The Prinz Heinrich Benz, from the Mercedes-Benz Museum collection - image: Mercedes-BenzEnlarge Photo
In the early 1900s, automobile racing was beginning to take off on both sides of the Atlantic. In the United States, among the most significant early events were the Vanderbilt Cup races, first run in 1904, followed by the Indianapolis 500
, which began in 1911.
In Europe, the first Grand Prix was run in France in 1906. Even then, the race was populated by purpose-built race cars, so in 1907 the German Imperial Automobile Club organized an event for four-seat production cars.
Dubbed the “Prinz Heinrich Tour” after Prince Albert Wilhelm Heinrich of Prussia, a passionate automobile fan, the event soon became one of the most significant European speed contests.
In 1908, the “Prinz Heinrich Tour” was won by Fritz Ertle, driving a 50-horsepower Benz. To commemorate this victory, Benz built a limited run of “Prinz Heinrich” automobiles from 1908 to 1910, which are considered by many to be the very first examples of a true sports car.
Two museum-quality Prinz Heinrich models will be displayed at this year’s Amelia Island Concour d’Elegance
, including a 1910 21/80 recently restored by Mercedes-Benz Classic
. The dark green car, wearing number 38, is part of the Mercedes-Benz Museum collection.
The second Prinz Heinrich Benz, owned by Bruce McCaw, has a closer connection to American motorsports. Originally shipped to the United States to run in the 1911 Vanderbilt Cup races, the car was also campaigned in the very first Indy 500, run on May 30, 1911.
This year’s Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance marks the first time that two Prinz Henry Benz models will be displayed to the public at the same venue, which adds one more reason the the argument the the Amelia Island event
is not to be missed. For ticket information, check out the show’s website