Mercer Raceabout

1914 Mercer Type 35J Raceabout

Offered by Gooding & Company | Pebble Beach, California | August 18-19, 2023

Photo – Gooding & Company

Few cars are as truly fantastic for their era – or in general – as the Mercer Raceabout. The first Raceabouts appeared in 1911, and the sporty, low-slung model would continue to be available – in name at least – through the end of Mercer production in 1925.

But its these early ones that are really special. Later cars got more bodywork and appeared as two-seat sports cars for their day. But pre-1915, these cars were bare bones. In 1914, power was provided by 4.9-liter T-head inline-four that made 58 horsepower. This car could do 60 mph with ease in a time when most cars on the road couldn’t really crest half that. One finished second in the 1913 Indy 500.

They weren’t cheap, however. This Model J would’ve cost $2,600 in 1914. This one was restored in 1967 and has been with the same owner since 1971. Just look at it. It’s one of the best cars of all time.

You know how people say no one wants old cars, especially as the people who lusted after them when they were younger die off? Well, everyone who wanted one of these when they were new is long gone. Yet this one still has an estimate of $3,000,000-$4,000,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $4,790,000.

Renault DQ

1913 Renault Type DQ Raceabout

Offered by Historics Auctioneers | Weybridge, U.K. | November 26, 2022

Photo – Historics Auctioneers

The Renault 35CV range of cars took the place of the 50-60-horsepower cars that ended production in 1910. These were large Renaults, especially compared to the two-cylinder cars that dominated the sales charts for the company.

The DQ is powered by an 8.5-liter inline-four rated at about 45 horsepower and was only built in 1913. This one was restored in the U.K. in the 1990s. There are always these “bare chassis” finds of pre-WWI cars, and I’ve always wondered who buys them and turns them into cars like this.

Not to say this was one of those cases, as the car had been known in the U.S. prior to it being restored. What’s interesting about this one is that it has a wooden boattail in addition to its two-seat raceabout configuration. But it looks like the entire boattail raceabout body was dropped onto a truck chassis (the body was actually built in the 2010s). It’s a big car and is said to be capable of cruising at 60 mph.

The pre-sale estimate is $66,000-$77,000. Click here for more info.

Update: Sold $161,175.

Mercedes-Simplex Raceabout

1908 Mercedes-Simplex 65HP Two-Seater Raceabout

Offered by Bonhams | Los Angeles, California | November 11, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

The Daimler marque became “Mercedes” in 1902 and the Mercedes-Simplex is largely considered to be the first “modern” car – a departure from the horseless carriages that preceded it. Available as a number of models between 1902 and 1910, the Simplex had engines ranging from 18 horsepower all the way up to 65 – as in the beast you see here.

The 65 horsepower (which is available at a rumbling 1200 rpm) comes from a very large 9.4-liter straight-four that. A normal 65HP Simplex would only have 9.2-liters, but this one has probably had many engine rebuilds over the course of its life, thus slightly increasing its displacement.

The biggest of all Simplexes, this model was offered between 1903 and 1909. The chassis you see here originally sported a 40/45HP engine when it was sold new in New York. It was acquired by Lindley Bothwell in the 1930s or 40s already sporting this… sporting body. What the original coachwork looked like is a secret lost to time.

This is going to be one of the more expensive cars to find a new home at this sale and no pre-sale estimate is available. These big horsepower, early German machines are incredibly hard to come by today. This is a rare chance to acquire one with known history going back 80 years. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,072,500

Barney Oldfield’s Benz

1908 Benz 75/105HP Prinz-Heinrich Raceabout

Offered by Bonhams | Los Angeles, California | November 11, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

Benz has some automotive connotations, namely its current existence as half of Mercedes-Benz. But if you think back about Benz and know enough to know that Benz sort of started this whole car thing, you probably think of the Benz Patent Motorwagen. But they also built some amazing sports cars. Two engineers working for Benz in the early days developed what is, perhaps, the world’s first road-going sports car. It was built to compete in the Prinz-Heinrich Tour – a demanding 1,200 mile rally.

