The Mercer Automobile Company's Model 30 - the car that started it all.

1910 Mercer Model 30 5-Passenger Touring (from the collection of the author)

1910 Mercer Model 30 Speedster (from the collection of the author)

I was fortunate to have lived for a time up the road from Fred Hoch's Schaeffer & Long restorations shop. A long standing institution in southern New Jersey, the shop has a reputation for its work on brass-era cars - particularly cars from the storied Mercer Automobile Company. I met Fred at a local car show in Haddonfield, NJ. I walked up to him and introduced myself, we talked briefly and he invited me down to see his shop. Always gracious and deeply passionate about Mercers, I had the privilege of visiting with Fred a handful of times over my 3-years living in New Jersey. Fred is known for acquiring the rights to the name "Mercer Automobile Company", manufactured a few miles north in Mercer County, and owning a number of the marque as well. 

The Mercer story starts with the Roebling family, specifically Washington Roebling II, and his friend William Walter. The Roeblings were New Jersey royalty after their considerable roll in building the Brooklyn Bridge. The family was involved in many manufacturing enterprises and had considerable wealth. Both Washington Roebling II and the son's of John A. Roebling (Ferdinand Roebling), were interested in automobiles and looked to enter the industry. William Walter on the other hand was an early entry in to the business, manufacturing a car under his own name. The Walter Automobile Company exhibited their high-quality cars at the 1904 Madison Square Garden Show. Never produced in hi-volume, The Horseless Age of May 20, 1907 reports that Walter moved into a new factory in Trenton, NJ to allow for greater production capacity. It is said that it was the Roeblings who enticed Walter to move his operation to Trenton where the Roeblings' manufacturing empire was located. Interestingly, at about the same time The Horseless Age reports that the John A. Roebling Company had entered into a  contract W. H. Sharp to manufacture the car which Sharp constructed and drove in the recent Long Island sweepstakes races. In addition, it's also noted that Washington A. Roebling II planned to build ten four cylinder cars after the design of M. Etienne Planchard, a French engineer. The cars were named Roebling-Planchard and a small number were produced. William Walter gets into financial trouble around 1908 / 1909 - in fact, The Cycle and Automotive Trade Journal of Feb 1,1909 states that The Walter Automobile Co. of Trenton, NJ exhibited the 1909 Roebling-Planche cars at the Madison Square Garden Show. However by late 1909, the Roebling's have purchased the assets of the Walter Automobile Company, and quickly reorganize the company, designing a new line of cars to be named Mercer. 

The new Mercer Automobile Company offerings are introduced in 1910. The model 30 (their first car) uses 4-cylinder engines source from Beaver. Four body styles are offered: a limousine, a five passenger touring, a baby tonneau, and a two passenger runabout called the speedster. Motor Age of Jan 6, 1910 noted that Mercer was a new comer that year in their article outlining the  ALAM licensed cars for 1910.

Today, Model 30 Mercers (only manufactured in that first year of 1910) are quite rare and the cars show about are both 1910 Mercer model 30 car owned/restored by Fed Hoch. The one being a five passenger touring - I believe it's the only know surviver of its kind. The car is a 1910 Mercer model 30 speedster which Fred showed at Hershey.

Of course, everything would change in 1911 with the introduction of the model 35, Finlay R. Porter's masterpiece. 

The Automobile, May 27, 1909

The Horseless Age, December 15, 1909

1 comment:

  1. After leaving Mercer, Finley R Porter manufactured the FRP/Porter in New York and Bridgeport between 1914 and 1922. He had left Mercer on bad terms, and wanted his own car to be better than the Mercer in every way.