 victory with Stead leading Lemaítre home. After Werner had won the Frankfurt circuit race later in the same year he and Otto Hieronimus returned to Nice in 1903 and claimed another 1-2 for the Simplex model with Otto beating Werner.

Mercedes Simplex, VSCC Prescott

In his pursuit of a “mechanical greyhound” Jellink father of daughter Mercedes who’s name Jellink insisted on selling DMG’s products under, had encouraged Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler’s son Paul to pursue lightweight designs against all contemporary mechanical wisdom. That wisdom had been largely based on experience with steam locomotives which as a general rule of thumb could be reckoned to be faster the bigger they were.

Mercedes Simplex, Exeter Trial,

While the Simplex was not outwardly revolutionary, it followed the Panard Systém with the engine at the front and rear wheel drive it was the detail improvements which made it such a good performer. In particular the transmission featured 4 forward speeds that were engaged by the worlds first foot operated (Simplex) spring pressure clutch which made changing gears a good deal easier and faster.

Mercedes Simplex, Goodwood Festival of Speed

By enclosing the motor from above and below the Simplex relied on the draft of air through the worlds first honeycomb radiator to cool the motor which was not fitted with a cooling fan, but instead relied for a draft on the air vanes built into the 60 cm / 23 5/8ths inch flywheel. This improved cooling system allowed a 2 litre saving in water coolant over the previous model, now only 7 litres 1.5 gallons of water were required to cool the four cylinder motor.

Mercedes Simplex, Exeter Trial,

Interestingly the vehicle was not only fitted with regular rear wheel brakes as were most vehicles of the time but it was also fitted with a band brake acting on a shaft connecting the gearbox to the sprocket shaft which was also actuated by a foot pedal. When ever the brakes were applied water dripped from a reservoir onto the friction surfaces to keep them cool.

Mercedes Simplex, Goodwood Festival of Speed

At the Berlin Motor Show in 1903 when the Simplex was presented to Emperor Wilhelm II he is alleged to have shared some Imperial Prussian humour with Wilhelm Maybach, saying “A truly beautiful engine you have here! But it’s not as simplex as that, you know.” Polish Count Zborowski crashed his Simplex out of the 1903 Nice – La Turbine hillclimb but Mercedes honour was salvaged later in the week when Hermann Braun won the Nice Mile race on the Promenade des Anglais.

Mercedes Simplex, Exeter Trial,

Originally fitted with a 6,786 cc / 411 cui 40 hp motor later models, like today’s featured 1903 example driven by Ben Collings in the Exeter Trial with his father in the passenger seat and at Prescott, were fitted with a 9,236 cc / 563 cui producing 60hp at under 1500 rpm. A further race victory was achieved by Belgian Camille ‘Red Devil’ Jenatzy in the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup run over a 40 mile closed figure of eight road course marshalled by over 2,000 police officers. This victory was only achieved after Mercedes lost their intended three 12.7 litre / 775 cui 90 hp machines, along with 87 further vehicles, in a fire at DMG’s Cannstatt plant and the factory had borrowed three 60hp Simplex vehicles from their customers to enter the race, the winning #4 car was lent by US millionaire Clarence Clay Dinsmore.

Mercedes Simplex, Goodwood Festival of Speed

On March 14th 1902 Billionaire William K. Vanderbilt Jr took delivery of the fifth 40 hp Simplex to be built from the Cannstadt factory and drove it 600 kms to Paris where he arrived the following day, this was the first of several Simplex models Vanderbilt would own and this car is thought to be not only the oldest surviving Simplex, but the oldest surviving Mercedes in the world. In January 1904 Vanderbilt briefly held claim to the land speed record when he recorded a speed of over 92 mph at the wheel of a 90hp Simplex at Daytona Beach.

Mercedes Simplex, Exeter Trial,

Louis Rigolly raised the record to 95.705 mph driving a Gobron-Brillie in Nice 2 months later. Pierre de Caters driving a 90 hp Simplex at Ostend in Belgium raised the bar to just over 97mph in May 1904 before Louis Rigolly became the first man to exceed 100 mph when he was timed at 103 mph driving his Gobron-Brillie Ostend in July 1904.

Manufactured from 1902 to 1909 there are thought to be just 13 Simplex cars still in existence, GV 602 has been in the Collings family for many decades.

Thanks for joining me on this “It’s not Simplex” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres”, I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be looking at a how the Red Bull young guns team got on in the 2013 Formula One Championship. Don’t forget to come back now !


VSCC University – VSCC Prescott Speed Hillclimb

Apologies to all for the absence of any blogs over the last week, unfortunately this was unavoidable after a moment of absent mindedness. Over the weekend I popped over to Prescott with regular GALPOT contributer Tim for the VSCC Speed Hillclimb.

Ceirano S, VSCC Prescott

As ever the days education started in the car park where among several manufacturers, brands and models I’d not heard of before was this 1925 Ceirano built in Turin by SCAT (Societa Ceirano Automobili Torino) some years after founder Giovanni Ceirano, a prime mover behind the formation of FIAT in 1903, had died. Ceirano cars are best known for winning back to back victories in the Mille Miglia in 1911 and 1912.

