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The century-old Tourer with a story to tell.

24 March 2022

The three-pointed stars came out to play at a gathering of some of the finest Mercedes-Benz classic vehicles in the southern hemisphere.

Explore


The century-old Tourer with a story to tell.

24 March 2022

The three-pointed stars came out to play at a gathering of some of the finest Mercedes-Benz classic vehicles in the southern hemisphere.

1924 Mercedes-Benz 11/40 Tourer

A rare 1924 Mercedes-Benz 11/40 Tourer made its long-awaited debut on the show circuit as the Mercedes-Benz Club Victoria marked an important milestone. Image: JR Ross.

Locals will tell you that, on a clear night, the stars burn especially bright over the peaceful Wandin Valley in Melbourne’s east. But there were stars of a different kind assembled in their hundreds and gleaming in the bright summer sunshine at Wandin East Reserve in February to mark the 50th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz Club Victoria’s (MBCV) first Concours d’Elegance.

Forty-nine cars were entered for concours judging, including some of the finest examples of vintage, classic and collector Mercedes-Benz models in the southern hemisphere. An additional 270 cars attended for the more casual ‘Show and Shine’ event.

A replica of an 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen was a key talking point for the crowd of more than 1,000, as was a pair of Mercedes AMG GT Black Series Project One Editions, of which a mere handful exist in the country.

Mercedes-Benz W198 300SL Gullwing

A 300SL Roadster was among many of the stars on show at the Mercedes-Benz Club Victoria’s 50th anniversary concours event. Image: JR Ross.

Phil Dunstan, a MBCV member of 23 years and former club president, had been eagerly anticipating the anniversary celebration, as well as the opportunity to showcase the pride of his three Mercedes-Benz vehicles, a 1964 W113 230 SL ‘Pagoda’ with a rare four-speed manual gearbox.

MBCV founder John Davies entered his stunning Mercedes-Benz SLS for concours judging, where it was up against a 1956 W198 300SL Gullwing worth around $2m, and a 6.3-litre V8-powered 1965 W100 600 Grosser, the likes of which were used to transport world leaders and other dignitaries back in its heyday.

One for all ages

A highlight of the day was a special display featuring Mercedes-Benz vehicles arranged in the form of the famous three-pointed star logo. A circle of eight different models representing key eras of the brand’s storied history encircled club member Jim French’s fastidious 1886 Benz Patent-Motorwagen replica, which held pride of place at the star’s centre.

While every car on display had a fascinating history, the 1937 W143 230B Cabriolet positioned at one of the star’s lower points is notable for having been painstakingly restored and rebuilt from the ground up by its owner Robert Green.

The 1952 W187 220 A Cabriolet at the opposing point was a similar labour of love for its owner Murray Allen, who acquired the car from Western Australia “in about 40 crates of bits and pieces before reassembling and restoring it,” Phil explains.

1952 Mercedes-Benz W187 220 A Cabriolet

A recently restored 1952 W187 220 A Cabriolet was a labour of love for owner and long-time MBCV member Murray Allen. Image: JR Ross.

But despite their age, both these cars are relative spring chickens compared to the rare 1924 Mercedes-Benz 11/40 Tourer model that sat atop the commemorative star formation, resplendent in its striking blue-over-white livery.

Tracing the Tourer’s journey

Bruce Barton, a technical trainer at Mercedes-Benz Australia and the man leading the 11/40 Tourer’s restoration, rifles through a sheath of documents on the car’s unusual history as we speak, explaining that its period-correct name is a 1924 11/40 Benz Car, with the body style being an open tourer, and 40 being the horsepower output of the 2.8-litre inline six-cylinder engine under its impressive bonnet.

According to Bruce’s records, the Tourer was first sold in June 1932 by Lanes Motors, in Exhibition Street, Melbourne, for the princely sum of $1050 pounds. The eight-year gap between its build date and first registration likely due to the Great Depression. The proud first owner was a Mrs. Florence Hewett of Ballarat, who motored out of the dealership with the car in its original khaki-coloured ‘Buff’ paint, rolling on the thrifty choice of wooden spoked wheels, instead of the upmarket wire wheels fitted later.

It's unknown whether feisty Florence stretched the 11/40’s legs to reach its top speed of 80km/h on the way home, or how she handled the four-speed manual transmission and leather-cone clutch. We do know she loved the car because it was never sold, instead passed down to her son who drove it until he was 90 years of age, Bruce says.

1924 Mercedes-Benz 11/40 Tourer

The Tourer’s story takes many twists and turns over the last century. Image: JR Ross.

“One of the unusual features of the car is that there’s no driver’s door,” he explains. “Instead, you hop in from the left-hand side, presumably because there’s a lot of gear and handbrake control items in the way of hopping in or out on the right-hand side.”

Bruce’s trusty folder charts the Tourer’s history in uncanny detail, tracing its journey from Ballarat to the Melbourne suburb of Preston, then north to NSW. Over the course of several owners, the car eventually wound up at Sydney’s Yorkstar Motors in complete but neglected condition. Here, the ‘apprentice master’, Klaus Sayer oversaw the Tourer’s first restoration, and in 1979, it completed a rally to Coffs Harbour.

Later, when Yorkstar Motors was sold, the Tourer became the property of Mercedes-Benz Australia, and in 2000 underwent another restoration at the hands of renowned Australian classic car restoration specialist, Sleeping Beauties. It was around this time the car’s exterior was repainted its current blue and white.

There were more twists and turns, including a 15-year stint sitting largely forgotten on the upper floor of a Melbourne dealership, before it finally came under Bruce’s wing in 2017.

Back on the road

These days the 11/40 Tourer is a passion project for Bruce and a small group of staff at Mercedes-Benz Australia, including media relations and product communications manager, Ryan Lewis. There is a clear determination to get the classic Benz back on the road again, with Ryan describing the vintage machine as “a great way for people to interact with the history of the brand.”

“I admire the fact it has been in Australia since new, and has managed to survive some incredible things during that time, yet it’s still in the amazing condition that it’s in today. It’s obviously had restoration work done along the way but it’s still completely representative of what motoring was like in the 1920s,” he said.

“It’s just brilliant to have something tangible that represents where the brand has come from, and to be able to look at the way things were done. It takes time to develop brand heritage, and it’s something that’s important to Mercedes-Benz. This car, being nearly 100 years old is a great asset for us to have and to maintain and make available for people to see in the future.”

Find out more about the Mercedes-Benz Club of Victoria here.

By Jonathan Weller