Best Facts About the First Mercedes (5 Early Models)

This blog will explain the facts about the first Mercedes and answer the following questions:  what was the power of the engine used in the first Mercedes Benz car? How fast did the first Mercedes go? How many models of the first Mercedes were made?

Everything You’ve Ever Wanted to Know About The First Mercedes

Karl Benz invented the first practical automobile with an internal combustion engine. It was called the Benz Patent Motorwagen and it was patented in 1886. The Benz Patent Motorwagen was a three-wheeled car with a single-cylinder engine mounted at the back. 

The frame consisted of steel tubing and some woodwork support members. All the three wheels were spoked and the vehicle was steered from a handle connected to a toothed rack that pivoted the front wheel. There were elliptic springs at the back alongside a shaft pivot and chain drive on the two sides. A straightforward belt drive connected to a  speed transmission supplied the driving force. 

The Benz Patent Motorwagen was the first car built by Rheinische Gasmotorenfabrik Benz & Cie, currently known as Mercedes Benz.  you will be surprised to know that it is not the first car sold under the Mercedes name. In the 1900s, under a contract from European automobile entrepreneur Emil Jellinek, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) produced a car which looked nothing like the popular carriage design. 

Emil Jellinek was a motoring enthusiast and also a successful businessman from Baden near Vienna. The contract from Emil Jellinek to DMG clearly stated that he wanted a high-performance automobile with a low centre of gravity and a long wheelbase. Emil Jellinek has always been close with Gottlieb Daimler and his design engineer Wilhelm Maybach. 

The DMG had the most advanced technology to fulfil the requirements of the contract and Emil named the newly developed car Mercedes after his daughter. The first Mercedes was thoroughly tested and then delivered to Emil Jellinek in Nice.

What was the power of the engine used in the first Mercedes?

The power of the engine used in the first Mercedes was 35 horsepower. Therefore, the car was also known as the Mercedes 35. The engine displacement was 5918 cc and it was mated to a 4-speed manual gearbox. The overall weight of the engine was only 230 kg and it was mounted closer to the ground over the front axle to keep the centre of gravity low. The engine became lightweight as engine parts were made from aluminium alloy with 5 per cent magnesium.

The fuel system consisted of two nozzles one for each pair of cylinders connected to two carburettors and unlike other engines, at the time the intake and the exhaust valves were no longer opened by the cylinder pressure. Instead, it used camshafts driven by a gear connected to the drive plate mounted on the crankshaft.

Emil Jellinek was not a fan of the hot tube ignitor system used in the early engines. Hence Wilhelm Maybach used a magneto that produced the voltage required for the spark ignition system and made it more reliable.

There was no starter motor at the time hence the engine was hand-cranked. As this was a large displacement engine, it had a decompression lever. The decompressor lever relieved the compression pressure inside the cylinder, facilitating effortless rotation of the crank. Once the engine is cranked, the decompressor is released and the air-fuel mixture is ignited inside the cylinder. 

Wilhelm Maybach also designed a radical cooling system for the engine. The radiator had Maybach’s own honeycomb maze pattern and had a coolant capacity of 9 litres. At low engine speeds, the cooling was supported by a radiator fan located behind the radiator.  

The engine speed was controlled by a lever mounted on the steering wheel and it was limited to 1000 rotations per minute. The peak output was achieved at 900-1000 RPM.

How fast did the first Mercedes go?

The Mercedes 35 had a top speed of 86 kmph. The Mercedes 35 even dominated the Nice Race week held in March 1901. In one of the hill climb races race car driver Wilhelm Werner reached a record top speed of 86 km/h and completed the hill climb race at an average speed of 51.4 km/h. Wilhelm Werner also won the NIce-Salon-Aix-Sénas – Salon – Nice race with a total race distance of  400 Km. The success of the Mercedes 35 was very remarkable and the secretary-general of the France automobile clubs also wrote in his race review “we have entered the Mercedes era”

How many models of the first Mercedes were made?

The contract made by Emil Jellinek was for making 36 race cars, Wilhelm Maybach’s design proved to be very successful on the race track and paved the way for the Mercedes Benz supercars. The cars were priced at a premium of 550,000 Mark and Emil Jellinek managed to sell 34 cars by 1901 which was very high considering the Mercedes 35 was so different from the traditional engine-powered carriages.

The demand started rising in 1901, DMG modified the still chassis and added two additional seats in the back. The Mercedes Simplex was the successor of the Mercedes 35 and it was available in a 45 horsepower as well as less powerful 25 horsepower. After 1902, DMG made a total of four more models in the Simplex family. 

The weight of the cars was less than 1000 kg thanks to new manufacturing technology while allowing the use of pressed steel in the frame of the vehicle. The engine was mounted directly in the frame over the front axle instead of mounting it high up on a front axle carrier.

Following is the list of models sold under the Mercedes Name form 1900

ModelEngine Top Speed
Mercedes 35 hp (1900 to 1902)4-cylinder, in-line75 KM/H
Mercedes-Simplex 40 hp (1902 to 1903)4-cylinder, in-line80 KM/H
Mercedes 75 hp (1906 to 1911)6-cylinder, in-line95 KM/H
Mercedes 37/90 hp (1911 to 1915)4-cylinder, in-line115 KM/H
Mercedes 28/95 hp (1914 to 1924)6-cylinder, in-line130 KM/H

Other articles about Mercedes Benz you may be interested in

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The Mercedes 35 was revolutionary in terms of design and built quality. It was also known as the dawn of the Mercedes era. The use of lightweight materials and onboard voltage systems made it more reliable than other models in the 1900s. With its long wheelbase and steel body, the car was also safer to drive. After the DMC merged with Benz and Cie, the company was called Mercedes Benz and started selling passenger cars under the same name. After Gottlieb Daimler passed away, Karl Benz, Wilhelm Maybach and Emil Jennil continued selling cars under the Mercedes Benz banner.