The Grand Prix Mercedes that won the “Race of the Century” will be featured at the 2014 Amelia Concours d’Elegance, to be held March 7-9 in Amelia Island, Florida. The 1914 French Grand Prix-winning Mercedes will serve as the centerpiece of a special display presented by Mercedes-Benz and car owner George Wingard.
A team of five Mercedes Grand Prix racers traveled to France for the Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France, less than one week after the assassination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It was a time of political turmoil and accelerating technological progress.
At 8:00am on July 4, 1914, the first pair from the 37 car field left the starting line for 20 long laps of the 23.38 mile grand prix course. Cars from France, Great Britain, Belgium, Italy, France and Germany drew a crowd reported to be as large as 300,000 to cheer for the men and cars that bore their flag.
Heroics would not win the 1914 French Grand Prix. It was careful organization, engineering excellence and speed that prevailed at Lyon 100 years ago. The numbers were with the five-car Mercedes team, the largest in the field. Mercedes had the most powerful engines, the fastest acceleration, the most aerodynamic and amongst the lightest cars entered.
When it was over, the media called the 1914 Grand Prix of the Automobile Club of France “the race of the century” or “the greatest grand prix.” After more than seven hours and 466 miles, Christen Lautenschlager and mechanic Hans Reiger were victorious for Mercedes, averaging over 65 miles per hour in a one-two-three Mercedes sweep.
A century ago, a British sporting journal described the Amelia-bound 1914 French Grand Prix-winning Mercedes with words that have endured with the same potency and dignity as the winning car:
“Most striking in appearance were the white painted Mercedes, whose acute V-fronted radiators, straight line bonnet and dash, and curved pocket tail – gave them that complete-from-every-point-of view appearance which gives such an individuality to war vessels of the British Navy and to many of the great railway express engines. They have lines which a camera cannot portray: a white marble of one would be a priceless possession.”
The 2014 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance will be held March 7-9 on the 10th and 18th fairways of The Golf Club of Amelia Island at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island. The show’s Foundation has donated over $2.25 million to Community Hospice of Northeast Florida, Inc. and other charities on Florida’s First Coast since its inception in 1996. For more information, visit AmeliaConcours.org.
[Source: Amelia Island Concours; photos: George Wingard]