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Spencer Wishart’s 450 Mercer at the Indianapolis 500

The Type 35 Mercer “Raceabout” designed by Finley Robinson Porter first came on the scene in 1911; the small and lightweight car was based on an excellent-handling 108 w.b. chassis powered by a 300 c.i. four-cylinder T-head engine producing 60 b.h.p. This new car won a number of AAA races between 1911 to 1912. However, at that time, the writing was on the wall that the Mercer needed a larger and more powerful engine to remain competitive and Porter went back to the drawing board to create one.

The result was an all new 450 c.i. four-cylinder T-head engine with a 4.8 x 6.3-inch bore and stroke that developed 150 b.h.p. and was set back in a standard “Raceabout” chassis that featured a new Brown and Lipe four-speed transmission, and new body work. The updated machine first appeared in 1913 at Indianapolis for the 500-mile race.

  • Wishart talking with one of the Mercer team mechanics before practice for the 1913 Indianapolis 500-mile race. Photos courtesy of the Detroit Public Library.

Spenser Wishart was a young, skilled, and very fast driver who initially got his start in racing in behind the wheel of a 1908 Mercedes racing car his father George Wishart, a millionaire Wall Street financier, purchased for him. The quick study finished fourth at Indianapolis in the first 500-mile race held in 1911.

In 1912 Wishart became a member of the Mercer racing team, and in 1913 finished second in the 500-mile classic, after being outclassed by a DOHC Peugeot driven by Jules Goux. Wishart died at the wheel of his Mercer at the 1914 Elgin Road Race after going off of the course and hitting a tree while leading the race.

Learn all about the legendary Mercer “Raceabout” in earlier coverage here on The Old Motor.

  • A colorized postcard photo taken at the 1913 Indianapolis race, shows winner Jules Goux in his number sixteen Peugeot; following him is Caleb Bragg, a teammate of Wishart in his Mercer 450, he went out on the lap 128 after a pump shaft failure. The Old Motor image. 


12 responses to “Spencer Wishart’s 450 Mercer at the Indianapolis 500

  1. That Wishart Mercedes would later get a HISSO V8 and continue racing into the early 1920’s with Larry Beals. It was part of the Tompson Products collection up until about 10-12 years ago. I got to sit in it before it went back to Germany. Spencer Wishart lived in Greenwich, Ct. while a driver for MERCER, about 45 minutes away from me, I’ve often wondered if there was some connection to the MERCER that lived here in town and is now in the Simeone collection. This is only based on a Wishart family headstone I noticed last summer in the old town cemetery. Bob

  2. I want one of those Isotta-Fraschini sweaters in the first picture.

    Then there’s the Wheeler Schebler Carburetor sign in the background. Frank Wheeler of Wheeler Schebler. The Wheeler Schebler Trophy Race before there was an Indianapolis 500. Frank Wheeler was one of the 4 original financiers of the Speedway.

    • Top photo: the two guys talking to each other off the the left look like they would fit right in at the race track today. Certain photos have a clarity and realism that makes it easy to imagine being there in that moment. These pics have that. The car is beautiful. I’ll bet it was a beastie. Can you imagine doing a 500mi race wearing a starched collar and necktie?
      Schebler carbs were widely used on motorcycles of the teens and twenties. Kind of an unusual design when compared to later carbs such as Linkert. A bit finicky, too.
      I’m in for one of those IF sweaters if anybody ever does a reprint!

  3. I guess you could mount the Hartford shocks either way, but I think having the data plate and adjusting arrow & nut is most common on the inside. Bob

  4. According to MERCER ASSOCITES race historian the three photos of Wishart’s racer are of his 35F that had the 300 engine. The gentleman standing alongside the racer with a cigarette reminds me of Tony Gulotta ‘s answer to my question of what were the duties of his riding mechanic during the 1931 Indy 500. Besides watching for who was catching up and passing, checking the pits for signals, the last was to lite Tony’s cigarette by ducking under the dash board during the race. He said being out on the track for 5 hours he had to have at least one or two.

    • Stan, Thanks for the correction – I relied on a two news reports for the info, but unfortunately they were wrong. Knowing the “MERCER ASSOCIATES race historian” I am sure he is correct about this.

  5. No problem, I periodically get mixed up on what proper engine had been used in the Mercer factory racers. Tim also informed me that the gent standing next to the Type 35F is most likely Jack Jenter who was the riding mechanic with Wishart in the ’13 Indy 500.

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