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1910 Mercer Clutch Question

Bud Tierney

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In looking into this model to ID the Beaver engine, noticed a confusion about its clutch; without reviewing notes

(1) one account said Roebling designed with a multiple disc clutch...

(2) another (or maybe the same) said engineer Porter was "hired in 1910" and "made improvements"...

(3) another said the only major difference between the 1909 Mercer and the new 1910 was the substitution of a multiple disc clutch for the original cone clutch...

Was there a 1909 Mercer, or was that the Roebling-Planche being referred to???

It seems some makers were, in those days, stating they were producing, and shipping, the 1910 or so models in July of the previous tear (shipping 1910 models in July 1909); did that result in calling the very first Mercers, shipped in 1909, the "1909 model??

Maybe the disc clutch wasn't ready/delivered in time for first production, and an off-the-shelf cone was installed in ain a few ??    Any comments appreciated; many thxx!   Bud


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You've raised a lot of questions.  The very first Mercer ad appeared in the 6 May 1909 issue of Motor Age, and it listed the engine sizes as 4 1/2 x 4 1/2.  It was rated at 25-28 HP.   That is a Continental engine.  Mercer built its first few cars starting in March 1909.  They had cone clutches.  In Jan 1910, at the NY Auto Show, Mercer appeared with a Beaver engine (4 3/8 x 5 1/4).   In late Jan 1910, it was reported that Continental had stopped taking orders for engines due to not having enough production capability.  Mercer, being a small, new company, had to search elsewhere for engines, and Beaver became their new supplier.


  If you look at the sequence of Mercer ads which appeared in the automotive weeklies of that era, the mid-1909 ads noted Continental engines, and then stopped offering engine information.   After a while, they advertised engines of 34 HP;  those were the Beaver engines.   Fred Hoch has said he has identified 3 types of 1910-model Mercers.   It appears that they built these first cars in batches of maybe 50 cars.  Each batch differed based on what parts they were able to source at that time.  He has worked on enough of those cars that he has found that there is little interchangeability.  He has a 1910 Mercer with a cone clutch and Beaver engine, and another, newer one with a Beaver / multi-disc clutch.   


  Although Charles & Ferdinand Roebling were both very involved with Mercer, I doubt that either had much to say about the vehicle design.  Charles was engineering head of the Roebling wire co., and at this time was very busy with the new steel plant, factory and town at Roebling NJ.   Mercer hired auto experts to do the design and construction of the first cars.  R. L. Kingston and E. T. Georges were responsible for the design of those 1910-model cars which they started to build in March 1909.  At some point, we just don't know when, Porter was hired away from the Worthington Pump Co.in Stroudsburg PA.   His presence at Mercer's display at the NY Auto Show in Jan '10 leads me to believe that he was hired some time in late 1909.


  Continental announced later in 1910 that they had expanded their factory and could now take orders again.   Mercer dropped the Beaver engine, and offered their 1911 cars starting in early July 1910 with Continental engines.   Some months thereafter, they added their own T-head engines in the 1911 cars.   We do know they had at least one T-head engine running in a prototype Raceabout at race tracks starting in August 1910.   It seems that the first appearance of Raceabouts in public was at the Vanderbilt Cup series of races on Long Island in early Oct 1910.  Mercer took 3 cars to that event, 2 racers and a backup car.


  Porter indeed "made improvements".  The Raceabout was a fast car right out of the box.  It just needed a good driver to make it win.  Young Washington Roebling 2nd took a Raceabout to Savannah in Nov 1910, and came in 2nd in his very first long-distance race.  One of the drivers he beat was Hughie Hughes, who saw first-hand how good the  Mercer was with just a novice driver.  Either he approached Mercer, or Mercer approached him; either way, he led Mercer to a very successful first full year in racing, in 1911.


   Finley Porter first appears connected with Mercer at the Jan 1910 NY Auto Show.   He became superintendent upon the resignation of John Speirs in about the 3rd week of July 1910.  Sure wish I could find some earlier connection in the news items.


   In a letter dated 31 March 1909, the Walter Automobile Co of NJ in Trenton asked previous investors to ante up some more money so they could go into production of a new line of cars.   They had already built one, which allowed them to estimate their cost.  Obviously, they got the money, because that was the start of Mercer.  "The rest is history".   Kingston & Georges were both mentioned in this letter.  By this time, the Roebling-Planche effort was dead.


 Hope this helps answer some  of your questions.



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gtr8: Many thxx for the detailed and much appreciated reply; I see I should've done more digging before asking questions that'd been answered a long time ago...

Maybe I'll check some of the other period journals to see which Cont'l it was...


Again, many thxx!!!

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