Vauxhall Prince Henry, VSCC Prescott

The paddock was of course equally full of unusual delights above the nose of a Roland Duce’s 1913 Vauxhall Prince Henry.

Lees, Vauxhall Viper Special, VSCC Prescott

Another 1913 Vauxhall was Tony Lees Vauxhall Viper Special powered by a 200hp, 12 litre/732 cui Wolseley Viper aircraft motor of the type more usually found in late versions of the Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a and Avro 522.

Scaldwell, GN/JAP Grand Prix, VSCC Prescott

Among the fastest ladies present was Anne Scaldwell driving the GN JAP Grand Prix which was featured on this blog a couple of years ago.

Collings, Mercedes Simplex 60 HP, VSCC Prescott

Another familiar car was Ben Collings 1903 Mercedes Simplex 60hp.

Martin, Morgan Special, VSCC Prescott

Displaying maximum attack skills on the hill, what ever the conditions, was Charlie Martin in the fabric bodied Morgan Special entered by CJ Maeers.

Cobden, Riley Falcon Special, VSCC Prescott

Robert Cobden seen above driving the Riley Falcon Special did well to keep his car on the road after executing an unintentional 180° spin coming out of the Pardon hairpin.

Hulbert, ERA 4D, VSCC Prescott

Fastest time of the day was keenly contested with Mac Hulbert taking the honours and The Mays-Berthon Trophy 0.36 seconds from James Baxter, both driving ERA’s. Mac is seen in the 1938 ERA R4D which appropriately enough way not only conceived by Raymond Mays and Peter Peter Berthon but also driven to many post war hill climb victories by Mays.

Grafton, VSCC Prescott

On the way back through the car park we stumbled across the JAP powered Grafton cycle car, the vehicle was built by Tim Gunn, seen on the left, of the Gunn Cyclecar Co in 2001 using a timber frame and an assortment of vintage parts.

Thanks for joining me on this “VSCC University” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Americana Thursday. Don’t forget to come back now !


Chased By A Panda – Exeter Trial 2013

A couple of months ago I was offered the opportunity to navigate a unique Parsons Trials car on the Exeter Trial by owner Alan “Spence” Spencer. After Alan kindly agreed to make a few modifications so that I could sit in the car properly by raising the seat and adding four inch screen to afford some protection from the on coming wind I agreed to join him and had been looking forward to the experience ever since.

Parsons, Exeter Trial, Cirencester

Alan is seen above strapping himself into the Parsons at the first rendezvous Burford Services, Cirencester where we joined 39 other motor cars at close to midnight. The Exeter Trial was first run on Boxing Day 1910 by the Motorcycle Club from London to Exeter and back. As the roads got better so the trials went off road to maintain some degree of challenge for those taking part. The first part of the 2013 Exeter Trial was a regularity run over an 88 mile prescribed route to the Haynes International Motor Museum with an easy target time of 2 hours, mercifully I had prepared my wardrobe well and was comfortably warm sitting in the Ford Kent powered Parsons despite being exposed to the elements.

Gregory, Exeter Trial, Cirencester

Among assorted Skoda’s, VW Beetles and an Mazda MX5 with an urban paint job starting from Cirencester was this rare #222 Gregory trials car driven by Josh Moss and Chris Ferin. At the Haynes motor museum there was a compulsory two hour break during which I enjoyed a hearty Full English Heart Attack breakfast and a 1/2 hour flat on my back to ease the inevitable stiffness that occurs after sitting in a confined space for 2 hours in ambient temperatures a couple of degrees above freezing.

Ford Special, Exeter Trial, Cirencester

Above the #223 Ford Special of Alex Wheeler and Tony Underhill is parked up alongside the #222 Gregory and ahead of a couple of Suzuki X-90’s that were also taking part at the Musbury Garage checkpoint.

After a very quick observed stopping and reversing test at Haynes we headed for the first off road trial at Windwhistle Hill, by now I had a good grip on the abbreviations used in the route notes which Spence had thoughtfully copied and mounted onto a neat illuminated roller box as used by bomber command navigators in WW2 and by Denis Jenkinson to help Stirling Moss to victory in the 1955 Mille Miglia. In the pitch black of the night from the navigators seat of the Parsons at five in the morning the Windwhistle Hill observed section appeared to take place on a very wet and rutted and rocky forestry track, getting down to the start of the time section it was almost as much fun as roaring back up to the top for a clean run which included a compulsory stop and restart halfway up.

Mercedes Simplex, Exeter Trial, Musbury Garage

From Windwhistle Hill we proceeded 5 miles to the next observed section Underdown II following the magnificent chain driven 1903 Mercedes 60 hp Simplex of Ben and Roger Collings with a burbling 4 cylinder 9.235 litre / 563 cui motor which was being guided by chain drive aficionado Duncan Pittaway and Ant Lucas in a raucous TVR V8S. The Mercedes needed a guide on account of the fact that nominal navigator 70 year old Roger Collings, seen above, was fully occupied holding on to two handles to stay in his completely exposed seat.

Volkswagen Beetle, Normans Hump, Exeter Trial

Above the #238 Volkswagen Beetle of Nicola Butcher completes a clean run of Norman’s Hump.

