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The L-head Mercer Raceabout was a very popular car in its day and age, and since the beginning of car collecting it has also been a favorite with serious pre-war car enthusiasts. Its attractive and flowing lines stood out during its day when rather conservative styling was common. It was the second model of its type to be built by the company that earlier had built T-head Mercer Raceabout.
The mechanical details are also first-rate and were designed by engineer Eric Delling with the same attention to detail as the earlier car recieved, the result was up-to-date, refined, and polished. To experience a drive in one of these great handling cars powered by a long stroke 70 h.p. four, backed up by a smooth-shifting 4-speed transmission, with the exhaust cutout open is an invigorating experience.
This 1920 Series 5 Raceabout with its staggered bucket seats, fold down windscreen and classic chrome yellow Mercer color also has the added appeal of having been in the same family ownership since 1945. During that time it participated in the 1949 Glidden Tour and was featured in a famous advertisement for Gulf Oil.
If you have been a long-term reader of The Old Motor you will know of our fondness for the automobiles that came out of the Mercer Factory in Trenton, New Jersey. If not you can learn more about the L-head here in our earlier posts, and then visit with Gooding & Company, as they are delighted to be able to offer this car at their upcoming Pebble Beach Auction in August.
Featured here are two of the well-known and sleek L-Head Mercer models that were produced between the years of 1915 and 1922. The top photo shows one the well-known Raceabouts and the bottom photo is of a Sporting, a four passenger touring car with a steeply raked windshield and much more style then was normally offered at the time in other cars. The photos are courtesy of reader John Kelm and show relatives of his with two of the cars that are dated on the image as being 1918 models.
This up-to-date and third-generation Mercer replaced the legendary T-Head model. You can learn about the first model year in an earlier post, which contains an excellent factory photo of a 1915 Raceabout along with period press coverage in The Automobile. Further contemporary articles covering changes and details of the Mercer can be found below left in the February 1917 Motor, and below right from the same title in the May 1919 issue carrying a rundown of that year’s offering.
There were no dramatic changes made during the eight-year production run of the L-Head; instead the famed Trenton, New Jersey manufacturer made a series of mechanical and electrical updates over the years. One of the biggest changes was the replacement in 1919 of the unique USL flywheel starter-generator, seen in the center above, with a more modern two-unit Westinghouse system. The USL illustration slows left-to-right: the housing and field coils, the flywheel-armature and the brush holder assembly.
The top photo was taken in the Cleveland, Ohio area in 1921 and shows the Raceabout model, capable of a top speed of seventy-five m.p.h., with George Reichert and George Himmelstein. The Sporting shown below appears to be in the same neighborhood at about the same time. Both cars are starting to show their age with dull finishes, a few dents and dings and the car below is looking a bit cross-eyed. To learn more, see a detailed article and photo shoot by Michael Furman, of a 1920 Sporting from the JWR Auto Museum here on The Old Motor.
Recently we featured a 1915 Mercer L-Head Raceabout and today we have a photo of one the last of the famous T-Head Mercer Raceabouts that were produced in 1914. George F. Schulz, who lived in Dedham, MA at the time owned the car. His grandson, Brendan Harrington, shared both photos with us, and tells us that his grandfather liked fast cars and women and spent his life in the pursuit of both. Some twenty years later, Schulz was still at it and he, along with other like-minded friends, founded the SCCA.
At the time of this photo(1924), the car was ten years old and had been the subject of a number of updates and changes common on Raceabouts. The fenders had been taken off and it had been fitted with a windshield and a canvas covered cowl along an extra lamp for fast night driving. They are very pleasurable cars to drive, but at 40 miles per hour and above, the hurricane like wind one is subjected to without a windshield soon becomes very tiring. Many others were equipped with similar wind protection for just that reason.