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Mystery pre-WW1 BENZ taxi

Mystery pre-WW1 BENZ taxi (?)

Usually, identifying old Benzes that were manufactured before the merger with Daimler in 1926, is not particularly challenging. However, today I would like to present a photo from my collection showing a Benz with some rather....

....uncommon features and I hope that someone is able to shed some light on this car.

As one can see from the flat radiator, this a Benz most likely produced before WW1 (even if they still made a few cars after the war that did not have the fancy v-shaped radiators). The cowl between the bonnet and the windshield suggests c. 1910 as the earliest date of manfacture. The old-fashioned position lights rule out a later date than 1911/12, since Benz started to mount electrical position lights at that time. The overall dimensions of the car and the number of wheel spokes (10) are consistent with those from Benzes from the medium range which were equipped with 14/30 or 25/45 h.p. engines for example.

The body in the coupé de ville style, however, is very unusual. I haven't seen one on a Benz of that era, before. Could that be a body manufactured in France, perhaps?

I was considering a situation in France, anyway, since behind the windscreen one can see a tiny sign with a word ending with "ibre" on it (most likely "libre" - meaning "available"). This suggests that this Benz was used as a taxi which appears odd in a French-speaking country. I hardly believe that someone imported Benzes from Germany at that time, just in order to have them equipped with a coupé de ville body and then use them as taxis.

A possible explanation could be that this car was sold by the original owner when it had become outdated and that a taxi business used this sturdy and still impressive car afterwards for some time.
Another possibility could be that this Benz was used by the German military in WW1 and was left behind by the retreating troops in 1918. Actually, Benzes were a frequent sight with the German army, back then. So, in either case we would deal with a Benz that was already several years old when this photo was taken. The looks of the lovely young lady and the gentleman next to the Benz point at the early 1920s.

Now, if anyone could tell more about the car, it's distinctive body and it's likely use as well as the location that would be great!



#5 2017-04-18 16:34
Hello Mr. Geirnaert,

Unfortunately, I cannot provide a better picture of the radiator mascot, since the original image is not particularly crisp.

The mascot appears to be a turtle-like creature standing on its rear feet, but could as well be an eagle that has lost his wings.

Sorry for not being able to help you.

Kind regards
Michael Schlenger
#4 2017-04-18 16:31
Hello Ariejan,

Many thanks for the precise identification - so my overall assessment proved right. Your book recommendation is also highly appreciated. There is not much literature on early Benz automobiles available.

Michael Schlenger
#3 2017-04-18 08:01
The statement that the identification of pre-1926 Benzes is not challenging seems to me a rather personal matter. They are definitely not all that easy.
However, in this case it is easier than one would expect it to be. The license number is of course Belgian and was registrated on the name of Serève-Loyer in Looz (or Borgloon in Flamish). It is ideed a taxi and in the book of Kupélian on the history of Mercedes-Benz you can read that the 1911 8/20 model was used as a taxi in Belgium. The book even shows a similar 'coupé-chauffeur' model on p.35.
#2 2017-04-17 15:43
Als er libre op het bordje zou staan zou je de bolling van de b moeten zien, ik zou eerder aan de I van HIRE denken.
Is er een beter beeld van de radiateur mascotte te krijgen? Als mascotte verzamelaar (150) stuks ben ik zeer geïnteresseerd.
#1 2017-04-17 10:54
I see what might be an electrical conversion on the side Lamps, or possibly an Acetylene narrow bore feed pipe, dont appear to be origionally Paraffin as there is no Resrvoir,
or they could have been candle powered, before conversion,

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