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#1 fines

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Posted 03 April 2005 - 12:20

Mercer was one of the most attractive car makes of the pre-WW1 era in the USofA, with an interesting background stretching from New York's Brooklyn Bridge to the sinking of the Titanic, but let us concentrate on the cars here.

One thing I have found is that it is very difficult to find info on Mercer racing cars, a rather surprising fact methinks. David Hodges and his "A-Z of Grand Prix Cars" for example ignore the marque completely, while still including such oddities as Abbott-Detroit or Acme - one suspects that the Grand Prize counted as a "US Grand Prix" in his terminology, but then why forget about the only American car to have won it? Web searches are equally superfluous since the only thing you'll find is that the Grand Prize was won by a Raceabout... :rolleyes:

Still, the Mercer Type 35 (aka Raceabout) is a good point to start with since it was not only a very advanced idea, e.g. prompting Ettore Bugatti to copy both the concept (racing car for every-day use) as well as the type number more than a decade hence ;), but it was also in fact the first Mercer racing car, and would still be used by many private entrants long after the factory had closed its racing department. Today it is regarded as a true icon of automobile history, and quite rightly so!

The Raceabout was of a simple roadster type construction, with minimal bodywork and a low, "racey" appearance. Its engine was a Continental-built (some say Beaver!?) 4-cylinder cast in pairs with a 2-valve T-head, displacing 300.66 cubic inches (4 3/8 * 5, 4927cc) which made it just eligible for the popular 300 CID class (Division 3). Apparently, there were a few variations being made (e.g. one with a 318 CID engine, 4 1/2 * 5, 5212cc), and I've seen type designations 35C, 35J, 35M, 35O, 35R and 35T - perhaps someone can explain what they mean?

Initially, a 3-speed gearbox was fitted, but later a 4-speed 'box drove through a disc clutch, prop-shaft and bevel gears to the rear wheels of the 108-inch wheelbase car. The channel-section ladder frame was supported by half-elliptic springs all around, the artillery-type wheels measured 32 * 4 inches. Dry weight was about 1050/1100 kg, and all of this was yours for the princely sum of $2,600!

A little Mercer oddity :)

The first appearance of a Mercer in my racing records is on Oct 1, 1910 at the Wheatley Hills Sweepstakes, the 300 CID support race of the Vanderbilt Cup at Long Island. Two cars started, one crashed out on the 2nd of 15 laps, the other finished 4th and last, five laps in arrears - an inconspicuous debut, to say the least, but a week later an unknown driver finished 2nd in class with a Mercer at the 3rd Quaker City Motor Club 200 Mile Race (I would appreciate it if anyone had more detailed info on this race, as I only have the five class winners and some tidbits).

The first picture I can find is from five weeks later, when Washington Roebling himself drove the car at the Grand Prize support race, finishing an excellent second behind Joe Dawson's Marmon:

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1910-11-11, Savannah, 2nd Savannah Challenge Trophy (300 CID class), #33 Mercer 35, Washington Roebling, 2nd
© George Eastman House

In that race, English-born Hughie Hughes finished 3rd on a Fal (or FalCar), and it was him who would become the pre-eminent Mercer driver for the following two years. Along with Charles Bigelow, who had taken Mercer's first big (300 CID class) win in February at the Panama-Pacific Road Race, he took a Raceabout to the first Indy 500 in May 1911, and finished a very creditable 12th against cars of twice the engine size of the little Mercer; Bigelow finishing 15th with the help of two relief drivers.

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1911-05-30, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, 1st IMS 500-Mile Sweepstakes (600 CID class), #37 Mercer 35, Charles Bigelow, 15th
© George Eastman House

Three months later, at Elgin, Mercers took a strong 1-2 in the prestigious Kane County Trophy (300 CID class), but one car also appeared in the main event for 600 CID cars, the Elgin National Trophy. I believe the following picture shows that car, since the #1 car in the background appears to be Harry Grant's large Alco 6, but unfortunately the reflections on the bonnet make it impossible to identify the number:

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1911-08-25, Elgin, 2nd Elgin National Trophy (600 CID class), #9 Mercer, Hughie Hughes, 3rd or
1911-08-26, Elgin, 2nd Kane County Trophy (300 CID class), #15 Mercer 35, Hughie Hughes, 1st
© SDN-057200, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society

One can easily identify Eddie Pullen as the riding mechanic here, but what of the car? It looks like an ordinary Raceabout, but I don't believe a 300 CID car would've been eligible for this event - in fact, all the other cars appear to have been over the 451 CID limit of Division 5, which is easily explainable by the fact that there was a 450 CID (Division 4) race as well. Anyone with info on this car?

