1921 Mercer Series 5 Raceabout
When asking the question: where did the sports car originate? The irrefutable answer that is always first to come to mind is the Mercer raceabout. First built in 1911, Mercer’s Raceabout, with its powerful T-head four-cylinder engine, round fuel tank and small light body with just two bucket seats was the first production sports automobile successfully built for the street, but also for the purpose of racing. Between 1911 and 1915 the Roebling brothers (whose father had designed and built the Brooklyn Bridge) and their engineer Finley Robertson Porter built around 800 Raceabouts which their customers could take straight from the factory in Trenton, New Jersey to the race track and be very competitive and in many cases win. Noted drivers such as Barney Oldfield and Ralph de Palma raced Mercers proving they were a real sports car.
Mercer continued to build T-head, four-cylinder cars until the company introduced a new line of L-head fours designed by Eric H. Deiling in 1915. When the Roeblings died the Mercer company passed to a New York investment syndicate which put Emlen Hare, former manager of Packard’s New York branch, in charge. Hare also added Locomobile and Crane-Simplex to the company which eventually got the best of him. By 1921 Mercer was sold again, but back to the original families who were involved in founding the company. Mercer continued to build high quality fast cars, but not many were made. It is estimated that around just 5,000 Mercers were produced in total from its beginnings in 1911 to the end in 1924 making them even more coveted by collectors today.
The L-Head Mercers introduced in 1915 were powered by a 298 cubic inch side-valve four-cylinder engine with single ignition paired with a 4-speed transmission and were first rated at 70 horsepower, later being bumped to 80 horsepower making them a real thrill to drive especially in the lightweight raceabout form.