Pinpointing the genesis of the motorcar is a complex undertaking, interwoven with numerous “firsts” and innovations happening almost simultaneously around the globe in the late 1800s. Steam-powered motor-wagons had popped up in workshops around the developed world, making it impossible to name an exact moment when the automobile was invented. With that in mind, much of the credit for the very first production viable automobile design is given to Karl Benz and his Benz Patent Motorwagen of 1886. However, some sixty miles from Benz’s workshop, Gottlieb Daimler was also working on a motorcar, unaware of Benz and his machine. Separately, yet in parallel, these two German inventors created the very foundation of the automobile industry.
Daimler’s first car was built on a modified buggy chassis, which differed from Benz’s purpose-built machine. Daimler and his partner Wilhelm Maybach continued experimenting, making several important innovations including the atomizing carburetor, and the use of a Cardan-drive shaft in place of typical final drive chains. The four-cylinder Phoenix of 1894 had attracted the attention and financial backing of Austrian Emil Jellinek, who ordered several Phoenix-engined racing cars. After Gottlieb Daimler’s death in 1900, his son Paul took his place, with Jellinek acting as director. In 1901, Jellinek promised to order 36 new vehicles in exchange for exclusive agencies in France, USA, Belgium, and Austria. He also felt the name DMG (Daimler Motoren Gesellschaft) was too Germanic, strongly suggesting they adopt the name Mercedes in honor of his 11-year old daughter.
With substantial financial backing in place, the Mercedes model range expanded swiftly. A vast array of engines and chassis were available, ranging from a 20 horsepower car to thundering 90 horsepower racers and tourers. In the pre-WWI era, the 28/60 was one of the most expensive and powerful models available. Built around a mighty 7,240cc T-Head 4-cylinder engine, mated to a 4-speed gearbox, the chassis was built in pressed steel, with a low center of gravity and a revolutionary honeycomb radiator. It was one of the first cars to abandon chain drive for the quieter, smoother and safer Cardan-Drive (universal-joint) propeller shaft and rear axle assembly. It was this refinement and engineering excellence that would define Mercedes as a marque into the 1920s, and beyond their 1926 merger with Benz, which created one of the greatest automobile manufacturers of all time.
This extraordinary Mercedes 28/60 Phaeton is a beautifully restored and proven tour car, benefitting from 40 years of single-family care. Long known as a 1911 model, this car was delivered new in London on June 27, 1913, according to Mercedes-Benz Classic. It is believed the car was sold through the London based dealer Milnes-Daimler-Mercedes, Ltd, which is embossed on the exceptionally rare, English owner’s manual. While the earliest history in London is not documented, the current owner believes the Mercedes was purchased there by Norm Viney of Cleveland, Ohio sometime in the early 1950s. Viney bought it along with several other cars in the UK, getting some restoration work done before shipping it to the USA. Once stateside, it had some additional work performed by Tom Lester of Lester Restorations and Lester Tires fame.
Mr. Viney passed away in the mid-1970s, and the car was sold to a family friend, Solon Sprinchorn of Jamestown, New York. The Mercedes was stored for 20 years until Sprinchorn decided to refurbish it to enjoy on tours. With the help of his son-in-law, the car was completed in mid-1997 in time for the Veteran Motor Car Club of America’s Trans-Continental Reliability Tour. This 30-day event stretched over 2,500 miles from El Paso, Texas, into Banff, Alberta and on to Spokane, Washington. Upon completion of this grueling event, the 28/60 was kept in Santa Maria by Sprinchorn’s son-in-law, who kept in in excellent running order.
That epic tour would sadly be Solon Sprinchorn’s only event in the Mercedes, as he passed some six months later. Ownership changed to his son in law, who continued to use and enjoy the car in Solon’s honor. Over the course of several more years, the big Mercedes participated in numerous HCCA tours on the West Coast. In 2007, the Mercedes came due for a full engine rebuild, and the job was entrusted with Robin Onsoien of Early Motors in Nipomo, California. There, the engine was methodically rebuilt, and comprehensive restoration of the body and chassis soon followed. Onsoien stripped and refinished the body in a handsome maroon, and black livery finished to a very high standard. Loren Burch of Pasadena restored the seats in proper black leather, and completely rebuild the top along with front side curtains and a tonneau. The extensive restoration, including the meticulous engine rebuild, is well documented via hundreds of photographs.
As expected of a Robin Onsoien restoration, the craftsmanship is impeccable. The body and interior have beautiful detailing and finish quality. Finely polished brass punctuates the body and paintwork. A beautiful hand-made wicker trunk allows for storage of the weather equipment and soft luggage. More than just a showpiece, the owner has improved usability for touring by performing several subtle upgrades. The gorgeous brass Ducellier headlamps, cowl lamps, and tail lamp have been updated to run on electric power via a subtly integrated alternator. The alternator also feeds an electric fuel pump and discreet turning signals.
Since 2008, this mighty Mercedes participated in at least a dozen more tours, yet it remains in absolutely beautiful cosmetic condition. While never intended to be strictly a show car, this significant Mercedes would no doubt be welcome at regional concours and Mercedes-Benz Club events. Powerful, expertly prepared, and beautifully presented, this rare and highly collectible Mercedes will surely satisfy collectors and touring enthusiasts alike.
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