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The Mercer Series 5 Sporting As Automobile Quarterly wrote in Volume 3, number 4, the “Mercer Automobile Company was conceived in the spirit of innovation.” Mercer built fast, high-quality cars during its short but illustrious run from 1909 to 1926. The Mercer Raceabout, with its advanced “T-head” engine, is inarguably credited as being America’s first sports car. It established the Mercer reputation for speed by winning several major races in 1911 and, subsequently, the grueling 403-mile American Grand Prize event in 1914. Mercer’s L-head-engine, performance-focused passenger cars built from 1915 on (including the sister car to the Raceabout, the Series 5 Sporting model) were leading examples of automobiles powered by cast monobloc engines. The highly desirable Mercer Series 5s were only produced from 1919 through 1922. Their limited production has resulted in a unique exclusivity for today’s lucky Mercer Sporting owners.
This Car Mercer innovation lives on in this striking 1921 Series 5 Sporting four-passenger model. Five previous owners, one coincidentally named Mercer, have been privileged to enjoy this roadworthy automobile.
This car invites much more than a passing glance. A refurbishment to original specifications was undertaken by Woodies & Wheels of Campbell, California, and completed in January 2013. Documentation from the consignor provides a line-item description of the work, which includes a restored fuel system, reassembled carburetor, new gaskets, and cleaned and repaired floorboards. As the consignor says, “Everything does what it should.” An undated, earlier cosmetic restoration also contributes to the Mercer’s overall appeal.
The Mercer Sporting’s styling is classic 1920s, yet very modern, given the rakish front screen, with an elegance that is pleasing to the eye. The period-correct bold red exterior with black fenders is complemented by a black interior with black walnut trim. The one-man top offers open-air driving and includes quickly adjustable side curtains. The car also features Rudge-Whitworth wire wheels, a rear tire carrier for the spares, and a hood-mounted motometer. Built in a time of somewhat unruly clutches and transmissions, this car shifts well and is said to be a joy to operate. The car retains original Mercer tools, including an assortment of wrenches along with the original storage locks and keys, owner’s manual, and parts book.
Never produced on an assembly line, Mercers were handcrafted by workers who called themselves artisans. The Mercer remains a legend and lives on in the hearts of true performance enthusiasts. While total Mercer production for 1921 was 937 cars, only 17 Series 5 Sporting models are known to exist, making this a very rare example, indeed; one ready to be appreciated by a savvy new owner.