The 18th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance March 8-10, 2013, marks the first time in history that an extremely rare pair of the surviving ‘Prinz Heinrich’ Benz cars will meet in public at the same event.
Both Prinz Heinrich Benz models are presented in museum quality. The 21/80 hp 1910 racer comes directly from the Mercedes-Benz Museum collection in Stuttgart, Germany, and the other from Bruce McCaw’s private collection in the U.S.
Recently restored to its original condition by Mercedes-Benz Classic, the dark green 1910 21/80 Prinz Heinrich car wearing race number 38 is considered by many automotive historians to be “the first true sports car”.
In the early 1900’s, at the dawn of the automotive motor sport age, one of the most significant race venues was the Prinz Heinrich Tour, named after Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia – an automotive enthusiast and brother of German Emperor Wilhelm II.
In 1907, the German Imperial Automobile Club organised the first annual Prinz Heinrich Tour which is often seen as a precursor to what would later become the German Grand Prix. Unlike events like the French Grand Prix, which attracted purpose-built racing cars, the Prinz Heinrich only allowed four-seater, production car based entries.
Among the races’ most notable winners were Fritz Erle who won the race in 1908 in a 50 hp Benz, and Ferdinand Porsche who in 1910 was successful in this endurance tournament in an 85 hp Austro-Daimler. Commemorating Erle’s victory, Benz produced the “Prinz Heinrich” cars from 1908 to 1910 in various engine configurations. Still running strong, two of the cars from the Prinz Heinrich legacy will drive onto the field at the 18th annual Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance on Sunday, March 10, 2013.
The history has been made when a vehicle fades into oblivion and can be salvaged and restored after more than 100 years of hibernation. The presentation of two Prinz Heinrich cars at the Amelia Island Concours not only reunites two vintage Mercedes-Benz vehicles from the early 1900’s, but also restores what is considered to be a major highpoint in the origins of racing history.
Bruce McCaw’s Prinz Heinrich Benz is part of a pure breed of Benz factory racers with a pedigree that, according to the Indianapolis Hall of Fame Museum, also touches the earliest days of international motor sport competition. The 1908 Prinz Heinrich car was fast enough and advanced enough that it was sent to the United States for the 1911 Vanderbilt Cup races. It was also raced by Billy Knipper in the inaugural Indy 500 on May 30, 1911.