With the Mercedes Simplex from 1903 at the 300 SL meeting in Bavaria

Hans Kleissl, who restores and trades with cars, such as the Mercedes 300 SL, has invited to his house rally. It was nice that the rally could take place in the current crisis. This was one reason for me to participate.

Short call to Philipp Dressel, member of our museum‘s association (Technik Museen Sinsheim Speyer). My request was whether he would like to go to the 300 SL meeting at Hans Kleissl with my 1929 Mercedes K to raise some attraction in the Alps. Philipp replied that he only wanted to go, with the 60 PS Simplex 1903 with racing bodywork of our friend and museum member Ben Collings. So flux called England to ask Ben for his car. What began as a joke suddenly became serious because Ben accepted enthusiastically. He also asked which chainring we would like to have and I ordered the car with a 2 tooth shorter gear ratio, as we were going into the mountains and needed to be prepared with well-functioning lights for times at night.

The car was then transported from England to Sinsheim. On the day of arrival most of the journey was disturbed by heavy rain. Thomas Kern had also registered with the SSKL, so we rented a car transporter to bring the cars to Landsberg on the Lech in oder to not have to do so many kilometres of motorway in the rain.

When we then unloaded the Simplex in pouring rain, I had slight doubts whether the whole action was worthwhile.

So we turned on the car, because it has no electric starter, no battery, practically no bodywork and no wings, just the essentials of what you need for technical driving.

Then we drove off in the pouring rain to beautiful Landsberg, through the old town and when we had managed the first country road kilometres it was so beautiful that one would have liked to sing. The action had already paid off then. We then continued on those beautiful roads, but also in bad weather to Polling in Bavaria, past the thickest lime tree in Bavaria. For lunch we stopped at the Dachs-Brauerei Weilheim, because you notice „a question of taste, everybody drinks Dachs". It was unbelievable how many dumplings Timon, the son of Thomas Kern, could eat. He is a young, growing man and was really hungry.

Arrived at Hans Kleissl's house, the joy was mixed among the participants. The cars were mainly 50's cars with a big 300 SL dominance - according to the motto „we have to wait at least one hour every day for the people with the old car while eating".

What the 300 SL community did not know, however, is that the 60 HP Simplex racing car from 1903 was the best sports car that ever left the Mercedes factory halls.

We then set off in pouring rain and it continued to rain all day. It was very nice to watch Philipp getting wet. My co-driver probably also had some fun being with me. You have to imagine that the wheels produced about a four-metre high fountain of water and we shared all the bends the car went through, telling each other „this was yours“ and „this one was mine“… - it was a bit bizarre.

However, we had our friend Irene Schwarz make coats for such occasions, i.e. a thin convertible top top fabric. From this we had convertible bonnets made and also two coats. The coats were a copy of the driver‘s coat of Prince Heinrich, German Emperor Wilhelm’s brother. Prince Heinrich was an early motorist, an enthusiast who raced and went on great journeys. Amongst other things, he invented the windscreen wiper and also the famous driver's coat. So we only had wet feet and wet hands because I lost my neoprene gloves from water sports. Leather gloves do soak through quite a bit. But it wasn't cold, so we had it comfortable enough.

Ben Collings, the owner of the car, pointed out to me that his currently mounted tyres have difficulty with the brakes when it rains. This worried me a little because the car had wooden wheels and no brakes in the front. In order to prevent this from happening, I screwed a horseshoe into the cockpit as a lucky charm, so nothing could happen.

With this difficult weather, it was of course difficult to read the roadbook. This immediately swelled up in the rain and the wind tore pages out of the book several times, so we often drove in approximate direction according to sun. But the many historic cars on the rally were also good for giving signs to us. We always found our way, even with a destroyed roadbook.

We drove over bendy roads from Polling to the Allgäu and had a nice hotel in the Lechtal at the lake.

The next day we went to the Inn valley via the Hahntennjoch. It was a great idea of the organizer to disguise the photographer at the track as a policeman who stood with the camera at the roadside. We shot with full power through a tunnel. The photographer stood behind it and waved to us. Later we learned that this was no filming whatsoever but a speed control. Thank God the car had English registration.

It was very lovely in the Inn valley. Above Telfs there is a beautiful hotel built by the Liebherr family. There we had lunch. But the funny thing about the hotel was: if you drove up to the underground car park, it looked like the hotel‘s reception: wooden panelled walls, chandeliers, carpets. Of course we filmed the entrance from the car and sent it to the owner of the car in England. After the owner had cleverly edited the film, all our English friends now believe that we had shot through into the foyer with the simplex.

The return journey was planned via the Fernpass. But this was not challenging enough for us. Therefore we crossed the Hahntenn-Joch once again in different direction. This was spectacular, because we only had little traffic. It was like BRAZZELTAG in the mountains. Interestingly, we were the second car to reach our rally hotel in the evening, much to the surprise of the 300 SL community.

In the evening we were praised for the good show; but we had a completely different view on the matter by now. When being in the Simplex, life is reduced to pure driving. Mountaineers and joggers describe this as a flow. We were there to drive. As 300 SL enthusiasts it was a pleasure to experience the beautiful cars in the wild.  We were able to keep up well with the cars on track, as the 60 hp was already stopped in 1904 at over 90 miles per hour.

On the third day we drove back to Polling. When one drives this car, the routine is always the same. Stopping, greasing, oiling everything, lubricating, following the motto „first the steed, then the rider".

Everything felt so good and so we decided to drive home from Hans Kleissl in Bavaria on the road and we had the most beautiful weather.

On the first day we made it to Weißenhorn near Ulm. It was fantastically beautiful. The storks were sitting on top of the town castle, where the town hall is also located. When I woke up in the hotel the next morning I thought, was this a dream or was this all real? So I opened the curtain, looked towards the town hall and there they sat. Four in the stork's nest and two on the roof. It was very much impressive.

Afterwards we went for a short visit to our museum member Robert Bayer, who had been president of the 300 SL Club for decades. We were allowed to use his garage because to lubricate the steering knuckles, the car has to be lifted up so that the wheels are free. Otherwise the old Stauffer grease cans do not provide enough pressure. We were allowed to visit the car collection and had a nice strong coffee together. Then we drove off over the Swabian Alb. On the Alb the roads we could speed up quite fast and so we discoverd wonderful progress.

Near Sindelfingen my cross came up quite sharp. So we stopped at our museum member and music consultant Horst Thome, also to do the lubrication service again. It was pleasant to press our backs on the warm radiator. This is like fango. And then there was a short bubble bath in the whirlpool in Horst's garden. This made me fit again for the rest of the journey home.

We arrived quite relaxed at the Museum Sinsheim again. Dirty, exhausted and sweaty, but very happy. Because it is not so easy being in such a car for several days without comfort, exposed to the simple elements. At this weekend we managed a total of 1400 kilometres.

Who knows if one day you will be able to drive around so freely in your old car. It was a wonderful experience to be on track with this car.

I would like to thank Hans Kleissl for the invitation, my brave co-driver Philipp Dressel for his company and especially Ben Collings for enabling this journey by providing the car.

For me, this experience will remain unforgettable.

Hermann Layher
Dipl.-Ing. (FH)
President of Technik Museeen Sinsheim Speyer

(Pics: Philipp Dressel HK Engineering)

 

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