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Mercedes 37/90 hp Labourdette Skiff

Mercedes continued to use the chain drive for their new top of the line model in 1910, despite having introduced shaft drive on the small four cylinder model in 1908. The engineers probably thought the bigger engines produced too much torque for the shaft drive to handle. To deaden the sound of the noisy chains a fully enclosed oil bath was fitted on the new 37/90 HP of 1911. Driving the chains was a massive four cylinder engine, that replaced the 'six' previously used.

Designed by Paul Daimler, the new engine featured three valves per cylinder; one big intake and two smaller exhaust valves. The valves were actuated by pushrods, propelled by two lateral camshafts. Unlike previous engines, which usually consisted of multiple blocks, the new unit was a single block of four cylinders. Displacing just over 9.5 litres there was nothing subtle about Daimler's 'four'. Peak horsepower was produced at 1300 rpm and although the torque figure is not quoted, it would be safe to say it's massive!

More than anything the 37/90 HP was intended as a tourer, so it featured a comfortable chassis. Its engine's potential was displayed in the 1912 and 1914 Vanderbilt Cup, where Ralph de Palma drove his 37/90 HP engined 1908 Grand Prix car to victory. In 1914 the 37/90 was replaced by the 38/100 HP model, which was equipped with an even larger engine. With the outbreak of the First World War, production of the 38/100 HP halted, the last of the chain driven Mercedes tourers.

Featured is an early 37/90 HP model, fitted with Labourdette's trade mark wooden skiff body. It is pictured here at the 2004 Meadowbrook Concours d'Elegance.

General specifications
Country of origin Germany
Years of production 1911 - 1914
Body design Henri Labourdette
Weight 1950 kilo / 4299 lbs
Engine Daimler Straight 4
Engine Location Front , longitudinally mounted
Displacement 9.530 liter / 581.6 cu in
Valvetrain 3 valves / cylinder, OHV
Fuel feed Carburettor
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Gearbox 4 speed Manual
Drive Rear wheel drive
Performance figures
Power 95 bhp / 71 KW @ 1300 rpm
Torque N/A
BHP/Liter 10 bhp / litre
Power to weight ratio 0.05 bhp / kg
Top Speed 115 km/h / 71 mph