The 28-horsepower 1902 Mercedes Simplex was among two-dozen classic cars winding their way around mountains and through valleys for the eight-day trip. The Mercedes will vie for a trophy Sunday in the show’s “antique through 1915” category along with seven other rare vehicles in that class.
What’s it like to drive a 108-year-old car with no windshield and no heater around Mount St. Helens, along the Columbia River and down the Pacific Coast? “It’s exciting, it’s exhilarating,” said the British restorer and driver, John Bentley. “Its top speed is only 45 to 48 (miles per hour), you’re quite high up and it’s quite an exciting drive. When it gets to 35 or 40, it really has some power and is able to maintain that speed. It’s a remarkable experience to be behind the wheel of a car this age that is still so spritely.” He said he hopes the next long trip for the Mercedes will be the UK’s famous London-to-Brighton classic car run.
Bentley said the Mercedes – considered a technological marvel in its day -- performed flawlessly, requiring only the daily draining of an oil sump and other minor maintenance. He found the car for California collectors Arturo and Deborah Keller, who bought it in 1993 and also took turns at the wheel on the long drive. With much research, as well as help from the manufacturer, Bentley then did a painstaking restoration so it could be shown at the 1994 Pebble Beach Concours.
Not always so flawless were the mountain weather conditions during the recent trip, as driver and passengers wore goggles and bundled up with layers of warm clothing. Said Bentley, “There were a couple of mornings that were really cold and we had brain freeze.”