Despite the fact that Carl Benz was of the opinion that motor racing did not add anything of value to the production of motor cars, in 1909 he was persuaded to build a 200hp Benz racing car by fellow Benz & Cie board member Julius Ganss argument that there was one thing above all to be gained from the proposed car, which was to be built with the aim of becoming the first internal combustion powered machine in the World to travel at 200 km/h / 124 mph, publicity.
The Benz engineers based the new 200hp model on their 150hp 1908 Grand Prix challenger but enlarged the four cylinder bores so that the capacity was increased from 15.1 litres / 921 cui to 21.5 litres 1312 cui, making the largest engines that were ever fitted into a car by either Benz or their later partners with whom they would merge Daimler.
Benz employee Fritz Erle is credited with the 200hp models first success when he won the Grand Duchess of Hesse prize after recording a speed of 159.3 km/h / 98.98 mph over a flying kilometer at Frankfurt am Main in August 1909.
The concrete had barely dried at Brooklands when Victor Héméry driving the same car with it’s original 1908 Grand Prix style body arrived in November 1909 and promptly raised the internal combustion powered World Speed Record recorded over a flying kilometer to 202.7 km/h / 125.95 mph.
Meantime a second 200hp machine No.2 was being prepared with a slimmer body, similar to the one on today’s featured car, better suited to Land Speed Record braking, and with venues in Europe struggling for space to accommodate the speeds being achieved it was sent to the Benz US agent Jesse Froehlich for George Robertson to drive in a head to head race against Ralph de Palma.
However it appears Barney Oldfield’s manager found out about the 200hp cars presence in the USA and wishing to protect his client’s position Ernie Moross made an offer to swap the new machine for his older 150hp Benz plus $6,000 which was accepted.
In March 1910 Barney Oldfield drove the car, dubbed “Lightening Benz” by Ernie, to a new one way, unofficial in Europe, record of 211.97 km/h / 131.71 mph, beating the times set by Fred Marriot aboard the steam powered Stanley Rocket in 1906.
Barney was barred from AAA sanctioned events for participating in unsanctioned Barnstorming events in April 1911 when Bob Burman set a one way record, unrecognised in Europe, of 225.65 km/h / 140.21 mph over the flying mile and 228.1 km/h / 141.73 mph over the flying kilometer at Daytona driving Ernie’s Blitzen Benz.
By 1913 the UK Benz agent L. G. “Cupid” Hornsted acquired the 200hp No.3, for which he had specified a number of modifications, this car became known as “Schlanker Joseph” or “Lean Joseph” with which he set the first two way record at Brooklands over the flying mile leaving it at 199.70 km/h / 124.09 mph in June 1914.
The history of the six 200hp Benz racing cars is a little clouded, not least because there was only one Blitzen Benz built, 200hp No.2, but almost all of the 200hp car’s are referred to by that name.
Today’s featured Reconstruction of the car Bob Burman drove at Daytona in April 1911 was commissioned and built regardless of cost by Bob Burman enthusiast Bill Evans, who is seen at the wheel in these photographs taken at Goodwood.
The motor #9141 comes from Benz 200hp No.3 that L. G. “Cupid” Hornsted drove at Brooklands in 1914, Captain John Duff and his passenger survived after No.3 swerved off the banking at Brooklands in September 1922 and the remains of the car were returned to Benz at Manheim.
Daimler Benz lent Bill their own 200hp model, which was reconstructed for 50th anniversary of the founding of Benz in 1935 using some parts from No.3 believed to include the radiator and central body, in order to help him reconstruct the rest of his car.
Thanks for joining me on this “Fastest Machine In The World” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres, I hope you will join me again for Mors. Don’t forget to come back now !