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An iconic classic car is heading to auction this spring. After over a century with the family of British publishing magnate and motorhead Alfred Harmsworth, a painstakingly preserved 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP will hit the Amelia Island Auctions stage on February 29, 2024. It is believed to be the world’s most expensive car auction, with an estimated get in excess of $10 million.

Harmsworth bought the Daily Mail, the Daily Mirror, and The Times newspapers in the early 1900s. Turning each into mass-appealing publications, Harmsworth is considered one of the most accomplished British publishers in history.

As one of only four privately owned 60 HPs, the car is itself a storied legend.

1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP features, specs, famous owners

The 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP shown driving the dirt course of the 1903 Gordon Bennett Race.
The 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP drives the dirt route of the 327-mile 1903 Gordon Bennett Race, which it won by 11 minutes | SSPL/Getty Images

The 1903 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HP has only two Mercedes predecessors. The 35 HP and 40 HP served as disruptive shocks to the automotive world. Higher performing, better looking, and easier to handle, they quickly became elite car enthusiasts’ models of choice, even in the U.S. However, the 60 HP would present design and spec updates that would seat it even more confidently into the throne.

Developed throughout 1902, the 1903 60 HP featured a tweak in its overhead valve layout. Called an “F-head,” this cylinder head layout allowed for increased volumetric efficiency. With its new chassis boasting a lower center of gravity, the 60 HP bested the 40 HP’s top speed by 10 mph, hitting 80 mph with even better handling. It’s considered by some to be the world’s first supercar.

The car won the 1903 Gordon Bennett Cup race in Ireland by 11 minutes. The 327-mile course took driver Camille Jenatzy six hours and 39 minutes to complete. The car averaged 49 mph.

102 Mercedes-Simplex 60 HPs were built between 1902 and 1905. Only five are known to exist today. This particular example was ordered new by Alfred Harmsworth and remains under his family name until the Gooding & Company auction.


  • ‘Groundbreaking’ modern chassis with a low center of gravity
  • Gated H-pattern four-speed gearbox
  • ‘Smooth scroll-type’ clutch
  • Dual-chain drive
  • Honeycomb radiator


  • Engine: 9,236 cc ‘F-Head’ inline 4-cylinder
  • Top speed: 80 mph
  • 60 hp @ 1,100 RPM
  • Single Zenith carburetor
  • 4-speed manual transmission, dual-chain drive
  • 2-wheel mechanical drum brakes
  • Transmission brake
  • Front beam axle, semi-elliptical leaf springs
  • Rear live axle, semi-elliptical leaf springs

Famous owners of note

  • William K. Vanderbilt
  • Clarence Gray Dinsmore
  • Baron de Caters
  • Baron Henri de Rothschild
  • Count Zborowski

At an estimated $10,000,000+, this could very well indeed be the world’s most expensive auction car.

Source: Britannica