The First American Sportscar Races Into Bonhams Audrain Concours Auction


Newport, 7 September, 2022

An exceptional example of a historic Mercer Raceabout – recognized as THE first sportscar in America – is the latest consignment to the Bonhams Audrain Auction on September 30

The 1920 Mercer Series 5 Raceabout is a fitting addition to the sale hosted in Newport, Rhode Island, the birthplace of USA motorsport. Early ‘T-Head’ examples of the car, created by Mercer’s former chief engineer Finlay Robertson Porter for the Roebling Brothers’ New Jersey firm, were raced by such luminaries of the day as Barney Oldfield and Ralph de Palma. 

The Raceabout, so-called after its spartan two-seater bodywork ahead of a large drum tank, was the original ‘drive to a race, win it and drive home' car, the progenitor of American classic sportscars from Cobras to Corvettes.

The post-1915 nickel era ushered in a new L-head design for the Raceabout by Eric Deiling, who modernized the theme with a 298 cubic inch four cylinder, four speed car. 

The 1920 example offered has been in its present ownership for more than a decade. The vendor acquired the Mercer privately from the respected stable of classic era car collector Al Ferrara, who in turn had purchased the car at the epic Harrah Collection auctions in the 1980s.


Casino magnate and fellow notable collector William Harrah had purchased the Mercer in 1963, during the early days of his legendary acquiring spree, from a Mrs. William Hoffman of West Ypsilanti, Michigan, for an eye-watering $7,500 - a figure that would have eclipsed almost all old car prices at the time.


Rupert Banner, Global Head of Specialists, Bonhams Collector Cars, said: “Viewing the Mercer today it is easy to see what has attracted successive high-profile collectors to own it, for its authenticity and originality are immediately apparent. Importantly, the car carries a double-digit Harrah tag, as well as its display plate from the Museum.”

“The words ‘Mercer Raceabout’ symbolize the ultimate in sports racing cars of its generation. This car is truly an icon.” 

The Raceabout is offered without reserve (estimate $400,000 – 500,000) and will publicly change hands on September 30, for the first time since 1985. The car will cross the block at the exclusive Bonhams Audrain Auction which had its debut last year, as part of the prestigious Audrain Newport Concours & Motor Week – now firmly established on the collector car calendar.

The Mercer lines up with other desirable collector cars consigned to the second Bonhams sale at the Newport event, including a 1929 Packard Model 645 Deluxe Eight Roadster, a 1986 Aston Martin V8 Vantage Sports Saloon and a 1963 Facel Vega Facel II Coupe and a 1957 BMW 507 Series II Roadster, which has been kept away in a garage for more than 40 years. 

Further consignments of collector motorcars and collections are currently being invited by the Bonhams US motorcar team to this boutique East Cost sale.