Tag Archives: Wagner

C’est Ma Poisse ! – Ballot Racing Car

In 1905 former naval officer Gabriel Ernest Maurice Ballot, referred to down the ages as Ernest and or Maurice, with his brother Albert founded the company bearing their name in Paris to manufacture marine and industrial engines.

Six years later a group led by Adolphe Clément bought the company keeping Ernest as a senior employee with a small number of shares.

Ballot Racing Car, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Following the cessation of the 1914 – 18 global hostilities, on the 11th of November, the 1914 Indy 500 winner René Thomas set about reviving his racing career and the fortunes of the French automobile industry by trying unsuccessfully to find a manufacturer to build a team of new cars to compete in the 1919 Indy 500.

Six weeks after Armistice Day René presented his idea’s to Ernest, who up until then had only been engaged in the manufacture of engines, never complete cars, but he was so enthused that by the end of December 24th he had persuaded the board of Ballot to go ahead with the project and signed René as lead driver.

Ballot Racing Car, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

With just 120 days in which to design, build and test the cars before being shipped to the United States on the 26th of April, Ernest spent the next two days finding new premises from which his racing team led by former Peugeot designer Ernst Henry and assistant Fernand Marie Vadier could work in secret.

On December 27th the Henry, Vadier and three draughtsmen began work which allegedly would see no man leave the building except to take meals for two months.

Ballot Racing Car, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Work started to fall behind schedule when the team could not secure a reliable supplier of crankshafts, leaving Ballot no option but to forge and heat treat it’s own, but on April 7th the first Ballot car ever built was complete with only the carburetor, magneto and wheels sourced from outside suppliers.

The French rail network was still so unreliable that the four crated racing cars left the Ballot factory on April 24th carried on the back of four trucks followed by a spare fifth truck with a couple of mechanics to ensure the team arrived at Le Havre on April 26th in time for the departure of the liner Savoie.

Ballot Racing Car, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

Powered by 140hp straight eight engines with double over head cam shafts the Ballots were quick once the problem of over gearing had been sorted by fitting smaller diameter American sourced wheels.

René was the fastest qualifier with a speed of 104.700 mph and started from pole with the remaining team cars starting 6th driven by Paul Balbot, 9th driven by Albert Guyot and 13th driven by Louis Wagner.

Ballot Racing Car, Goodwood Festival Of Speed,

44 laps into the race a wheel broke on Louis Wagner’s car leading to a crash from which Louis emerged unscathed and sufficiently composed to take over from Albert Guyot whose hands were raw from blisters caused by the rough brick surface.

20 laps later Jean Chassagne who had taken over today’s featured chassis #1003 from Paul Balbot also crashed after a wheel collapsed again with out serious injury, but leaving the remaining two cars no choice but to pit for frequent wheel checks.

Louis eventually crossed the line in forth place with team leader René 11th, ironically the winning car driven by Howdy Wilcox was an older 1914 Peugeot another Ernst Henry design.

After receiving the telegram in Paris informing him of the teams misfortune Ernest sat in silence for a while before tossing them aside and growling “C’est ma poisse!” – It’s my bad luck.

After the race owners of #1003 included Centric Supercharger founder Christopher Shorrock and Anthony Heal in the UK, then D. Cameron Peck in Chicago, Briggs Cunningham and finally the Collier Collection.

Thanks for joining me on this “C’est Ma Poisse !” edition of “Gettin a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again for Mercedes Monday tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !

14/07/16 Thanks to Tim Murray and others at The Nostalgia Forum I have corrected the names Édouard and Maurice that originally appeared in this article to Gabriel Ernest Maurice and Albert.


1914 French GP Winner – Mercedes 18/100 #15364

For the first time regulations for the 1914 French Grand Prix mandated a maximum engine size of 4.5 litres / 274 cui which put a premium on engine efficiency not least because a minimum 1,100 kgs / 2425 lbs minimum weight limit was also mandated.

Only entries from factory supported teams were accepted and these came from Alda, Aquila Delage, Fiat, Nagant, Nazzaro, Opel, Peugeot, Pichard-Pictet, Schneider, Sunbeam, and Vauxhall with 37 entries in all.

Mercedes 18/100, Martin Viessmann, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

Peugeot were the 1913 French Grand Prix winners and their 1914 Grand Prix challenger retained both an advanced overhead twin cam 16 valve engine design and brakes on all four wheels, while the slightly more crude Mercedes only had a single overhead cam engine and brakes acting only on the rear wheels.

Less than a week before the event news that Archduke Franz Ferdinand had been assassinated in Sarajevo was a strong omen that a major conflict was about to be set in motion that would see Russia, France and Britain align themselves against the forces of Germany and Austria.

Mercedes 18/100, Martin Viessmann, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

Rookie driver Max Sailer, possibly through inexperience, went charging into the lead of the seven hour race in his Mercedes 18/100 and unwittingly dragged a proud and upset to be in second Georges Boillot into an unequal dual, it turned out that the vertically mounted spare tyres in the rear of the Peugeot L45 gave the car inferior handling to the Mercedes with it’s spare tyres mounted tilting slightly forward.

