Sold for $2,530,000 at 2014 RM Auctions at Monterey.
Roebling may have earned its fame from its fashioning of suspension bridges, particularly the Brooklyn Bridge. However, Roebling would also be instrumental in founding the Mercer Automobile Company, and therefore, would be instrumental in introducing the world to the sports car.
Mercer would introduce its first automobile in 1910, which would be powered by an L-head four-cylinder engine. Partnering with the Kusers, the Roeblings would find they would have all the help they needed to get Mercer running strongly. They would have good engineers and designers and a number of race drivers to help prove the cars and promote the name.
One of the best ways to promote and advertise automobiles during the early 20th century would be to go racing. Therefore, the Type-35R Raceabout would be created in late 1910 and early 1911. The Type 35R Raceabout would be a great step forward boasting of good power and balance and a stability that not only had been missing in many others, it also inspired confidence while behind the wheel. This made trips in a Mercer much more comfortable and enjoyable than most.
That stability and power also inspired men and women to go racing. The Type 35R Raceabout certainly fit that bill. Designed by Finley Robertson Porter, the Type 35R would be extremely competitive. The secret would lie in the development of the engine. Instead of extremely large engines developing large amounts of horsepower, Porter would figure a way to squeeze more power out of smaller engines. This meant the Mercer Raceabout was still quite fast, but it was also lighter than most others with their brutish engines. This would be accomplished through the use of a four-cylinder engine with a T-head design. And, because the engine was based upon one in which the company already made it was easy to buy a competitive Mercer for the urban streets. Therefore, Mercer was well and truly one of the first sports car producers in the world.
This particular chassis, 35-R-354, is perhaps the earliest 1911 T-head Mercer known to exist. Records indicate that in 1913 the car was owned by Frank Coes of Worcester, Massachusetts. Coes was a successful business man. He wasn't unfamiliar with controversy however, as best noted in the fact he apparently wasn't aware of there being a brewing plant in the basement of one of his businesses.
While the trouble wasn't the likely reason, Coes would part ways with the Raceabout. The Mercer would come to be owned by William Spear. Spear, who hailed from Manchester, New Hampshire, was a noted collector and had many pre-war cars in his collection. Not long after purchasing the car Spear would have it taken and converted from the Runabout, which it was, and to turn it into a Raceabout. This would happen between 1945 and 1946. Once completed, the car would take part in the Spring AACA Meet held at Beaver College, or what is now Arcadia University, in Pennsylvania.
William Spear would be quite the accomplished racer and the Mercer seemed right at home among his Ferraris, Aston Martins and Maseratis. However, due to mechanical troubles and sheer shifts in taste, Spear would grow further and further apart from his interest in pre-war cars. Henry Austin Clark Jr. would come along at just the right time.
Clark Jr. was by no means an aloof and unknowledgeable automobile enthusiast. Many consider his collection of automobile literature to the greatest in the world. In no time, he would become a man greatly sought after by collectors and owners seeking information and guidance. All of this wealth of material and knowledge would lead to the establishment of the Long Island Automotive Museum. A collection of cars would quickly grow and one of them would be 35-R-354.
The car would be an important piece in the automotive collection and would be often photographed by Clark making for some truly evocative images. The car would be so important it would stay in the collection while other cars came and went. In fact, the car would remain as part of the museum until it closed. Henry's son, Hal, would also have a special place in his heart for the Mercer. The car would stay in the Clark family for more than 60 years.
Such a long period of single-family ownership, and such an enviable provenance makes this 1911 Mercer Type 35R Raceabout more than just another of those from those early dawning of the automobile. Simple, yet timeless, it is easy to understand why the car has such lasting power.By Jeremy McMullen
Stripped down was the word for the Type 35 Raceabout. The body consisted of fenders and a hood only - no top, no doors, not even a windshield. Instead of the latter, a 'monocle' was attached to the steering wheel. The accelerator and the levers were on the outside.
The car is powered by a side-valve, T-head, 4-cylinder, 4916cc (4.9 Liter) engine developing 50 horsepower. It has a three-speed transmission and is capable of 75 mph.
In 1911, Raceabouts won five of the six major races that racing versions of the model were entered. A Raceabout set eight world speedway records in its class in 1912, and set another four more on a dirt track.
This 3,200-pound vehicle sold for $2,250 in 1911.
Introduced in late 1910, th 1911 Mercer Raceabout was as light as it was low. A Spartan machine, it has almost no body at all; just a pair of bucket seats, a 25-gallon fuel tank, and a five-gallon oil tank perched atop the frame. An observer was quoted as saying, 'You do not sit in a Raceabout, you sit on it.'
The Raceabout sold for $2,250, which was a stiff price. For an additional $500, one could have a similarly-powered four-passenger Toy Tonneau. While these two high-speed models - Raceabout and Toy Tonneau - were finding their place in the rapidly expanding automobile market, production of the more traditional Beaver-engined Mercers was continued for only one more season.
Captain of the Mercer driving team was Ralph DePalma, one of the leading drivers of this generation. DePalma personally racked up eight world records during his time with Mercer.
The Mercer Raceabout Model 35J T-head was constructed from 1913 through 1914. Under the hood was a 300 cubic-inch four-cylinder engine and mated to a Brown & Lipe gearbox. In 1911 and 1912 there were three speeds. Beginning in 1913, a four-speed unit was offered with a multiple-disc clutch. To improve the vehicles handling characteristics, the drive was placed low in the frame. Mounted on the rear were dual spare tires.
Many of the T-Head Mercer's were taken from the showroom floor and driven straight to the track. All that was needed to have these cars ready for the track was the removal of the fenders, running boards, and lighting equipment. After the race, the cars were driven home which made these one of the first mass produced dual-purpose vehicles.
These were designed mostly for racing. They had a ladder-frame with very little bodywork (only a hood and vestigial fenders). They had a 25-gallon gas tank mounted directly behind the two-seats. There was little needed to prepare them for racing; some owners added a monocle windshield to provide mild protection from the elements and harsh roadways of the era.
By Daniel Vaughan | Jul 2008
It is hard to imagine that these were very advanced vehicles of their day, but they were. Their T-head engine offered 60 horsepower and their finely-tuned gear ratios and four-speed transmission gave them a competitive edge over their rivals. Though the body and frame seemed minimalist and crude, it was lightweight and rugged. With no body, no starter, and a lack of amenities, these Speedsters weighed a mere 2300 pounds.