<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754

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Lot 171
Motorcars from the Collection of Gerhard Schnuerer
1911 Benz 50hp Victoria
Coachwork by Demarest

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Motorcars from the Collection of Gerhard Schnuerer
1911 Benz 50hp Victoria
Coachwork by Demarest

Chassis no. 7754
Engine no. 7754

449.3ci T-Head Inline 4-Cylinder Engine
50bhp
4-Speed Selective Sliding-Gear Manual Transmission
Front and Rear Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs
Rear-Wheel Drum Brakes

*Believed to be the sole known surviving 50hp Benz
*Reportedly delivered to Titanic passenger Charles Melville Hays
*Formerly of the renowned Don Ricardo Collection
*Spectacular original American coachwork
*Well-maintained restoration in attractive colors
*Class award-winner at the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance


THE 50HP BENZ

By the time that the 1900s rolled into the 1910s, Benz had already become one of the world's most prestigious and foremost automakers, revered for the exceptional engineering and performance of its product. What had, only a decade prior, been a well-built "horseless carriage" was now among the largest and fastest road vehicles available.

Among the offerings from Benz's 1911 catalogue was a 50hp model. As recorded by Dennis Adler in an article on this very automobile in the November/1989 edition of The Star, the 50hp model seems to have been only occasionally listed in Benz promotional materials for the American market. It "appears to have been an anomaly of sorts, built as a special order...[It uses] a dual T-head design with two camshafts, one on the induction side, another on the exhaust side; a dual ignition, with Bosch high tension magneto and supplementary battery/coil, has separate spark plugs and switches for each system. The 50hp engine has the same bore and stroke, 125x150 mm, as the 60hp, but with a Stromberg carburetor in place of the Zenith of the 60hp." The engine was mounted on a 127-in.-wheelbase frame and weighed 2,640 pounds before coachwork was added. It was, in sum, a considerably larger automobile than lesser Benz models.

American bodies for the Benz were produced by a handful of coachbuilders, with one of the most respected being the A.T. Demarest Company of New York City. Demarest's stature in the coachwork world is best embodied by their former headquarters in New York City, which eventually became the original headquarters building for none other than General Motors. Today very few examples of Demarest's coachwork remain in existence worldwide, but those that do are admired for their lean crispness of line and exceptional quality of construction.

THE MOTORCAR OFFERED

The 50hp Benz offered here is reportedly the sole extant survivor of this rare chassis. An original U.S.-delivery example, it still bears the brass identification plate noting that it was manufactured "expressly for Benz Auto Import Co. of America, 1599 Broadway, New York City, For American Roads." The car was completed with this handsome and very rakish Victoria bodywork by Demarest, a stark contrast to the conservative Benz factory coachwork, at a total cost of nearly $10,000.

That sum was reportedly paid by Charles Melville Hays, president of the Grand Trunk Railway. A self-made man, Hays was known for his aggressive, efficient, and forward-thinking leadership; he was among the first to envision a transcontinental railway that would connect both coasts of Canada, as a counterpart to the similar route in the United States. During his lifetime he was a titan of his industry. He was, in sum, exactly the kind of customer a Benz attracted.

In April 1912, Hays was invited by White Star Line Chairman J. Bruce Ismay to travel from London to New York on the maiden voyage of the newest White Star ship, Titanic. Even the most casual armchair historian knows the rest of the story. Hays was one of the 1st Class gentlemen who gallantly assisted women and children into the few available lifeboats, then perished in the sinking.

As the story is told, Hays's Benz was left behind, and, as was tradition at the time, was inherited by his faithful chauffeur, Elijah Gray, who titled it in Michigan in 1925. Following Gray's death in 1968, the car was sold out of its Detroit garage to collecting partners Ken Pearson, Ray Welke, and Henry "Hank" Harper of Wauconda, Illinois, in whose ownership it was exhibited, still unrestored but very solid and intact, at a regional show in 1970. It was around this time that the Henry Ford Museum's curator, Les Henry, was contacted about the car, noting "we cannot pinpoint the ownership of the car...though I recall hearing the story a year or two ago that a Benz presumably owned at one time by the president of the Grand Trunk Railway had been unearthed somewhere in the Detroit area." Reportedly the car had just over 5,000 actual miles.

In 1974 the Benz was acquired by William Winslow, who, with his son, Warren, spent the next thirteen years completing its restoration to original condition. At completion of the work the car was sold in 1987 to bandleader Don Ricardo. Ricardo was an avid automobile enthusiast, and to Southern California locals was as well-known a "car guy" as Steve McQueen. He particularly loved Mercedes-Benzes and collected numerous fine examples from throughout the company's history. Most famously, he ran a 300 SL Gullwing on the Bonneville Salt Flats. During Ricardo's ownership the 50hp Benz was featured in the aforementioned Mercedes-Benz Club of America magazine, The Star, and in editor Adler's book, Mercedes-Benz: 110 Years of Excellence.

The Hays Benz remained in the Ricardo Collection until the bandleader's death, at which point it was sold in 2001 to another collector in the Los Angeles area. Four years later, it was acquired for the Schnuerer Collection from the Mercedes-Benz Classic Center USA in Irvine. In 2010 it was one of two cars provided from the collection for the filming of a Mercedes-Benz North America commercial, "Welcome," to be aired during the 2011 Super Bowl. Though any scenes featuring the Benz appear to have been left on the cutting room floor, as it were, the inspection documents from filming remain in the file.

Following an engine fire in 2014, a fresh restoration was undertaken to a modern concours standard by Tired Iron Works of Monrovia, California. Finished in deep Colonial Blue with a dark blue interior, black leather victoria top, and grey wooden artillery wheels, the car was completed in time for the 2016 Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance, where it was judged 3rd in Class. This was followed by Best of Class the following year at the Greystone Mansion Concours d'Elegance.

Most recent work included a rebuilding and recoring of the radiator, a rebuild of the engine, and various other cosmetic and mechanical improvements in 2017-2018, performed by Tired Iron Works. Invoices for the original restoration and further work are included in the comprehensive service file, alongside photocopies of period Benz advertising materials and catalogues, and various clippings from the car's prior life with the Ricardos.

This 50hp Benz – perhaps more accurately referred to as the 50hp Benz, as the sole known survivor of its type – is the best kind of storied automobile. It boasts a wonderful and fascinating past, with connections to one of the 20th Century's most significant events. It has been lovingly kept and maintained for decades, first by a Detroit caretaker who knew what he had, and later by collectors who savored it as a special piece of mechanical art. Now fully restored and in splendid condition, it awaits further concours appearances and tours, running with the well-engineered vigor one expects to find in a high-horsepower, T-head Brass Era motorcar. Mssrs. Ricardo and Schnuerer would have it no other way.
Contacts
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
<b>1911 Benz 50hp Victoria</b><br />Chassis no. 7754<br />Engine no. 7754
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