Mercer Magic – The Story of America’s First Sports Car

Posted on Nov 14, 2015

mercer motors cars

New Mercers lined up at the factory for road testing – 1912

Clifford W. Zink, the foremost expert on the Roebling family and the John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, will give a talk about his new book, Mercer Magic: Roeblings, Kusers, The Mercer Automobile Company and America’s First Sports Car, on Sunday, December 13, 2015, at 2 pm at Ellarslie, the Trenton City Museum, in Cadwalader Park, Trenton.

The cost is $5.00 for members of the Trenton Museum Society and $10.00 for non-members.

Mercer Magic is a story of Trenton’s entrepreneurship, innovation and national achievement in the exciting first decades of the 20th century when the new technology of automobiles was sweeping the country.

Members of the Roebling and Kuser families started the Mercer Automobile Company in 1909 to build automobiles “in a class by itself,” and that’s what they did. Mercer Automobile Company produced fine touring and sporting cars, most notably the two-seater Raceabout, which an amateur sportsman could drive around town during the week and take to the local track to race on weekends.

To highlight the durability and capability of their cars, the Roeblings and Kusers entered Mercer automobiles “into the light car racing game to the limit.”

Washington A. Roebling II, grandson of John A. Roebling of Brooklyn Bridge fame, and son of Charles Roebling, the President of John A. Roebling’s Sons Company, was one of several young millionaires who began automobile racing for the excitement and glory. Washington won second place in his Mercer Raceabout in the International Light Car Race in Savannah in 1910. Tragically, two years later, he was lost in the Titanic disaster on his way home from a European driving tour.

Amateur and professional racers, including the notable “speed kings” Hughie Hughes and Ralph De Palma, won Mercer racing glory in numerous races across the country over the next several years.Trenton’s own Eddie Pullen won the coveted American Grand Prize Race in a Mercer in Santa Monica, California, in 1914. The City of Trenton welcomed the Mercer racing team home from that national championship victory with a huge municipal parade.

Mercer built about 5,000 distinguished cars during the factory’s 15-year lifespan, and, as a factory engineer later recalled, “Those cars sold as fast as we could turn them out.”

The few Mercers that survive today are highly prized by private collectors and museums. A 1911 Mercer Raceabout sold at auction last year for $2.53 million. Jay Leno and other car collectors and aficionados have long recognized the Mercer Raceabout as America’s first sports car, and today it is a shining example of the city’s motto “Trenton Makes The World Takes.”

The hardcover, full color book has 208 pages with 335 illustrations. Written with input from Mercer collectors, restorers, and descendants of the Kuser and Roebling families, Mercer Magic is the definitive history of “America’s first sports car.’’

An exhibit on “John A. Roebling’s Sons Company” has been on display at the Trenton City Museum, Cadwalader Park, Parkside Avenue, Trenton, New Jersey, since July 2015. The exhibit closes on December 6, 2015.