Nonetheless Sailer retired from the lead at one quarter of the race distance with a broken engine, leaving Boillot to lead for the next 12 laps despite having to make several pit stops for tyres compared to the one planned stop made by Christian Lautenschlager and his team mate Louis Wagner.

Mercedes 18/100, Martin Viessmann, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

Despite plenty of pre event practice Christian Lautenschlager’s planned pit stop was unusually disorganised which left Louis Wagner to pursue Boillot’s Peugeot.

Wagner destroyed his second set of tyres in the pursuit of the Peugeot which had kept up a relentless pace to stay in the lead.

Mercedes 18/100, Martin Viessmann, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

By three quarter distance Wagner made an unscheduled stop for new tyres handing second place to Lautenschlager.

With two laps to go Boillot’s Peugeot engine had nothing left when Christian Lautenschlager driving today’s featured chassis #15364 silenced the French crowds by storming into the lead to be followed into second place by Louis Wagner and a third Mercedes driven by Otto Salzer.

Mercedes 18/100, Martin Viessmann, Goodwood Festival of Speed,

#15364 sent to Berlin where it was put on show immediately after the race and was sent to London for similar purposes only to arrive just in time for the start of the 1914/18 hostilities.

After the war Count Zborowski acquired #15364 and was the first of several owners to race it at Brooklands.

One owner had a Berliet body and front brakes fitted to the car which remained until it was restored to running order by Stanley Sears in the 1960’s, current owner Martin Viessmann, seen at the wheel in these photograph’s taken at Goodwood Festival of Speed, has been the custodian of #15364 since 1984.

Thanks for joining me on this “1914 French GP Winner” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !


Heck Motor – Mercedes Benz 130 H Cabriolet

After designing the first Nesselsdorfer-Wagenbau, later Tata, Präesident in 1897, patenting the first rear swing axles in in 1903 while working for Adler and designing the first motor with a built in gearbox Austrian Edmund Rumpler founded the first German aircraft manufacturer Rumpler Flugzeugwerke GmbH with August Euler in 1908 which in 1909 gave birth to the Rumpler Luft Verkehr department.

Following the 1914-18 war Rumpler Luft Verkehr was reconfigured as an airline that in 1926 became part of Deutsche Luft Hansa AG.

Mercedes Benz 130 H Cabriolet, Dana Point Concours d'Elegance

Meanwhile Edmund turned his attention to the design and manufacture of automobiles again and well over a decade before the streamlined Tata T77 and Chrylser Airflow went into production in 1934 and designed the sensation of the 1921 Berlin Auto Show known as the Rumpler Tropfen, droplet, Wagen.

It is believed that around 100 of these 5 seat vehicles; with a 36 hp W6 motor mounted ahead of the rear axle, capable of 70 mph, who’s body design was inspired by aerodynamic principles of the day were built. Many served as taxi’s and were immortalised as such in Fritz Lang’s 1927 epic expressionist master peace Metropolis.

Mercedes Benz 130 H Cabriolet, Dana Point Concours d'Elegance

Chief Benz engineer Hans Nibel was so impressed with the chassis design of the Rumpler he convinced Benz to use a virtually unchanged Rumpler chassis to construct their own single seat Grand Prix racing car which was powered by an 80hp 2 litre 122 cui double overhead cam straight six in 1923.

The Benz Tropfenwagen was not a great success and was abandoned after the merger of Daimler with Benz in 1926, Auto Union under the direction of Dr Ferdinand Porsche would be the next team to progress the concept of the mid engined racing car.

Mercedes Benz 130 H Cabriolet, Dana Point Concours d'Elegance

In 1931 Hans Nibel set to work designing a small 4 seat two door car which again was inspired by the Rumpler, but this time he put the 25 hp 1.3 litre / 79 cui 4 cylinder side valve motor behind the rear axle in the heck, hither to boot / trunk with the 4 speed synchromesh transmission in front of both the engine and rear axle.

From 1934 to 1936 130 H (Heck) was sold as a two door hard top saloon/sedan, soft top as seen here or convertible with out the side windows, while the ride was considered good for the passengers the handling was only adequate for contemporary conditions and described as awkward for the driver.

Mercedes Benz 130 H Cabriolet, Dana Point Concours d'Elegance

Nibel had Daimler’s Max Wagner design a new chassis for the more powerful 55hp, but similarly laid out, 150 H 2 seat roadster which had the petrol tank moved from the back as in the 130 H to the front meaning the new model had virtually no storage space, this second model was only offered and sold in limited numbers in 1936.

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton for sharing these photographs of the Mercedes Benz 130 H taken at Dana Point Concours d’Elegance a few years ago.

Thanks for joining me on this “Heck Motor” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow when I’ll be revisiting this years Monterey Rolex Reunion. Don’t forget to come back now !