Could You Daily Drive the Century-Old Mercedes-Simplex?

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In 1903, the Mercedes-Simplex was considered the future of automobiles. What’s it like to drive over a century later?

Compared to everything else Mercedes makes today, the ‘Simplex’ is ironically quite complicated and wild around town. You wouldn’t dare take it out on the interstate; this 40-horsepower motorized buckboard has a top speed of 60 miles per hour. These are death-defying speeds in 1903, but it’s practically standing still today.

In the shadow of San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge, CarThrottle’s Alex gets the opportunity to test out Mercedes’ 115-year-old automobile as an interesting juxtaposition to their new, all-electric Concept EQ. Mercedes hopes that the EQ will predict the way forward just like the Simplex did in the 1900s.

This open-air century-old motoring experience is nothing like what we’re used to today. But it helped begin the advance toward a simpler driving method, standardizing a few things like clutch pedals and shift patterns.

While it requires a hand crank starter, the steering wheel and column became the norm for cars, rather than the outpaced tiller or twin sticks. This car is chain driven (unlike modern cars), but the drive wheels are in the rear. This is a tradition Mercedes still carries on today. There’s a bit of a learning curve for Alex to get acquainted with the car. But once he does, it’s almost second nature to drive.

ALSO SEE: What the Forum Has to Say About the Mercedes-Simplex


Just about anything built in the last 50 years will outperform this massive white boat of a car in cornering, comfort, and acceleration. But in 1903, it was state of the art. We love to think about how far Mercedes has come from these early heady days of the horseless carriage. And we can’t help but wonder how outdated a 2018 S-class will look in 115 years. Is the EQ concept indicative of the future of cars, or are we headed in another direction completely? Only time will tell.

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