Hans Nibel and Georg Diehl created this car to compete in that race (note: this car is listed as a “circa 1908” but the catalog makes it seem like this model was first shown closer to 1910). It features a live rear axle and shaft drive (most big power cars from this era sported two semi-frightening chains that drove the rear wheels). The engine is fantastic for 1908: it’s a 7.3-liter straight-four that made 105 horsepower, which is a lot for the time. A team of three of these competed in the 1910 Vanderbilt Cup.

This model was only available through 1912 and very few were made as they were quite expensive. Only a handful survive – including, probably, the three Vanderbilt Cup cars. We pick up the history of this car around 1915 when it was being used by Barney Oldfield in appearances all over the country. He eventually sold it to a brewer in L.A. before it made its way into the Lindley Bothwell collection in the 1930s (where it’s been since).

Restored in 2006, just in time for the 2006 Goodwood Revival, this is an incredible piece of history with just three known owners going back 100 years. This is the type of car that only exists in one of three places: 1. museums 2. historical photos or 3. long-term European collections that are rarely, if ever, broken up. But here it is, straight from Los Angeles for you to bid on. No estimate is being provided because it’s one of the big money cars from this sale (which is likely to be remembered for some time). Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $1,870,000.

Stoddard-Dayton Raceabout

1910 Stoddard-Dayton Model 10C Raceabout

Offered by Bonhams | Philadelphia, Pennsylvania | October 2, 2017

Photo – Bonhams

Stoddard-Dayton built big cars. Even this sporty variant is quite large. Built in Dayton, Ohio, from 1904 through 1913, their cars were luxurious and powerful. Their model lines were usually representative of the years in which they were built – so the Model 10C was built in 1910 only.

There were seven Model 10 variants for 1910 and the 10C could be had as a Baby Tonneau or a Roadster. It’s powered by a 40 horsepower, 4.5-liter straight-four – the middle of their 1910 range. By the end of their production run, the company would be offering engines making as much as 70 horsepower.

The current owner acquired this car in 2008, after it spent many years in a collection in Maine. At that point, it had a touring car body on it but when it was restored it was changed to this more fun Raceabout style. The rear seats, which were removed, are included with the lot in case the new owner wants to take it back to a more original look. Stoddard-Daytons are awesome cars – like locomotives for the road. You can just imagine it chugging down the road. This one should bring between $125,000-$175,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Sold $106,700.

Mercer Raceabout

1911 Mercer Type 35R Raceabout

Offered by RM Auctions | Monterey, California | August 15-16, 2014

Photo - RM Auctions

Photo – RM Auctions

You’re looking at one of the most important cars of all time. The Raceabout was Mercer’s signature model and it was available in some form or another from a year after the inception of the company (1911) until the company closed up in 1925.

What this is then is a Raceabout from the first year of manufacture. The car tamed a bit with age as it changed with the times, but these early cars are raw, performance machines. It is the original sports car, supplying a formula that cars would follow for the next 100+ years: big power, lightweight chassis, and a nimble chassis that meant a great motoring experience.

The Type 35R was new for 1911 and was available as a four-passenger Toy Tonneau (Type 35) or the two-passenger Raceabout (Type 35R), like you see here. The engine is a 4.9-liter straight-four that supposedly makes 58 horsepower. It’s actually a relatively small engine for the times, and that’s a lot of power for such an elemental car.

These were among the first “collectible” cars. This Type 35R was originally bodied differently but was converted to Raceabout form around 1945. It has known ownership history from new – and it’s been in the family of Henry Austin Clark Jr. since he bought it in 1949. That’s a long time. This is the earliest T-Head 1911 Mercer in existence, and it should bring between $3,500,000-$4,500,000. Click here for more info and here for more from RM in Monterey.

Update: Sold $2,530,000.

