MHMC News Bulletin #7
1914 Benz 8/20
The only one in India
The 1914 Benz 8/20 has been owned by the same PCM family of Madurai since new that is for the past 102 years. This car was last run in 1965, after it was run from Madurai to Madras and back. Between 1914 and 1965 several items on the car were altered (and it lost some of its original parts) in order to suit locally available materials, because imports were not permitted at that time after India’s independence in 1947 from the British colonisation.
How it all began
This car was entrusted to TEAMCSA (of Mr. C.S.Ananth, founder President of MHMC) for restoration in January 2014 by Rajesh Somasundaram of PCM family.
Prior to this, Mr. Ananth showed photographs of this car to the Mercedes Benz Museum restoration centre at Stuttgart. The chief engineer there after studying the pictures, advised him that the car be scrapped, because it was beyond restoration. Mr. Ananth immediately took a decision to challenge Benz and take up the restoration of the car himself. All the technical manuals pertaining to this car were lost during World War II. However they were able to give one copy of the owner’s manual in German.
The first six months was spent in research to arrive at the right body profile, because part of the body had been altered. Thereafter drawings were made and then the body work began. Meanwhile Mr. Ananth’s team located the missing spare parts such as the original Magneto. The wooden spoke wheels which were missing on the car were manufactured by TEAMCSA using the original hickory wood. TEAMCSA is the only restoration company to manufacture such wheels. The leather upholstery was done without using a gram of foam rubber, but using only coir and cotton, in order to maintain originality. All the brass items like the grille, trims and the windshield frame were manually made at TEAMCSA. The engine and gear box were completely rebuilt. Honeycomb radiator core was imported. After lot of struggle the car was successfully test run in May 2016. Close to 25000 man hours were spent in the restoration of this master piece.
The car was unveiled by Mr.Roland Folger, Managing Director, Mercedes Benz India in September 2016. He appreciated the high quality workmanship and remarked that this car is more original than the one similar car at their museum in Stuttgart. Only three cars of this model survive in the world and this is the oldest surviving Benz in Asia.
The car won the best of class (First Prize) in the Edwardian category at the 21 Gun Salute International Rally, held in New Delhi, February 2017.
In a recent article in UK published Automobile magazine, Peter Stevens, one of the judges at the Cartier Travel With Style show held at Hyderabad, has acknowledged C.S.Ananth’s restoration efforts on the 1914 Benz 8/20 runabout. He has endorsed that many of the parts of the Benz has been remade to its original form including the engine, transmission, brass linings and accessories, and the body. Noteworthy mention in the article is the remaking of wooden spokes of the wheels to perfection using CAD and CNC machine process. (Stevens, Peter. “Travel with Style”, Automobile, April 2017, p 62. )