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The Mercedes Simplex was designed by Wilhelm Maybach in Stuttgart, Germany. It featured powerful engines whose power ranged from 40 to 60 hp. Its large and wide body had a low center of gravity.
The car's predecessor, the Mercedes 35hp of 1901, had broken with the previous primitive automotive standards. Now, DMG and Maybach intended to improve this further by providing "comfort by means of simplicity", hence the name Simplex. A complementary explanation for the name is that, by the standards of 1901, the car was very simple to operate.
The creation of the previous model, the Mercedes 35hp, predecessor of the Simplex, was due to DMG's industrial might, the know-how of its industrial designer Wilhelm Maybach and Emil Jellinek's enthusiasm for motorsport. Jellinek was DMG's foreign agent based on the French Riviera where he was the Austro-Hungarian consul. That car had resulted in the company's early success.
In 1902, Maybach decided to incorporate a series of modifications to the Simplex, anticipating a large number of sales. To suit their basically high society clients, the new Mercedes would be shown publicly while driving through the most traditional avenues in town or to picnic in a park.
When Jellinek received his first Simplex on 1 March 1902 at Nice, he rushed to incorporate it into his Mercedes race team, competing in the Nice-La Turbie hillclimbing race. He defeated all his opponents again and setting new records.
Also in 1902, in the United States, a Mercedes Simplex won the 5-mile track race at Grosse-Pointe, Detroit.
In this 1902 campaign, the third step involved William K. Vanderbilt Jr, US billionaire and race-car enthusiast who created in 1904 the American Vanderbilt Cup. He had already set several records with the previous Mercedes, in some of the most popular races around the turn of the century, usually long distance ones.
Now, with the Mercedes Simplex, Vanderbilt took part in the 600 mile race to Paris. Later, he broke all records in the Ablis to Chartres race with flying start, with a top-speed of 111.8 km/h. One of his Simplex units is the oldest surviving Mercedes car.