Car factory

Mercer (car)

Mercer was an American automobile manufacturer before World War II.

Early history

There was considerable talent & backing for the Mercer Automobile Company; Ferdinand Roebling, son of John A Roebling, was the president, and his nephew Washington Roebling was the general manager. The Roeblings had extensive success with wire rope manufacturing and suspension bridge design; engineering was not a recent concept for them. The secretary-treasurer was John L. Kuser, who, with his brothers Frederick and Anthony, had amassed a fortune from banking, bottling and brewing.

Washington Roebling was friends with William Walter, who had been making a small number of high-quality automobiles in New York City. The Kusers owned a vacant brewery in Hamilton, New Jersey, and brought Walter and his car factory there in 1906. However, Walter found himself deeply in debt by 1909, so the Roeblings and Kusers bought him out in a foreclosure sale. They changed the company name to Mercer, named after Mercer County, New Jersey. Talented designers and race drivers contributed to the new effort, and the focus became proving their product in competition.

Type 35R Raceabout

The result was one of the most acknowledged sports cars of the decade; the 1910 Type-35R Raceabout, a stripped-down, two-seat speedster, designed to be "safely and consistently" driven at over (it was capable of over ). The Raceabout's inline 4-cylinder T-head engine displaced and developed . It won five of the six 1911 races it was entered in, and hundreds of racing victories followed. The Raceabout became one of the premier racing thoroughbreds of the era- highly coveted for its quality construction and exceptional handling.

In the 1914 road races in Elgin, Illinois, two Raceabouts collided and wrecked. Spencer Wishart, a champion racer who always wore shirt and tie under his overalls, was killed along with the car's mechanic, John Jenter. This prompted the company to cancel its racing program. The Raceabout's designer left the company that year, and subsequent designs did not live up to the glory and appeal the Type-35R had earned.

Earlier in February 1914, Eddie Pullen, who worked at the factory from 1910, won the American Grand Prize by racing for in a Raceabout. Pullen can be seen standing center (right of transmission) in photo. Harold Higgins (assistant machine shop foreman) stands at far left.

Demise

In October, 1919, after the last involved Roebling brother died (Washington Roebling perished in the 1912 Titanic disaster), the company was obtained by a Wall Street firm that placed ex-Packard vice-president Emlem Hare in charge, organizing Mercer under the Hare's Motors corporate banner. Hare looked to expand, increasing Mercer's models and production, and also purchasing the Locomobile & Crane-Simplex marques. Within a few years, the cost of these acquisitions and the economic recession took a financial toll on Hare's Motors. Locomobile was liquidated and purchased by Durant Motors in 1922, and Mercer produced its last vehicles in 1925, after some 5000 had been built.

An independent effort to revive the marque in 1931 resulted in only 3 vehicles being constructed and displayed.

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