After another clean run up Underdown II we headed for the Musbury Garage check point, as we were running ahead of scheduled time Spence pulled over for a quick cat nap before we pulled into the Garage to get our route card signed. Day light was appearing as we reached observed Section 3 known as Norman’s Hump where there was a long queue of competitors waiting.

FIAT Panda Sisley, Crealy Park, Exeter Trial

We began to feel like we were on a roll as we cleaned Norman’s Hump and the following observed sections Waterloo, Strets, Core Hill and Bulverton Steep which were all on wet surfaces thanks to the yule tide deluge that had ceased earlier in the week. Over the last few morning sections we were running last on the road with the course closing FIAT Panda 4×4, seen above, on our tail.

Parsons, Crealy Park, Exeter Trial

This was not helped by the fact that Spence used an electric pump to inflate his tyres after each section which lost us time, unfortunately the Parsons, seen above at Crealy Park, is not really big enough to carry a time saving gas bottle as many other competitors did. For most of the observed sections we were running between 10 and 15 psi on the rear tyres for extra grip, too low a pressure to be running on the road sections to be safe.

Allard M Special, Crealy Park, Exeter Trial

Just after 10 we arrived at the Crealy Park time control where Spence borrowed Duncans jack to swap the rear wheels over because the tyres on both sides had slipped on the rims, he also checked over the levels which were all fine during the one hour compulsory stop while I took a few snaps of some of the other vehicles taking part including the #242 Allard M Type Special of William Holt and Martyn Wyatt above. After a brunch, chicken and fried rice with satay sauce that I bought at our local take away just before setting off from Bristol, we headed into the sunshine towards afternoon sections starting with Tillerton Steep.

Marlin Roadster, Crealy Park, Exeter Trial

Above Chris Hickling and Wendy Bayless from Falmouth are seen in front of their #207 Marlin which suffered a puncture on Norman’s Hump.

If the morning had proved to be ecstatic with clean runs then Tillerton Steep began a run of drip fed cruel agony as there was a restart on a large slab of wet rock which offered absolutely zero traction. We had failed our first test though we managed to get up the remainder of the course on our second attempt.

BMW 2002, Tillerton Steep, Exeter Trial

Above the Edna Perryman climbs into the back seat, of the #237 BMW 2002 while Colin awaits to cross the ford prior to their run up Tillerton Steep. Note the course closing Panda behind the Mercedes.

We then followed the Mercedes Simplex to Fingle Hill which we cleaned, with slightly raised spirits we continued the short distance to Wooston Steep behind the 1903 Mercedes Simplex which pulled an awesome handbrake turn to line up for the gates that marked the entrance to the path that led to the observed section. Wooston Steep which had two finishes according to class, being in the toughest class 8 we had to make a run past a left fork up to the top, unfortunately we got caught in the ruts which turned left and lost too much momentum to complete the test. The Exeter Trial is about completing ‘cleaning’ all the sections if one completes all sections no more than ten mins behind schedule one is awarded a Gold medal, if one fails one section but completes all the rest within 20 mins of the target time one earns a silver and a bronze is awarded if all bar two sections are completed within 30 mins of the target time.

Mercedes Simplex, Fingle Hill, Exeter Trial

Above Ben Collings blasts up Fingle Hill while Roger hangs on to the 1903 Mercedes Simplex as best he can.

After a third observed Autotest at Wooston Steep it was off to Ilsington Parish Hall for another compulsory hour break during which I enjoyed some decaffinated coffee and some lovely cake. Next it was off round the corner to Simms a long wait ensued as many cars failed to get to the top after the restart. We eventually blasted up the first part of the hill but could not manage the second and ended up being carefully guided, who almost manhandled the car back to the corner so that we could reverse down the remainder of the course. Our shot at a medal was over and dissappointed we headed for Tipley Hill where another long queue awaited us. By now it was getting dark and colder again and since we were no longer in with a chance to win a medal we elected to skip Tipley Hill and headed for the final section Slippery Sam a cross between a rock garden and a bomb hole of a hill, again we flew up the first part but needed two attempts to clear the restart after which we flew around the last couple of corners bouncing over ground that would be an easy test for a four wheel drive but was a thriller in the tiny Parsons.

Skoda Estelle, Simms, Exeter Trial

Above part of discipline of the Exeter Trial is having the patience to sit in long queues in narrow lanes, above the #227 Skoda Estelle of Ben & Rosin Giles awaits it’s turn to get to the start of Simms.

We then headed to the Trecarn Hotel Babbacombe where exhausted we handed in our time card for the final time, glad to be in one piece, and that it had neither snowed or rained during the exhilarating 19 hour 250 mile drive. After a shower we joined many of the competing crews for dinner where tails of triumphs and failure were exchanged. I eventually crashed out feeling like I was still moving !

My thanks to Alan Spencer for taking me along on the Exeter Trial in his little Parsons which will be the subject of a future blog, thanks also to all the marshalls and organisers who put the time and effort in to making the event happen, I hope the opportunity to participate comes round again in the not too distant future.

Thanks for joining me on this “Chased By A Panda” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !