The early Raceabouts were similar in style to the
Stutz “Bearcats”, but employed
a rather more elegant radiator similar
to the Mercedes of the day...
Few concessions were made for driver comfort, although
the optional steering column mounted driver glass
at least stopped you swallowing bugs...
In its second iteration, the Mercer not only gained
sides but an optional windscreen and hood...
Mercer County, New Jersey, USA. Home
of the now largely forgotten Mercer Automobile Company
and their wonderful Type 35 "Raceabout".
Introduced in 1911 the car was designed by Finley Robert
Porter and made possible by the financial backing of
Washington A Roebling.
Porter would soon leave Mercer
to establish his own arguably lesser known company
FRP (later known as Porter) to manufacture a more luxurious
line of cars, while Roebling would go down with the
Titanic - literally. The departure of these two men
was an ominous omen for the future of Mercer.
The early Raceabouts were similar in style to the Stutz
“Bearcats”, but employed a rather more elegant radiator similar to the Mercedes of the day.
like the Bearcat, the Raceabout featured twin bucket
seats with an exposed cylindrical petrol tank located
behind and offered the occupants (if you could call
them that) absolutely no weather protection at all.
The Raceabout used a 5 litre 4 cylinder “Continental
T” engine which developed 55bhp and made the car
good for a top speed of 70mph (112.6 kmh).
was known as a “T” due its configuration,
having lines of side valves at each side of the bores,
but in 1915 this changed to an “L” head
with the valves being located down the same side of
the engine – a modification that bumped the output
up to 90bhp!
Over the ensuing years the Raceabout would undergo
numerous changes, and despite a modest output of only
approximately 500 cars each year the marque was held
in high regard by those that could afford one.
was the case with the Bearcat, the Raceabout was far
more popular with the well heeled young who favoured
performance over creature comforts.
But there were perhaps not quite as many wealthy young
people about at the turn of last century as Mercer would
have liked, so it was inevitable that changes to the
body style would be necessary to make the car more appealing
to a broader clientele.
Sides were incorporated into
the bodywork, and from 1918 onward you could option
windscreens and fold-down hoods.
Following World War 1 a former Packard salesman Emlen
Hare purchased Mercer, together with Crane-Simplex and
Locomobile. His idea was to form a strong conglomerate
from the 3 brands, but unable to create a cohesive operation
the entire operation soon failed and was forced into
liquidation in 1921. But that was not the end of the
road for Mercer.
A new Mercer rose from the ashes, and now used the
Rochester six-cylinder overhead valve engine.
mechanical improvements were being implemented, the
new Mercer operation failed to make any significant
changes to the body style – at a time when the
buying public was deserting the roadster format in droves,
preferring the larger “Touring Car” style.
Inevitably Mercer would crash again in 1925.
Then the Elcar Motor Car Company of Elkhart, Indiana
thought the marque worth reviving, particularly as the
Mercer name was still highly regarded by the public.
With claims of receiving 750 pre-manufacture orders
and grandiose plans of manufacturing some 3000 Mercer’s
each year, it looked as though a 3rd comeback was on
the cards. With much fanfare the new Mercer was launched
at the Hotel Montclair in New York – and what
a car it was, featuring the lovely Continental 5.3 litre
straight eight engine.
But the Depression had so weakened Elcar that they
were finding it difficult to continue the manufacture
of their own cars, let alone the new Mercer. They were
never able to put the car into production, and the marque
would, this time, come to an end.
Also see: The History of Mercer Automobiles - The Car of Calibre (USA Edition)