Later that year, Ralph de Palma was enticed to join the Mercer line-up for the Quaker City MC 200-miler - by now, there was virtually no opposition left in the 300 CID class. The Hughes car below looks quite identical to his Elgin racer - hmm...

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1911-10-09, Philadelphia Fairmount Park, 4th QCMC 200-Mile Race (300 CID class), #11 Mercer 35, Hughie Hughes, 1st
© George Eastman House

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1911-10-09, Philadelphia Fairmount Park, 4th QCMC 200-Mile Race (300 CID class), #5 Mercer 35, Ralph de Palma, retired
© George Eastman House

To conclude the year, Hughes and the Raceabout took another win in the 300 CID support race for the Vanderbilt Cup, the 3rd Savannah Challenge Trophy. Here they are shown together with the 230 CID Tiedeman Trophy winners Frank Witt/EMF and Ralph Mulford with his Vanderbilt-winning 544 CID Lozier:

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1911-11-27, Savannah, 3 winners: in the middle #22 Mercer 35, Hughie Hughes
© George Eastman House

Yet again, Hughes appeared with a big Mercer in a 600 CID event, the Vanderbilt Cup itself, but retired early. Peter Helck accords this car with a 448 CID engine for this event, though it looked just like a regular Raceabout - does anyone know bore and stroke for this one?

In early May, 1912 de Palma won the 2nd Santa Monica Trophy (300 CID), apparently still with a Type 35, but at Indy later that month Hughes appeared with an entirely different car, again of 300 CID, and finished an astounding 3rd. He was the only driver to finish the race without relief, apart from one very late arrival, and easily bettered the 1911 winning average by 1.7 mph, or almost ten minutes. I don't have a good picture of the car at Indy, but Hughes used the same one to triumph again at Elgin:

Posted Image
1912-08-30, Elgin, 3rd Kane County/Aurora Trophy (300 CID class), #36 Mercer, Hughie Hughes, 1st
© SDN-057894, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society

At first the car may appear to be a streamlined version of the Raceabout, but apart from some more subtle differences, there's a very important one: the exhaust has moved from the left to the right side, thus even the engine is different to the Type 35. Does anyone have some technical data about this car?

Apparently, this racer remained unique for a while, but detailed information is hard to come by. At least a few photographs confirm that Raceabouts still formed the mainstay of the Mercer team in 1912.

Posted Image
1912-08-30, Elgin, 3rd Kane County/Aurora Trophy (300 CID class), #31 Mercer 35, Eddie Pullen, 2nd
© SDN-057893, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society

For the Vanderbilt Cup and Grand Prize races in October, the little racer had apparently grown to 309 CID, which (if the engine had the same dimensions as the Type 35) amounts to an increase in bore of 1/16". Hughes finished 2nd in The Vanderbilt Cup, but retired from the Grand Prize and subsequently left the team. Meanwhile, in the 300 CID support race, all three Mercers retired and the event was won by a new racer from Iowa: the Mason, built by the Duesenberg brothers...

During 1912 the young prodigy Spencer Wishart had joined the team and was now regarded as the leading driver, but for the 1913 running of Indianapolis de Palma returned and Mercer added another star driver, Caleb Bragg. Wishart apparently took over the 1912 racer (now with a few body modifications and rated at 300 CID, again), while the two former Fiat stars had two brandnew cars at their disposal.

In Rick Popely's "Indianapolis 500 Chronicle", de Palma's racer is quoted as of 340 CID, but more likely it was of the same dimensions as Bragg's car, 424.5 or 445 CID (these two figures appear quite indiscriminately in literature for the same engine, suggesting some accuracy problems in source materials - bore/stroke dimensions were probably 4 25/32 * 6 3/16, equalling 444.4 CID or 7282cc, although this does nothing to explain the discrepancies).

Behind the handsome oval (or, shall we say, horseshoe?;)) radiator the engine was still a T-head, although by now apparently monobloc, and the exhaust had returned to the left side again, barely visible under the bodywork, as on the 35. Another drawback to Raceabout times were the wooden wheels on Bragg's car, while de Palma had wire wheels as on the 1912 racer. The latter again grabbed the headlines, this time by finishing 2nd, with the larger cars retiring.

Although a bit on the heavy side at 1250/1350 kg, the big cars (wheelbase 112 inches) subsequently performed well, peaking at the Santa Monica races in early 1914, where Barney Oldfield finished a close 2nd in the Vanderbilt after both Wishart and Pullen retired while leading, and all three cars were running 1-2-3 most of the time in the Grand Prize, with only Pullen surviving to take a famous win.

At Indy, the cars reappeared with new bodywork in a bright red (hitherto, Mercers were generally yellow) and even the same numbers as in 1913 (surely to foil innocent historians in years to come...), but otherwise the cars were obviously identical, probably even the same chassis. Somehow Pullen failed to qualify, but Wishart and Bragg were among the leaders when they were forced out. That was the year when European cars really humiliated the homegrown products, of which the Mercer was clearly the fastest.

