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Early Benz Racing Cars at Rétromobile – Green and White With Envy

  •           The Louwman Museum 1910 “Prince Henry” sports tourer 

At the recent Retromobile in Paris, France, for the very first time ever there were four famous motor racing machines built by Benz all on display together: a 1908 Grand Prix racing car, the record-breaking 1909 200 hp “Lightning Benz”, and a pair of 1910 “Prince Henry” sports tourers. The two sports tourers were shown by the Louwman Museum and the Mercedes-Benz Classic Museum on adjacent stands.

These two “Prince Henry” vehicles are believed to be the only Benz models of this type still in existence, which took part in the Prince Henry Rally of 1910. This was the first time they were on display following restorations of the cars, which the two museums partnered together on.

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Photos of the Louwman Museum car and a “Prince Henry” engine.

                     

In the early years of the last century, the “Prince Henry Trial” was one of the most well-known motor sport events in Germany. Automobile enthusiast Prince Henry of Prussia, brother of the then German Emperor, Wilhelm II, donated the prize money for a competitive touring car rally in 1907 and the first Trial was held in 1908. Benz took part in the third event in the early summer of 1910 with a total of ten completely new special tourers, four of them with a displacement of 5.7 litres- 347 c.i. and six with 7.3 litres-445 c.i. The new  vehicles were shaft-driven and featured an aerodynamic body with a pointed tail.

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Just a few weeks after the Prince Henry Rally, both these vehicles went on to take part in the Tsar Nicholas Rally over a distance of 3,000 kilometers from St Petersburg via Kiev and Moscow and back to St Petersburg.

Mercedes-Benz Classic Museum 1910 “Prince Henry” sports tourer.

At Rétromobile, the two 5.7-litre tourers were seen in public for the first time since their restoration. As far as is known, they are also the only two Benz vehicles still in existence that actually took part in that legendary long-distance rally. The car with the starting number 36 was driven by Fritz Erle and is owned by the Louwman Museum. The touring car with the starting number 38, from the Mercedes-Benz Classic collection, was once driven by Carl Neumaier.

  •                    1909 Benz 200 hp “Lightning Benz” racing car.

One of the goals in early part of the 20th century was to break the then magic speed barrier of 200 kmh-124 mph. Benz was the first company to do so, with a gasoline-powered automobile: A 200 hp racing car similar to the one seen here, the famous “Lightening Benz” took to the track at the Brooklands circuit(scroll down) in England in 1909 and achieved an average speed of 202.7 km/h-125.95.

                  

Left to right (below); The Benz is seen at the Brooklands circuit in 1909, a view of the  ohv engine, Bob Burman in the “Blitzen Benz” on Daytona Beach.

                  

This record-breaking racing car, with its massive 21.5 litres/1,310 c.i. four-cylinder engine, would later go on to achieve greater success in Florida, on Daytona Beach. In 1911, Bob Burman reached the amazing speed of 141.67 mph- 228.1 km/h  making the “Lightning Benz” (also called the Blitzen Benz) in the U.S., the fastest vehicle in the world. Burman’s record would go on to remain unbeaten for eight years.

  •                                          1908 Grand Prix racing car

The oldest racing car that Mercedes-Benz Classic displayed at Rétromobile was a 120 h.p. Grand Prix racing car of 1908. Newly developed for that season, the company sent three of the vehicles to the French Grand Prix. The result was outstanding: Benz drivers Victor Hémery and René Hanriot took second and third places, while Benz was the only brand to have all three of its vehicles finish the race. Only Christian Lautenschlager in a Mercedes was faster, winning the race and so helping to deliver a one-two-three victory for Germany.

Check back soon as this is the first of several posts that we will be running showing vehicles on display at the 2013 Retromobile, featuring the excellent photography of George Davidson.

Photos courtesy of George Davidson, The Louwman Museum and Damiler AG.

8 responses to “Early Benz Racing Cars at Rétromobile – Green and White With Envy

  1. Are these the 2 1910 Prince Henry Benz examples that Bob Chamberlain found here in Australia in the late 1940s and restored in a form before his death in the mid 1990s.

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