Gottlieb Daimler was a talented but conservative engineer, his financial partners more conservative still. The backers felt their new company, Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft, should concentrate on stationary engines. However, Daimler and his colleague Wilhelm Maybach continued experimenting with automobiles and by 1895 were able to put several models into production. They had five different engines, each available with several types of bodies.
Enter Emile Jellinek, an Austrian-born entrepreneur and Daimler agent, who delighted in racing cars and lent much to the company's development. Having raced a Daimler in the 1900 Nice Automobile Week, Jellinek came away disappointed and wanted a faster car. He badgered the factory to build him a faster car with a light chassis powered by a 35-horsepower engine. In order to provide incentive to the company, he undertook to order 36 such cars if he were given the exclusive sales franchise for Austro-Hungary, France, Belgium and America. And further that the cars be named for his eleven-year-old daughter Mercedes. It was a deal that Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft decided not to refuse and the Mercedes brand was born.
America had been an important market from the time that Jellinek obtained his distributorship. By 1904, a quarter of Mercedes production went there, a territory so successful that a plant was established that year at Long Island City, New York. However, U.S. production ceased there after a factory fire in 1907. This car postdates the demise of the American factory, so was undoubtedly imported in chassis form and delivered to the Long Island City facility of Brewster & Co. for the fitting of a Town Car body.
While the car is missing its chassis plate, the engine number traces to early 1914. The first owner of this car is unknown, however, it is known that Alec Ulmann, a Russian-born, MIT-educated aeronautical engineer, bought it in 1937. Ulmann, known for organizing the 12 Hours of Sebring races, was an active car collector and early member of the Veteran Motor Car Club of America.
The next owner was Charlie Stitch, a mechanic who ran a garage on the fifth floor of a building on Manhattan's 64th Street. Stitch was, in the words of one of his friends, "revered as a Mercedes authority by enthusiasts of the marque," and regularly held court at his place of business. Having worked for Daimler-Benz in Germany, he had a deep knowledge and had accumulated a vast stock of parts.
The car's precise history after Stitch is not known, but in 1991 it was purchased by a noted Japanese collector. It returned to the United States six years later, and then went abroad again, to Automuseum Deventer in the Netherlands. It participated in the 2000 Concours d'Elegance Paleis Het Loo at Apeldoorn before being purchased by Massachusetts collector Howard Fafard, who owned it until recently.
Images and info courtesy of RM Auctions.
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