Mercedes-Simplex Cars at the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run

Words John Clark | September 06, 2011
Vehicles built before 1904 are eligible to take part in November’s London to Brighton Veteran Car Run
Words John Clark September 06, 2011

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run in England will close out the international classic calendar. Mercedes-Benz is a primary sponsor of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and will be entering two vehicles into the annual event that will take place on November 5 and 6, 2011.  The Mercedes-Benz vehicles will include a 1902 two-seater Mercedes-Simplex racing car and a 1904 four-seater Mercedes-Simplex touring car.

“It’s an honor for Mercedes-Benz to support the event in this year of the anniversary of the automobile”, says Michael Bock, head of Mercedes-Benz Classic and director of the Mercedes-Benz Museum. “We invented the automobile, and the ‘London to Brighton Veteran Car Run’ is the oldest classic car event worldwide. That represents the basis for an ideal collaboration.”

The “London to Brighton Veteran Car Run”, held in the anniversary year of the automobile, will be symbolically opened by Jutta Benz, the great-granddaughter of Carl Benz, inventor of the automobile. She will be driving a replica of the 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen. This is the 63rd year since 1948 that Mercedes-Benz will have attended the Veteran Car Run, which is an annual highlight of the Mercedes-Benz Classic calendar.

The two participating Mercedes-Simplex cars are outstanding vehicles considering the automotive technology of their time. Following the invention of the automobile in 1886, the Mercedes-Simplex model, introduced in 1901 by the former Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, is regarded by today’s experts as the first modern automobile. For the first time, it showed important features which can still be found in passenger cars today, such as the low centre of gravity, the honeycomb radiator and an inclined steering column.

The Mercedes-Benz vehicles will once again be piloted by celebrity drivers this year: one will be driven by Nigel Mansell, 1992 British Formula 1 World Champion. Doug Nye, well-known British motor journalist, and Bernd Ostman, editor-in-chief of the professional journal “Auto Motor und Sport”, will be driving the second vehicle.

Remembering the emancipation of the automobile

The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is held exclusively for vehicles built before 1904. The annual event marks the “Emancipation Run” of 14 November 1896. That event was organised by Harry J. Lawson in celebration of a then new law in Britain that raised the maximum permitted speed for automobiles with an internal combustion engine, from a walking pace of 6.4 km/h (4 miles per hour) to 22.4 km/h (16 miles per hour). The new law also abolished the requirement that vehicles be preceded by a man walking ahead of the vehicle, for the safety of other road users, as previously required by the 1865 “Locomotive Act”, also known as the “Red Flag Act”. The first event was started by the symbolic tearing up of a red flag, since, up until 1878, the man walking ahead of the vehicle had to also carry a red flag as a warning.

The first official commemorative repeat of the London to Brighton Run took place in 1927, and since then it has been organised annually, with the exception of the years 1940 to 1947. The 77th event will take place this year. This makes the Run the oldest existing motoring event in the world, and, at the same time, the largest gathering of veteran cars from the early days of automotive history. In addition to four-wheeled cars with internal combustion engines, three-wheelers and also steam cars and electric cars will also take part. The British Royal Automobile Club has been organising the Run since 1930.

In the 2011 Run, 550 vehicles from 20 countries are expected to take part. They will set out on 6 November 2011, on the approximately 96-kilometre (60-mile) course, which mainly follows the A23 road. The oldest vehicle is expected to be a Benz Victoria from 1894. As many as 500,000 spectators are expected to line the route. The start is at Apsley Gate, at London’s Hyde Park, where the first vehicles will depart at the official sunrise time of 7.02 a.m. From there, the cars will head to a checkpoint at Market Square, Crawley, before the event comes to an official end in Preston Park, a suburb of the seaside resort of Brighton. The unofficial, but actual finish is subsequently also celebrated by the public on the grand promenade, Madeira Drive. Only cars that arrive in Brighton by sunset will be counted.

Around 100 vehicles will take part in an eve-of-event concours d’elegance, on London’s Regent Street, on Saturday, 5 November 2011. Each car will be individually introduced, and spectators will have an opportunity for closer inspection. Before that event, on 4 November 2011, Bonhams on New Bond Street will host an auction of vehicles and automobilia from the early days.

Mercedes-Simplex: the modern automobile

The two Mercedes-Benz Classic cars which are to take part are from the company’s own collection. Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft produced a range of automobiles bearing the Simplex designation at Stuttgart-Untertürkheim, from 1901 to 1905, all of which had two things in common: they were designed by Wilhelm Maybach, and they were superior to all other cars at the time. The Simplex represented the pivotal transition from motorised carriage to purpose-built car.

The most striking technical features of the Mercedes-Simplex were its four-cylinder, front-mounted engine with cylinders cast in pairs, the U-section pressed steel frame, a low centre of gravity, honeycomb radiator and inclined steering column. These features are what provided the typical car-like appearance that distinguished it from contemporary carriage-type automobiles. Next to the 38/40 PS Mercedes-Simplex, the 28/32 PS was the more compact automobile.

