1921 Mercer Series 5 Sporting
Engine no. 5988
298.2ci L-Head Side-Valve Inline Four-Cylinder Engine
Single Updraft Carburetor
70bhp at 2,800rpm
Solid Front and Live Rear Axle with 4-Wheel Leaf Springs
Rear-Wheel Mechanically Drum Brakes
*Highly original example
*Iconic American brand
The Series 5 Sporting
If ever there was object, irrefutable proof that the concept of the sports car originated in the United States it is the Mercer Raceabout. First built in 1911, Mercer's Raceabout, with its thundering T-head four-cylinder engine, standard exhaust cutout, round bolster tank, monocle windshield and rudimentary seating for only a driver and a brave passenger, was the first automobile successfully built in series for the sole purpose of going fast and winning races.
Between 1911 and 1915 the Roebling brothers (whose father had designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge) and their engineer Finley Robertson Porter built some 800 Raceabouts which their customers could take straight from the factory to the race track with a good chance of winning and an even better chance of finishing well. Barney Oldfield and Ralph de Palma raced Mercers. Spencer Wishart bought one, drove it right to a dirt track in Columbus, Ohio and won the 200 mile feature. He set four dirt track records in the process.
Mercer continued to build T-head, four-cylinder cars through 1914, then introduced a new line of L-head fours designed by Eric H. Deiling. When the Roeblings died within a year of eachother, ownership of the company passed to a New York investment syndicate which put Emlen Hare, former manager of Packard's New York branch, in charge. Hare proceeded to add Locomobile and Simplex-Crane to the company which, in the post WWI recession, proved to be more distraction than his management skills could handle. By 1921 control of Mercer was back in the hands of the founding families.
Through it all Mercer continued to build high quality, fast cars in its Trenton, New Jersey factory (in Mercer County, from which it took its name). Production estimates vary, but none exceed 1,000 per year and some sources believe fewer than 5,000 Mercers in all were built between its inception in 1911 and the end of production in 1924.
The Deiling-designed Mercers introduced in 1915 were powered by a 298 cubic inch side-valve four-cylinder engine with single ignition and drove through a 4-speed transmission. The 3 3/4" bore engine was rated 22.5 NACC horsepower and its earliest versions were said to make 70 brake horsepower. Later Mercers made 80bhp. Brakes were installed only on the rear wheels. Suspension employed live axles at both ends, suspended from semi-elliptical leaf springs. Deiling was one of the first American designers to add Houdaille lever action friction shock absorbers to the suspension, a feature that vividly illustrates his desire to enhance Mercers' ride, comfort and handling.
The new Raceabout body also gave its occupants more protection from the elements and the vicissitudes of the generally marginal roads of the time. The body had sides protecting the driver's and passenger's legs although the seat back still formed the back of the passenger compartment and the fuel still rode on the rear deck in a round bolster tank. Fenders were enclosed to the frame to keep stones and dust from being kicked up onto the bodywork and occupants and a full-width flat glass windshield gave added protection, although it folded down for high speed runs. In effect, the Model 22-70 Mercer Raceabout was refined, improved, more comfortable and easier to own and drive, applying the lessons learned in five years of production of the Mercer Type 35.
Alongside the 1920s generation of Mercer Raceabouts, Mercer coachwork options included one of the most elegant sports touring cars of its day, which they termed simply the 'Sporting'. Its design was typically advanced, with lightly barrel sided body perfectly extending the line of its hood and radiator, bringing with it both aesthetic and aerodynamic benefits.
The Motorcar Offered
This quite original Sporting has recently been unearthed and has been the subject of quite a bit of work. The car was hidden away in a shed for years when it finally emerged, eventually making its way into the hands of its current owner.
Having recently been made to run, the Mercer has also received new upholstery, which has replaced the badly deteriorated original. As much of the charming original features as possible have been preserved; the old floor boards with the original covering are still intact.
Mechanically the Mercer remains largely intact and complete. The engine shows all its key and difficult-to-find components. However, it should be noted that the new owner should expect some further recommissioning prior to reliable road use.