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1913 Mercedes - Model 37/95 - Double Phaeton-Torpedo

1913 Mercedes – Model 37/95 – Double Phaeton-Torpedo

The pre-World War I Mercedes is considered by many to be one of the best engineered, attractive and most successful cars of the time for use on both the road and race track. The 37/90 and 37/95 models built between 1911 and the start of the war in 1914 were the greatest accomplishment by the German automaker up to that point.

The 2015 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance had its usual assortment of fine automobiles on display and today is the beginning of a series of posts of images by Photographer-Restorer Richard Michael Owen taken at the event. To start out, this 1913 Mercedes – Model 37/95, Double Phaeton-Torpedo with coachwork by Henri Labourdette of Paris, France was chosen.

The car is part of The Nethercutt Collection and was shown by Jack and Helen Nethercutt and won the Best in Class Award in the Horseless Carriage 40 + Horsepower category. After viewing Owen’s photos of this exceptional car, be sure to view our complete coverage of the 37/90 that includes period images and press clippings at the bottom of the post.

1913 Mercedes - Model 37/95 - Double Phaeton-Torpedo

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  •                                             An Exceptional Automobile – The 37/90 Mercedes

The image (below) of a 1912 Mercedes 37/90 Sport Phaeton has been in our files for quite some time now, but previously we knew none of the details about the setting or the occasion for the photo. Recently, while conducting other research, a pair of photos were found in The Automobile of February 1, 1912 that identified the location as the 1912 Brussels Auto Salon.

The magazine also had the following remarks about the car: “The 9o-horsepower Mercedes touring car, which is shown in the two illustrations, with inboard control and outboard exhaust pipes, disk wheels and in-cased chain drive, stands as an elegant example of radicalism.” 

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  •                             A 37/90 at the Brussels Auto Salon – “The Automobile” February 1, 1912.

The 37/90 was introduced in 1911 with a 90 h.p. four-cylinder engine that featured three pushrod and rocker arm actuated overhead valves for each cylinder. The two exhaust valves were 2-inch in diameter, and the inlet was 3.375-inch. The valves in each cylinder of the 581 c.i. power plant took up the complete area of the head above the 5.11-inch piston (130 mm), the stroke was 7.087-inch (180 mm). This combination combined with the automaker’s previous expertise and experience applied to it resulted in one of the most powerful and durable engines of the time.

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  • L to R: 1912 Brussels Auto Salon – 1910 Mercedes aircraft engine showing the lineage of the 37/90 –1912 French Salon de l’auto – Ralph DePalma’s very successful 37/90 racing engine.

According to early Mercedes expert George Wingard, the factory installed several 37/90 engines in 1908 Grand Prix chassis’ and sold one to American racing patron Ed Schroeder. He then hired Ralph DePalma to drive the car, and it almost took him to a 1912 Indianapolis 500 win. You can view DePalma’s 1912 37/90 racing engine (above), with which he was able to win both the 1912 and 1914 Vanderbilt Cup Races and a pair of 1912 Elgin Road Races.

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  •                  The 37/90 engine on the left compared and the standard T-head 38/80 passenger car.

The 37/90 engine can be seen above on the left, alongside the standard T-head 38/80 passenger car engine also offered at the time – the photo shows just how impressive it was. The larger crankcase was necessary to contain the crankshaft with a seven-plus-inch stroke. Likewise, the steel cylinders in pairs with integral heads and welded up sheet metal water jackets are also much taller because of the long stroke.

Behind this masterpiece of an engine was a very well designed conventional type of chain drive gearbox-differential in a combined aluminum case that was set back in the middle of the chassis. This four-speed unit featured two water cooled brakes arranged inboard on each jackshaft, which then located the drive sprocket on the outside of the frame.

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  •                                                           37/90 Kettenwagen Sport-Phaeton.

In December of 1932, some twenty years after the legendary car was built, Motor Sport magazine tested an aging 37/90 Roadster and noted: “90 mph was possible to reach in third gear of the four-speed transmission. The control was very light for a 2.5-ton car with a 12-foot wheelbase. The cornering ability was steady and safe, the gears were easy to change, third and top especially, and the brakes were smooth and surprising powerful”. Having driven one, we fully agree with what Motor Sport had to say about the car that is nothing short of sensational.

4 responses to “1913 Mercedes – Model 37/95 – Double Phaeton-Torpedo

  1. An incredible car! Any way you look at it.

    The history of tires is quite a study in itself. I wish I could say I really knew a lot about them.
    For what it is worth. Many years ago, I knew a collector that had several very old tires hanging on his walls. He had a couple that were gray tread with red sidewalls, one all red tire, and one that had a gray tread and bright Irish green sidewalls. They were treaded tires, and apparently from the mid to late ’10s. Earlier tires were mostly smooth (no tread as such) and ranged from basically white to a medium gray.
    The black and white photo of the 37/90 at the Brussels Auto Salon appears to have an early simple tread on the rears and smooth tires on the front. That was also a common practice in the mid ’10s.
    When it was discovered that carbon black not only stretched the use of the limited resource of natural rubber, but also made the tires wear longer, larger amounts of the carbon black were used mostly in the tread of tires. Late ’10s and some early ’20s tires had dark treads and maybe not really white, but much lighter sidewalls.
    I find it interesting that many factory photos do not show this. I suspect that many factory photos were staged to show the car at its best and therefore all black or all gray tires may have been used on those chosen cars. Most era photos of cars in the wild have the tires dirty enough to lighten the nearly black tread and darken the lighter sidewalls so that they do not show up well enough to say either way. But this subject has been discussed quite a bit on the MTFCA forum site and over the past few years, many dozens of original era photos have been pointed out as clearly showing the nearly white double sidewalls.
    I should have tried to collect them, but I am not all that good with computers? Copying posted photos often doesn’t work well for me.
    I would also point out that several Ford factory original tires known to be from the late ’10s do survive. They have light gray sidewalls with black tread, and many Ford factory photos from those years do not show this.

    Now. Back to that beautiful Automobile!

  2. Hello.
    The 37/90 engine bore/stroke TWO(2) inch deviation is just about the most extreme found in motoring history(perhaps a couple up to 2.5 inch?), and actually is, if not bearing the Mercedes name, quite obscene at the end of the spectrum. I have no doubt that it was performance oriented, yet the “SPORT” of racing did not concern itself with longevity beyond the finish line.
    Although the 37/90 is not assigned the name “TORPEDO” due to the front beltline incline, the design of a submarine has never been symmetric(top/bottom), and a torpedo surely will have a strong tendency to sink, whatever the powerplant.
    Besides all that, I do not drive very far…

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