Technical data for the 38/40 PS Mercedes-Simplex racing car

  • Year of construction: 1902
  • Cylinders: 4 (in-line) Displacement: 6558 ccm
  • Output: 40 hp (29 kW) at 1050 rpm
  • Maximum speed: approx. 75 km/h (46 mph)
  • Vehicle weight: 1250 kg (2,756 lbs)

Technical data for the 28/32 PS Mercedes-Simplex touring car

  • Year of construction: 1904
  • Cylinders: 4 (in-line)
  • Displacement: 5315 ccm
  • Output: 32 hp (24 kW) at 1200 rpm
  • Maximum speed: approx. 60 km/h (37 mph)
  • Vehicle weight: 1250 kg (2,756 lbs)

Technical data for the Benz Patent-Motorwagen Model I

  • Year of construction: 1886
  • Cylinders: Single-cylinder four-stroke engine with buzzer ignition
  • Displacement: 954 ccm
  • Output: 0.75 hp (0.55 kW) at 400 rpm
  • Fuel consumption: approx. 10 litres per 100 km
  • Maximum speed: 16 km/h (10 mph)
  • Vehicle weight: 265 kg (583 lbs)

Nigel Mansell

Born on 8 August 1953 in Upton-on-Severn, Worcestershire, England.

The rise of Mansell’s sporting career proceeded in a straight line from karting 1968–75, the Formula Ford 1976–77 and the British Formula 3 Championship 1978–80, all the way to his Formula 1 début in 1980 in a Lotus Ford.

A long series with successful races in Formula 1 followed, crowned by three second-place titles and finally, in 1992, the World Champion title. After a brief interlude in the IndyCar Series (he won the Champion title on his first attempt in 1993), he returned to Formula 1 in 1994, and won the Grand Prix in Australia.

In 1995, he started twice in the Formula 1 for Team McLaren-Mercedes, but left the team before the end of the season.

History of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run:

The Royal Automobile Club’s annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run takes place on the first Sunday of every November and commemorates the Emancipation Run of 14 November 1896 which celebrated the passing into law of the Locomotives on the Highway Act, which raised the speed limit for ‘light locomotives’ from 4 mph to 14 mph and abolished the requirement for these vehicles to be preceded by a man on foot.

The early law required the man on foot to carry a red flag but that requirement was actually abolished in 1878. However, the Locomotive Act was still widely known as the ‘Red Flag Act’ and a red flag was symbolically destroyed at the start of the Emancipation Run, by Lord Winchilsea as it is today just before the start in Hyde Park of each November’s celebration Run by members of The Royal Automobile Club.

33 pioneering motorists set off from the Metropole Hotel in Central London on the 1896 Run to endure the rough roads to the Sussex seaside resort and the Metropole Hotel of Brighton. But only 14 of the starters actually made the journey, and some evidence shows that one car, an electric model, was secretly taken by rail and covered with mud before crossing the finishing line!

The first formal re-enactment of the 1896 Run was staged in 1927 and organised by the motoring editor of the Daily Sketch. The Run has taken place every November thereafter, with the exception of the war years and 1947 when petrol rationing was in force.

From 1930 to the present day the Run has been owned and professionally organised by The Royal Automobile Club of Pall Mall London. In 1936 the Club moved the start of the Run to Hyde Park which has hosted the ceremonial early November Sunday morning assembly ever since and for 2011 celebrates the 75th Anniversary of the start from this Royal Parks venue.

Not a race but an endurance of man and machine the annual event today attracts over 500 automobiles with an eligibility criteria that requires the cars to be of three or four wheel design and certified that their build took place prior to the 1 January 1905. Occasionally however the organisers invite a small number of vehicles just out of period to join the celebration.

Many famous celebrities including members of the Royal Family have been seen on the Run and for many years the 60 mile route has been lined with hundreds of thousands of spectators standing in the early winter Sunday mornings to cheer the drivers of this wonderful spectacle of early motoring.

115 years later the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run is today the world’s longest running and greatest motoring celebration event attracting entrants from all over the world. Over 600 entry applications are received for 550 places with over 25% represented by eligible vehicles shipped to the UK especially for the Run from across Europe, North and South America, Asia and the Australia’s making the annual Run a truly International event. Over 160 vehicle makes take part and individual values range from around £25,000 to several million!

In December 2010 the Royal Automobile Club won a prestigious Federation Internationale de L’Automobile (FIA) Award for its dedicated promotion of the annual London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and its related protection of early motoring vehicles.

To owners of Veteran cars worldwide the annual November Run to Brighton represents the high point of the year’s early motoring car events and a rare opportunity to take their extraordinary vehicles to a wider audience.