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1911→1914 Mercer Series 35

1911→1914 Mercer Series 35

1911→1914 Mercer Series 35

The Mercer Racebout was one of Americas first sports cars and one of the most important cars made during the brass age. At the time of manufacture, the car was guaranteed to do 70 mph in a time when very few people had gone over 50.

The Mercer Automobile Company was already well established, since it was the Walter Automobile Company which began in 1902. The factory in Trenton, New Jersey was eventually bought by the Roebling family which was famous for building the Brooklyn Bridge. They embarked on an ambitious plan to build road cars.

The first Mercer was the Type 30 and the Type 35 became Mercer’s second car. It had a new T-shaped cylinder head designed by Finley Robertson Porter that produced around 60 bhp. At the time, the Porter engine was running on much higher compression than it’s contemporary cars and could produce more horsepower from less displacement. This meant the Type 35 was both powerful and light and essentially became the first production race car. The first Mercers featured a T-head engine which utilized massive 2.25 inch valves. These valves, with high-compression pistons and high lift cams, offered 56 horsepower at 1900 rpm.

The Mercer Raceabout was low-slung car. The engine sat deep into the chassis providing for a low center of gravity. Furthermore a low driving position was achieved thanks to the extremely raked steering column.

When built for racing, Mercer sold the raceabout bodywork which was stripped of all amenities. This was sold without a windshield, soft-top and even had no bodywork over the rear of the car. Furthermore the fenders, running boards and lights were designed to be detachable which transformed the car into Grand Prix guide in about 20 minutes. For more civil travel, Mercer offered the Runabout which was the same car fitted with a starter, generator, windshield, soft top and optional doors.

From the beginning, Mercer racked up a number of race wins on both dirt tracks and hill climbs. Mercer however was unable to achieve the coveted win at Indianapolis. Main competition in motor sports came from companies such as Stutz and Simplex which used more brute force over precision. J.B.

Mercer historian and registry keeper Stan Smith estimates that 1,700 T-head cars came from Mercer between 1911 to 1914. Of these about 1/3 came with the Raceabout body and 1/4 had Runabout coachwork.

Chassis & Sales

1281 – The example featured here, chassis #1281, was sold by Christies Motor Cars at their 2002 Pebble Beach Auction for $865,500 USD.

In Detail

submitted by Richard Owen
type Racing Car
production years 1911 – 1914
built at Trenton, New Jersey, USA
price $ $ 2,500
engine Inline-4 w/T-Head
position Front Longitudinal
aspiration Natural
ignition Dual spark
block material Cast Iron
valvetrain 2 Valves per Cyl
fuel feed Flechter Updraft Carburetor
displacement 5069 cc / 309.3 in³
bore 112.5 mm / 4.43 in
stroke 127 mm / 5.0 in
compression 7.0:1
engine designer Finley Robertson Porter
power 41.8 kw / 56 bhp @ 1900 rpm
specific output 11.05 bhp per litre
bhp/weight 55.12 bhp per tonne
body / frame Steel over Steel Chassis
driven wheels RWD
wheel type Wooden Artillery
front tires 32 x 4 BFGoodrich
rear tires 32 x 4 BFGoodrich
front brakes None
rear brakes Drums w/Contacting Shoe on Driveshaft
steering Worm & Gear
f suspension Rigid Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs, Hartford Friction Shock Absorbers
r suspension Rigid Axle w/Semi-Elliptic Leaf Springs, JM Dampers
curb weight 1016 kg / 2240 lbs
wheelbase 2743 mm / 108.0 in
front track 1422 mm / 56.0 in
rear track 1422 mm / 56.0 in
length 4114.8 mm / 162 in
width 1727.2 mm / 68 in
height 1346.2 mm / 53 in
transmission Brown & Lipe 4-Speed Manual
gear ratios 3.40:1, 1.83:1, 1.30:1, 1.00:1
top speed ~123.9 kph / 77.0 mph
fuel capacity 75.70 litres or 20 gal.


Auction Sales History

1911→1914 Mercer Series 351913 Mercer 35J Raceabout 1143 – did not sell for $308,000 Recent Mechanical Attention. Ready For Further Touring And Show. Only One Family Ownership Since The Car Left The Harrah Collection In The 1970s. A Well-Sorted Raceabout That Has Been Event Proven Over The Past Three Decades. The Most Coveted Year For The Definitive American Brass Era Sports Car.
Auction Source: 2014 Pebble Beach Auctions by Gooding & Company




1911→1914 Mercer Series 351911 Mercer Type 35R Raceabout 35-R-354 – sold for $2,530,000 Ex-Henry Austin Clark Jr.; single-family ownership since 1949. Formerly owned by racing driver William C. Spear. The earliest extant 1911 T-head Mercer. Outstanding patina that dates to World War II.
Auction Source: 2014 Monterey by RM Auctions



1911→1914 Mercer Series 351912 Mercer Raceabout – sold for $625,000 The Canary Yellow Raceabout offered here has been a part of the David V. Uihlein Collection since the 1940s. Based on a contemporary Runabout model, it was converted to Raceabout configuration by Uihlein himself, who performed both the bodywork and woodwork, the quality of which earned the car the Antique Automobile Club of America’s 1951 “Best Car of the Meet” award at Lake Forest, Illinois. Sixty years later the car remains an exceptional vintage artifact whose every detail – from its intricately fashioned brasswork to the rare Flechter carburetor feeding the siamesed 4-cylinder engine – evokes the adventurous spirit of America’s automotive Brass Age.

Auction Source: 2011 Monterey Daytime Auction by Mecum