From 1910 to 1924, Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (D.M.G.) built around 5,500 motorcars with valveless slide-valve engines. They made use of an invention of the North American journalist and inventor Charles Yale Knight for an exchange of gases in the engine using sleeve valves. The Mercedes Knight types play an outstanding role in the company’s technical history.
Paul Daimler, the son of Gottlieb Daimler, the founder of the company, was the head of the design office of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft and was keen to start licensed production of Knight slide-valve engines. The reasons for this were the exceptionally good smooth-running characteristics and sophistication of the drive for the time. In April 1909, a preliminary contract was signed and D.M.G. built a test series of six slide-valve engines. In March 1910, the company acquired the licence to produce Knight engines for an initial period of ten years.
D.M.G. presented its first passenger car with the new engine, the Mercedes Knight 16/40 hp, in December 1910 at the Paris Motor Show. Series production of this 4-litre four-cylinder motorcar started at the beginning of 1911. Two additional models, the 10/30 hp and the 25/65 hp, went into production in 1913 and were built until 1915. By far the longest production run of these cars at DMG was of the Mercedes Knight 16/40 hp, whose designation was changed from 1913 onwards to 16/45 hp and from 1924 – shortly before the end of production – to 16/50 hp.
The disadvantage of the Knight engines was their elaborate design and maintenance, as well as the limited top speed of around 80 km/h. Ensuring adequate lubrication of the cylinder and slider running surfaces proved to be particularly challenging. This is why, in the end, valve-controlled engines finally prevailed over the Knight system.
The Mercedes-Knight 16/40 from the Collectors Edition of ALL TIME STARS is one of the very few ready-to-drive examples of this rare model. In addition, there is the fascinating vehicle biography, which inspired lovers of classic motorcars at the Schloss Dyck Classic Days.
This open car with a blue paint finish and black leather interior was ordered in July 1912 and delivered in the same year. The order process can be traced back using extracts from the D.M.G. Commission Book which still exists. In 1913, the vehicle then embarked on a major journey to South America: an importer had the Mercedes Knight delivered to Rio de Janeiro, where it was sold to a coffee plantation owner.
In Brazil, this elegant left-hand drive car with a four-speed manual gearbox was in use for several decades and always treated with care. The speedometer reading today shows a mileage of 32,500 kilometres. After more than half a century, the Mercedes Knight received museum honours: the Museum of Technology „Museu de Armas, Veículos e Máquinas Eduardo André Matarazzo“ in Bebedouro near São Paulo, Brazil, exhibited the vehicle from the 1970s to the mid-1980s. The Mercedes Knight finally returned to Germany via England in 1986.
In Germany, this extraordinary classic changed owners twice. In 2000, it was completely and very extensively restored. For example, various metal components were gold-plated.
ALL TIME STARS, the Mercedes-Benz Classic car dealer, acquired this unique vehicle in 2019 and is now offering it as a highlight of its portfolio. The Mercedes-Knight 16/40 hp, which is well over 100 years old, comes complete with extensive documentation of the restoration from the year 2000 as well as a detailed history from ordering to delivery to the plantation owner.
The vehicle is ready to drive and took part in a classic rally in 2017. Prior to sale, the vehicle will undergo a technical check along with a MOT and exhaust emissions test (HU/AU).
Visit us at the Mercedes-Benz Museum Stuttgart and let yourself be convinced by this vehicle.
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Among the numerous passenger car models constructed before the First World War at Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, the Daimler-Knight models were looked upon as particularly special. They were driven by valveless slide-valve engines going back to an invention by the American Charles J. Knight.
After the conclusion of a preliminary contract, Paul Daimler, who took over from Wilhelm Maybach as Chief Engineer in 1907, was able to build a trial series of six slide-valve engines in April 1909. In March 1910, DMG acquired the licenses for the production of the Knight engines for the next ten years. In December 1910 at the Paris Motor Show, the 16/40 hp was presented as the first passenger car model with the new motor. Series production of the 16/40 hp with 4-liter 4-cylinder engine started at the beginning of 1910. Two further 4-cylinder models, the 10/30 hp and the 25/65 hp went into production in 1913.
At that time, advantages and disadvantages of the Knight design were discussed controversially by motorists and engineers. Undisputed advantages were the new system’s smoothness and refinement, which were exceptional for that time. Moreover, Knight engines performed clearly better in the speed ranges from about 500 to 1,500 rpm than conventional units of the same size.
On the other hand, slide-valve engines demanded a good deal of time and energy in terms of design and production technology, as well as highly sensitive handling. A particularly critical point was the correct lubrication of the cylinder and slide-valve running surfaces, which very often was not guaranteed with the lubricants of that time – especially when maintained insufficiently. This aspect became more and more problematic in the speed range of over 1,600 rpm, in which the slide-valve engine was no longer superior even in terms of specific output.
The maximum engine speed ranges that could be realized at around 1,750 rpm limited the top speed to about 80 km/h, which meant that, at least in the long run, the development potential and the practical use of the Knight engine were limited. Despite this, there were loyal supporters of the Knight engine among the customers of Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft, a fact impressively documented by the number of vehicles produced, which was over 5,500, as well as a production period of no fewer than 14 years. The models 10/30 hp and 25/65 hp were only produced up to 1915, the 4-liter model, on the other hand, remained in the range until 1924.
Mid 1913, the type 16/40 hp was renamed like all other models in the DMG line, and received the designation 16/45 hp. In the spring of 1924, this designation was made to fit the actual engine output and was called 16/50 hp. From summer 1924, the 16/50 hp was equipped with four-wheel drum brakes. After the 28/95 hp, it was the second DMG model offered with a front brake.