Premier Model 45

1909 Premier Model 45 Raceabout

Offered by Bonhams | Cape May, New Jersey | May 10, 2014

Photo - Bonhams

Photo – Bonhams

The Premier Motor Manufacturing Company of Indianapolis, Indiana, was founded in 1903. If this car looks big for a two-seater, that’s because it is. These old racer-style cars are huge and insanely cool.

Premier’s 1909 model line consisted of two models, with the Model 45 being the larger. It’s a six-cylinder engine under the long hood and it made a crazy-for-1909 45 horsepower. The Model 45 was available in three body styles – none of them a raceabout. In fact, this car was a formal limousine when new and the body was replaced to what you see here in the 1950s – a popular thing to have done to big, powerful old cars. And given this car’s Indy roots, it’s not unseemly.

Bonhams describes this as one of only a few six-cylinder Premiers still in existence, even though it hasn’t been used in decades. Premier closed its doors in 1925. This is a great way to get your hands on a racy old car on the cheap – if you’re up for a little project. This should sell for between $45,000-$60,000. Click here for more info and here fore the rest of this auction’s lineup.

Update: Sold $143,000.

1912 Firestone-Columbus

1912 Firestone-Columbus Model 68-D Raceabout

Offered by RM Auctions | Hershey, Pennsylvania | October 10-11, 2013

1912 Firestone-Columbus Model 68-D Raceabout

Firestone-Columbus was a make of automobile built in – you guessed it – Columbus, Ohio, from 1907 through 1915. It’s interesting how the company built a weird variety of cars over its short lifespan.

The Columbus Buggy Company began by building electric cars (as Columbus) before turning to high-wheelers for early dirt roads. The Firestone-Columbus name came in 1907 and was named for company president, Clinton Firestone. It was a more traditional car and you could have just about any bodystyle on one of their chassis.

In 1911, the company entered its product in a new little 500-miler in Indianapolis with driver Lee Frayer (and Eddie Rickenbacker as co-driver). The “Red Wing Special,” as it was known, finished 13th. The car offered here was not a race car back in the day. It uses a 3.6-liter straight-four making a sporty 32 horsepower.

This was discovered in the early 1990s and restoration was undertaken but it was restored to resemble the Red Wing Special that competed in the inaugural Indy 500. This car has a longer wheelbase than the race car and is road usable. The body is basic and looks like an early race car. Only seven or eight Firestone-Columbuses (Colombi?) are known to exist. This one could bring between $100,000-$125,000. Click here for more info and here for more from this sale.

Update: Mysteriously disappeared from Auction catalog.

Update II: Sold, RM Auctions Motor City 2014, $79,750.

The Only S.P.O. in Existence

1911 S.P.O. Raceabout

Offered by Gooding & Company | Monterey, California | August 19, 2012

S.P.O. was a French manufacturer that began selling cars in 1898. They jumped into the American market as soon as they could. The manager of their American operations was also a racing driver and S.P.O.s were seen on the beaches in the early days of speed trials. They also competed for the Vanderbilt Cup. And they inspired some American competition – namely Mercer, who were able undercut S.P.O. on price. By 1911, it was all over for the French firm.

This car, a Raceabout (the first time this was used to describe a car), has a 4.2-liter inline-4 rated at 24 horsepower. Ownership history is known from new and it is believed that this car actually competed in beach races in Maine in 1911 as well as sat on the stand at the 1911 Importer’s Exhibition at the Astor Hotel in New York. It was also part of the Harrah Collection (shocking!) until it was broken up and parted out in the 1980s (the collection, not the car).

This is the only S.P.O. in existence. So the buyer not only has a new toy, but also a responsibility to maintain and preserve something of which there will never be another. The car is gorgeous – a fine example of early sporting cars. I think the cloth “fenders” are fantastic. You won’t get another chance to purchase an S.P.O. Jump at it for $500,000-$650,000. For more information, click here. And for more from Gooding during the Pebble Beach festivities, click here.

Update: Not sold.