The 1914 French Grand Prix is reputed to be one of the greatest races of the twentieth century.

After a Hiatus of 5 years Mercedes returned to the GP scene in 1914. Engines were now restricted to 4.5 litre for the first time so Mercedes drew on their Aero engine division to come up with a new high revving engine.

A team of 5 Mercedes 18/100 turned up to what was the most heavily contested Grand Prix field to date.

The atmosphere was tense. War was rumoured. The French crowd felt victory was theirs after Peugeot wins in 1912 and 1913 reinforced by Delage’s strong efforts. But there was no doubt the Mercedes team looked organized and impressive.

37 cars started and only 11 finished

1908 winner Christian Lautenschlager taking 1st place for Mercedes with Louis Wagner and Otto Salzer filling the podium. The first sweep in GP history.

Mercedes GP_Salzer im Rennen

My Mercedes came about after talking with Reginald Splitpin in Febuary 2015, who had attended Tieton 2. Initially the idea was to pitch in and help finish the Austin 7 he had started building for Great Austin 7 Build off and get that up to the states. Its unique monocoque design meant it would not only need to be shipped soon. But also proved cost prohibitive.

I was familiar with the fact that Hawaiian Airlines had a very generous luggage allowance of 2x 80lb bags per person and crucially, flew into Seatac. 

An early candidate was a Renault, which I loved but couldn’t see how I could attempt the body work in a small amount of time. And the car had so many neat little fixtures and details that were needed to make it look the part.

As the Tieton event was growing in popularity meaning limited spots. I felt it was important that I built a car that justified its inclusion. 

The selling point of the Mercedes for me, apart from being a pretty successful GP car, was the open rear end which solved the heat issue that so many Cyclekarters face when their tail covers the engine and flat body panels with no compound curves.

It was also the Marque that was on the wish list for the Next cab off the rank before Tieton was even on the radar. 

By mid April the car was Built. But only in my head. A set of springs turned up and to actually get to Tieton which was 6 weeks away I threw in my Job. 

After Numerous progress requests Splitpin paid me a surprise visit on about my 2nd shed day and was horrified at the lack of progress. It was later discussed that I don’t mind if he jumps ship and finds a drive within the Gittreville fleet. His response was “I already have”. I was already doubting myself about the epic task ahead so It was Just the thing I needed to hear to fuel me on.

The following weeks are somewhat of a blur. The Mercedes was at a point 1 day before my flight left for Seattle that it was worth taking and not conceding. But It was unfinished, un painted and unproven, decision made, it took a day to strip down and pack. 

First hurdle was that one box weighed 82lbs on the airport scales which required the boxes repacked on the floor of the checkin lobby. Luckily duct tape on hand- was expecting something like that.

Hurdle 2. While trying to relax at the gate. My name was called out. My heart nearly beat out of my chest. Crazy sleep derived thoughts like had the exhaust gas residue in a case set off some sensor. No, it was my ESTA causing problems. I wasn’t expecting that.

I hadn’t got the car out of NZ yet. It was a very tight connection in Hawaii and US Customs wanted to open up the boxes and go through it. Man I was stressed.

Relaxation was only achieved when I got to Seattle. Very vague similarities to 100 years earlier at the French GP, me and the Merc were greeted by the Peugeot flag and famous driver Johnny Dumfries. I was about to take them on, on their home own turf. The Mercedes 1 2 3 victory only coming by way of results in the Tieton Concours d’elegance. The Peugeot still reigned in the Gordon Bennett. Apart from a weld breaking early on at the driving tests It competed and finished all events that weekend.

None of the weekend at Tieton 3 would have been possible without The Gittreville core providing the many missing dots like engine, wheels, axle, fuel tank, paint and a base of operations to connect them.

The Mercedes probably handles like its 100 year old inspiration would. When driven nicely It tends to Push badly in corners and has heavy steering, but when driven with a bit more aggression can be thrown into nice slides and rewards the driver with the confidence its not going to step out of line.

Its brakes are well…. it’s got a pedal you can push. They are probably similar to the original car-hopeless when hot or wet.

Its lack of woodwork, upholstery and flat aluminium panels makes it vibrate, bang and squeak. But now plays me a song which I’m familiar with and tells me where she’s at, and what more she can take.

TECHNICAL DETAILS
Chassis No.: 1203

Overall length 2380mm (93”)
Wheelbase 1735mm (68.3”)
Track 990mm (39”)

Weight  116kg (255lb) with gas motor
138kg (305lbs) with 5kw electric motor

Engine NZ spec: GX160 
US spec: Yellow Box Stock 
2018 spec: 5kw Golden Motor BLDC with Chevy Volt battery pack

TAV GTC #35 chain 12/72 ratio

Go-kart steering 

Mechanical disc brake

Drivers with notable results:
Raymond Mays — Getting it to the start Line
Ziggy Stardust – King of the Hill 2019
John Chapman (Campbell Orchard host) – King of the Hill 2016

by Raymond Mays

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