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1920 Mercer Series 5 news, pictures, specifications, and information

Raceabout
Chassis Num: 5478
 
Sold for $242,000 at 2009 RM Auctions.
Built by the Same Company That Built the Brooklyn Bridge
The Mercer Automobile Company was founded in Trenton, New Jersey in 1909 and was funded by the Roebling and Krus engineering company, which is best known for building the Brooklyn Bridge.

The earliest Mercers were renowned for their outstanding performance and could be taken from the showroom floor directly to the race track without any modifications. The most famous Mercer was the T-head raceabout, built from 1911 to 1914. Drivers who set records in early Mercers included the legendary Barney Oldfield and Ralph DePalma.

In 1915, Mercer introduced a new model with a revolutionary L-head, four cylinder, long stroke engine. This design was used until the end of production in 1926.

This 1920 Mercer Series 5 Sporting was one of six different body styles available that year. It was designed to be the four passenger companion car to the popular raceabout model. It sold new for $4,200, which was about the price of eleven new Model T Fords.

This Series 5 Sporting is the fifth iteration of the car introduced in 1915. It was purchased by its current owner in 1991 with 93,156 miles from the estate of Mr. Charles G. Jackson, who had driven the car for 47 years. Mr. Jackson had purchased the car in Bellville, Ohio in 1946.

The car owner has the car a complete body off-restoration with everything being refurbished, replaced or rebuilt. The transmission was changed from Hyatt roller bearings to ball bearings - a change Mercer made in later years.

This Mercer is one of about 4,000 Mercers ever built with the L-head engine. Currently, only about 60 are known to exist. There is a four-speed gearbox with a 3.62:1 final drive that was made standard by Mercer in 1913. The 298 cubic-inch engine is capable of producing over 70 horsepower at 2800 RPM. The engine was the work of chief engineer Eric H. Delling who patterned the engine after the L-head Deltal racing motor, and introduced it for 1915 after Finley R. Porter's departure.

Upon completion of its restoration, the car was shown at Hershey in 2005, receiving a First Junior Award in addition to a National Award. In 2007, it received a score of 400 points for an AACA Grand National Award.

In 2009, this Touring car was offered for sale at the Vintage Motor Cars of Hershey presented by RM Auctions where it was expected to sell for $150,000 - $200,000. As bidding came to a close, the lot had been sold for the sum of $242,000, including buyer's premium.
Raceabout
Chassis Num: 5478
 
Sold for $242,000 at 2009 RM Auctions.
The Mercer Series 5 Sporting was introduced in 1915 and this model is the 5th generation. Charles G. Jackson of Mount Vernon, Ohio, was the dedicated enthusiast, historian, and Mercer expert who had driven this car for 47 years, having purchased it from the original owner in 1946. John Gillette of Wadsworth, Ohio, purchased the car in 1991 with 93,156 miles on the odometer. In the process of a complete body off-restoration of the rolling chassis, engine and body, Mr. Gillette learned a great deal about Mr. Jackson. Jackson had authored a three-part article for the March, June and September 1951 issues of Antique Automobile entitled 'Mercer, A Technical History.' He later partnered with others to write the Mercer instruction manual for L-head engines made between 1915 and 1923.

This is one of 4,000 Mercers built with the L-head engine, of which only about 60 are known to exist. The 298 cubic-inch engine produces well over 70 horsepower and had the highest speed of any stock motor of its size in America at the time.

The current owners purchased the car in the fall of 2009.
Raceabout
 
The Series 4 and 5 raceabouts began in 1919 and were redesigned by A.C. Schultz updating the classic Type 35 design. They were given a modern electric starter with the same power by the same European-style engines with fixed head and magneto. By this time the claim was of a 90-mph top speed. Six body styles were offered in 1920 with the Raceabout being the most popular.

This car was previously owned by the Bill Harrah Collection and was last shown - raced, in fact - at Watkins Glen, New York in 1958.
The Mercer Automobile Co. was in business from 1910 through 1925, the name coming from the area from where it was based, Mercer County, N.J. Financing came from two wealthy families, the Roebling and the Kusers. The vehicles produced by the Mercer Company ranged from sedans to roadsters to limousines with their primary focus aimed at comfort rather than speed. Throughout its lifespan, Mercer never achieved the status of 'mass producer' such as Ford and Cadillac. Their low production and high costs kept the vehicles exclusive. Their first vehicle, introduced in 1910, cost $1950, a price much higher than most other comparable vehicles.

Through the persistence of Washington Roebling, the son of one of the founders of the Mercer Company, a roadster was introduced. The Raceabout is credited as being America's first sports car. Under the hood was a very large four-cylinder engine that was capable of producing nearly 35 horsepower. There were two spare tires and a twenty-five gallon fuel tank. The 300 cubic-inch engine could propel the 2800 pound vehicle to a top speed of nearly 80 mph. A very impressive accomplishment at the time, especially considering that there were few roads that were suitable of sustaining these types of speeds.

The Raceabout was raced heavily in 1911 where it won five of the six races it was entered. It achieved world record status and lots of publicity for the evolving company.

Throughout the years, the company's popularity, success, and fortune were up and down. Washington Roebling II was aboard the Titanic in 1912 when it sank. The production of the Raceabout continued. In 1914, Mercer's chief engineer and designer, Porter, left the company to begin automobile production on his own. Unfortunately, he was unable to achieve the success ascertained at the Mercer Company.

By 1919, the founders of the company had passed away. Control of the company passed to a Wall Street Organization that attempted to stimulate growth in production. Control was passed back to the Mercer Automobile employees and production continued for a few years before coming to a close in 1925.

There were many reasons for the demise of the company. When automobile production began in the early 1900's, it was possible for individuals to produce only a few automobiles and turn a profit, or at most stay in business. As time progressed so did competition. Designs became elegant, engine sizes continued to grow, mechanical technology progressed, and vehicles were mass produced. To stay in business in this evolving automobile economy, the companies were forced to constantly progress. The public demanded new inventions, new enhancements, and new products. The competition, the inability to constantly introduce new products, a tough economy, and an unstable leadership were a few of the reasons the company was force to fold.

By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2009
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Mercer: 1910-1920
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