The last Mercer to exit the factory ... a 1925 Mercer Series 6 Raceabout now owned by Johnny Crowell
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. 8 August, 2012
When the Pebble Beach Motoring Classic commences on August 7, Johnny Crowell will don his leather cap and goggles and settle in behind the wheel of his 1925 Mercer Series 6 Raceabout—the last Mercer ever to exit the factory.
The Roebling family along with designer Finley Robertson Porter debuted the Mercer Raceabout Type 35R in 1911. The result was one of the most admired sports cars of the early era: a stripped-down, two-seat speedster designed to be driven fast. By 1925, they had perfected it; the Series 6 is the only model to be powered by a six-cylinder engine, and Crowell’s car, one of just two Series 6 Raceabouts in existence, is the only Mercer to have factory-installed four-wheel brakes. “All of the other Raceabouts went like hell but wouldn’t stop,” says Crowell.
It seems that Crowell has every intention of seeing just how fast the car deemed America’s first race car will go, and right beside him, giving new meaning to the term “trooper,” will be Crowell’s wife, Christine. “We are going from Seattle to Pebble Beach, touring 1,500 miles with no top, no windows and a sorry excuse for a windshield … and I suspect we will get some rain,” jokes Crowell. “My wife will love it.”
The Pebble Beach Motoring Classic is the ultimate road trip for automotive enthusiasts. The trip begins in Seattle, Washington and winds through the Cascade Mountains, scaling Mount Hood and circling scenic Crater Lake, then eventually crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and tracing the Pacific Coast toward its final destination—the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, where Mercer is a featured marque this year.
On arrival, Crowell’s Mercer, which made its way into his hands in February, will make its post-restoration debut on the Concours show field. This historic automobile was previously owned by the same family for over 70 years. “It was driven hard and put away wet,” explains Crowell. “It was operational but I wouldn’t have wanted to drive it more than a few feet.”
The car is being restored by Adams Custom Engines in Sparks, Nevada, with the goal of keeping it as original and authentic as possible while making it a sound driver. Since it was the last Mercer Raceabout built in the factory, it includes several leftover parts, and the restoration team has worked hard to identify and keep on the car those parts that ordinarily would not have been used. Lab tests have been performed on the paint, metal and wood to determine the timeline of previous maintenance and restoration efforts. And Crowell has talked with the daughter of the former owner, who graciously shared memories and information that shed some light on the car’s rich history.
Crowell also has a small collection of trophies won by drivers who competed in Mercer Raceabouts. One of his trophies was originally won by a gentleman who bought a Raceabout straight off the dealership lot, raced it, drove it across the finish line and kept going, setting a world record for distance. “It was just made to race. It was the Ferrari of its day,” says Crowell. “That’s what makes it such a fun car.”
This year’s Concours d’Elegance will host an unprecedented assemblage of quintessential, one-of-a-kind and rarely seen Mercers. In addition to the last production Mercer brought by Crowell, Dave and Denise Sanders will be showing a rare 1931 prototype, a Mercer Merrimac Convertible Coupe that was built in a failed attempt to revive the marque.
“Visitors can expect to see cars beginning with the earliest offerings by the company and several examples of the celebrated 35J Raceabouts,” says Colin Feichtmeir, a member of the Selection Committee that determines the cars to be invited to participate in the Concours. “The collection of racecars, the later ‘L-head’ cars, and the final examples from the factory make this an unprecedented mosaic of Mercer automobiles.”
In addition to Mercer, the 2012 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance will feature the following marques and special classes:
A Antique through 1915: Small Horsepower
C-1 American Classic Open
C-2 American Classic Closed
E Maharaja Cars
I Saoutchik Coachwork
J European Classic
K Fiat through 1945
L-1 Prewar Preservation
L-2 Postwar Preservation
M-1 Ferrari Grand Touring
M-2 Ferrari Competition
N AC and AC Cobra
O-1 Postwar Sports Open
O-2 Postwar Sports Closed
U Hot Rods: Sport Customs
V Open Wheel Race Cars
X German Motorcycles
Information and tickets are available at www.pebblebeachconcours.net.