1911-1915 Mercer Raceabout Model 35-R

1912, 1913, 1914, 1915 Mercer Raceabout Model 35-R
Powering the 1912 Raceabout was an inline T-head four (above), which was cast in pairs. With a displacement of 300 cubic inches, it cranked out 58 horsepower, enough for a top speed of about 75 mph.
Powering the 1912 Raceabout was an inline T-head four (above), which was cast in pairs. With a displacement of 300 cubic inches, it cranked out 58 horsepower, enough for a top speed of about 75 mph.
©Mike Mueller

The 1912, 1913, 1914, 1915 Mercer Raceabout Model 35-R went through some turbulent times. By 1912 Mercers, thanks to their combination of speed and superior handling qualities, were winning races all over the country, securely establishing the make's reputation. But on April 15 of that year, tragedy struck: Washington Roebling II went down with the Titanic when it struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland.

Mercers continued to race, and to win, following the death of Roebling, with Ralph DePalma still serving as the team's capable captain. But then in 1913, Finley Porter, evidently on the premise that two champions on the team were better than one, hired Barney Oldfield as a member of the Mercer team.

DePalma, furious at what he considered to be a deliberate slight, quit in a huff and signed on with Mercedes, and it was in a Mercedes that he won the 1915 Indy 500.

DePalma's resignation was followed in 1914 by that of Finley Robertson Porter, who left in order to produce a car of his own. Named for Porter's initials, the F.R.P. was a big, expensive machine, powered by a 100-horsepower engine. Unhappily, it was not commercially viable, nor did its successor, the even costlier Porter, fare any better.

Meanwhile, with Mercer Raceabouts continuing to distinguish themselves on the nation's racetracks, a new chief engineer arrived at the Trenton factory. This was Brooklyn-born Eric Delling, who at a later time would produce a fine steam automobile under his own name.

A monocle windshield on the Mercer Raceabout did little to protect the driver from the elements; goggles were highly recommended.
©Mike Mueller

Delling took the company in a new direction, developing for 1915 a somewhat larger series of cars, powered by an L-head four-cylinder engine of his own design. The Raceabout was given a heavier, more conventional, and considerably more comfortable body, while the wheelbase was stretched from 108 to 115 inches.

The Delling Mercers were ahead of their time in a number of respects. Their 73-horsepower engine was fitted with a centrifugal water pump, instead of relying on the thermo-siphon system commonly used in those days. A drilled crankshaft facilitated full-pressure lubrication.

Roller tappets were used, and both main and connecting rod bearings were of the insert type, bronze-backed and babbitt-lined. Pistons were made of aluminum. Also highly unusual was the latter-day Mercer's 1.8:1 stroke/bore ratio. Connecting rods measured 14 inches, center-to-center.

Other mechanical features of the Delling-designed Mercers included a dry multiple-disc clutch; four-speed gearbox; U.S.L. starting and electrical system, contained, remarkably enough, in the flywheel; service brake consisting of a huge drum on the driveshaft; and the industry's first hydraulic shock absorbers.

Delling left Mercer in 1916, although his steamer didn't appear until 1923. The Mercer automobiles were little changed for several years following his departure, however. By 1919, F.W. and C.G. Roebling had both followed Washington Roebling in death, and control of the company passed to a Wall Street syndicate. Joining with Simplex and Locomobile, it became a part of the short-lived Hare Motors, but two years later control was returned to a group of veteran Mercer staff members.

A Rochester-powered overhead-valve six appeared in 1923, a fine 84-horsepower car selling for as much as $5,000. But the Raceabout was gone. Production, which had never amounted to more than 500 cars a year, was halted in 1924. Restarted some months later, the factory stumbled on for a time, turning out no more than a handful of cars, doubtless assembled from stock on hand. And then, early in 1925, it was all over.

See the next page for specifications for the 1911-1915 Mercer Raceabout Model 35-R.

For more information on cars, see: