The 1901 Mercedes 35 HP launched a new era for automobiles. It was a radical racing car that could reach top speeds of up to 90 km/h. It comprised a pressed-steel frame, a honeycomb radiator, designed by Wilhelm Maybach, low-tension magneto ignition and a mechanically silent and flexible engine, controlled by an accelerator, as opposed to the earlier, constant-speed engines controlled by ignition and governor.
Originally, the Mercedes name was only used in those countries where Emil Jellinek, the instigator of the brand name, had the distribution rights, i.e. in Austria, Hungary, France, Belgium, and the United States. Elsewhere the vehicle was dubbed the “New Daimler.” However, soon the Mercedes name became synonymous with success and was used all over the world. It became a legally protected trademark in 1905.
Mercedes cars dominate the Nice Week in March 1901: amongst other things, Wilhelm Werner wins the Nice–Salon–Nice race over 392 kilometres with an average speed of 58.1 km/h. The Nice–La Turbie hillclimb race is also dominated by Werner in the two-door vehicle class, followed by Albert “Georges” Lemaître with a second Mercedes 35 PS. Furthermore, Claude Lorraine-Barrow, during a record attempt over a mile (1,609.34 metres) from a standing start, sets a new world record with an average speed of 79.7 km/h.
The Mercedes becomes an example for the new era of automotive engineering. Everyone who can afford one wants to own such a vehicle.
Daimler developed the 35 HP into a range of different models under the Simplex moniker beginning in 1902. The Simplex featured a range of brand new engines. The top-of-the-line 60 HP model laid the foundation for the high-end luxury cars, while other variants became frequent sights at racetracks. During these early years a street body barely could be easily converted to a racing one, thanks to detachable structures.
In 1902 and 1903, the Stuttgart brand dominated racing events on the French Riviera around Nice with the further development of the Mercedes 35 PS – the Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS.
The Mercedes-Simplex 40 PS constructed by Wilhelm Maybach generates 29.4 kW (40 hp). It is systematically designed for more power, simpler controls and greater reliability. In this new racing car, amongst others, Count William Eliot Zborowski attains second place in the heavy-vehicle class at the Paris–Vienna long-distance race in June 1902.
The Gordon Bennett race in Ireland in 1903 marks the beginning of the circuit race era. DMG wants to start here with the new generation of the Mercedes-Simplex; namely, the more powerful version with an engine that generates 66 kW (90 hp). The vehicle is built exclusively for use in this competition. However, the new Mercedes 90 PS racing cars fall victim to a major fire in the plant in Cannstatt in June 1903. Therefore, three Mercedes-Simplex 60 PS start the race in Ireland, which DMG borrows from private customers with sporting ambitions – and Belgian Camille Jenatzy wins with an average speed of 79.2 km/h.
As a consequence of the Daimler triumph, the next Gordon Bennett race in 1904 is held in Germany. On the circuit near Homburg in Taunus, French driver Léon Théry wins in a Richard-Brasier. In his Mercedes 90 PS racing car – almost identical to the vehicle destroyed in the fire of 1903 – Camille Jenatzy wins second place. Baron de Caters finishes fourth in a second Mercedes.
For the 1905 season Mercedes increased the size of the engine: bore had gone up from 165 mm to 175 mm, and the stroke from 140 mm to 146 mm.
Daimlers from Austria
In 1899 Eduard Bierenz, a friend of Gottlieb Daimler took up the distribution of Daimler cars in the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy. He was joined by Eduard Fischer, who owned an iron foundry. By 1900 a production facility was set up in Wiener Neustadt. In 1902 Paul Daimler, son of Gottlieb, arrived from Cannstatt as new chief engineer.
For the 1905 season the Austrian Daimler subsidiary built three racing cars – identical to the German counterparts.
The brand name, Austro-Daimler was used from 1910.