But soon everybody began to copy the foreign cars, and so did Mercer, witness the European-style long stroke of their new 300 CID racer (3.75 * 6.75, 298.2 CID, 4887cc) that first appeared at Elgin in August. But sadly, that race marked also the end of the Mercer story, for Wishart, leading as usual with an ever increasing margin, tangled with Otto Henning's private Raceabout while lapping him for the second time, and crashed with fatal consequences for both him and his riding mechanic, John Jenter (or Genter).

Mercer withdrew from racing, although its Californian agent George R. Bentel apparently bought the racers and continued to enter them in some West Coast races for a couple of years, before they finally vanished into private hands. The last appearance of a Mercer (presumably a 1914/15 300 CID car) in a major AAA race was on Oct 12, 1919 when Joe Thomas retired from the Cincinnati 250-Mile Sweepstakes; the last finish three weeks earlier by the same combination, 10th and last in a 150-miler at Sheepshead Bay. From humble beginnings to humble ends...

Regarding this latest 300 CID car, I would like to learn a few more things: three cars were entered for the 1915 Indy, but none started - did they arrive at all? Any reason given for their withdrawal? The cars were reported to weigh only 950 kg, a marked improvement on the earlier cars - surely some exotic materials in the engines? How about the valve action, was it still a T-head? Other technical details?

Any additional input most welcome!


:)

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#2 Stephen W

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Posted 03 April 2005 - 13:36

Posted Image

This is a photo of Dean Butler in his beautiful Mercer taken at Anglesey Racing Circuit in 2003.

On the Friday late afternoon I was fortunate to be allowed to sit alongside dean for four laps, it was fantastic!

What absolutely fabulous cars the Mercers were and still are!

#3 dbw

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Posted 03 April 2005 - 18:28

if anybody knows this stuff it's george wingard...his book wolves in sheep's clothing he describes the street/racing t35..[as well as fiat,benz, isotta and others] he has restored and raced a mercer and ,as a pretty scholarly guy, i'm sure he's well informed..[he's got a few pre-great war benz's as well] i'll try to find his e-mail and see if we can get him involved here...

#4 robert dick

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 08:20

Indianapolis 1914 :
"Both Wishart's and Bragg's cars are the same in every particular, the bore and stroke being 4.8 by 6.2 inches, the cylinders are cast in pairs, and have 3-inch valves and a 7-16-inch lift. Both use Bosch magnetos with double distributors, and a Rayfield carburetor. The wheelbase of these Mercers is 112 inches, the gear ratio is 2 1/4 to 1 and they will be equipped with Rudge Whitworth wire wheels, Palmer cord tires."
"The third Mercer, to be driven by Pullen, is the design of Engineer Delling and is strongly reminiscent of the Deltal that ran second at Elgin last year. It has an L-head motor on four cylinders with a bore and stroke of 3 3/4 by 6 3/4 inches. It is equipped with a Bosch double distributor magneto and a Rayfield carburetor, the valves are 2 13-16 inches in diameter and have a 1/2-inch lift. The wheelbase is 110 inches."

Indianapolis 1915 :
The bore/stroke dimensions of the new 300-cubic-inch cars were quoted as 3.8/6.8 inches. Drivers were Pullen, Ruckstell and Nikrent.
20 May 1915 : "Eddie Pullen is regarded as one of the most dangerous contenders for this year's Hoosier classic. He started warming up his mount on Monday."
27 May 1915 : "Three Mercer scratched - The three Mercers did not have much opportunity of practising. Only one of them came out to qualify. It was driven by Ruckstell and made its lap in 1:47.4, or 84.6 miles per hour."

#5 robert dick

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Posted 04 April 2005 - 11:42

Couldn't find more details of the 1915 Mercers.
Sometimes, in more recent books, the 1915 cars are mentioned as OHC 4-valve jobs. According to the contemporary magazines it seems probable that they had L-head engines like Pullen's 300-cubic-inch car at Indianapolis in 1914. But nothing certain. Pullen's 1914 Indianapolis car had left-hand drive, the 1915 cars right-hand drive.

#6 robert dick

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 08:35

Up to 1913, the Mercer racing cars were more or less hopped up type 35 raceabouts. Motor Age and the Automobile always quoted 4-3/8 or 4.375/5 inches for the bore/stroke dimensions (= 300.5 cubic inches) and 108 inches for the wheelbase :

1910 - Frey at Philadelphia - Roebling II at Savannah;
1911 - Hughes and Bigelow at Indianapolis - Hughes and W. F. Barnes Jr. at Elgin - Hughes, Barnes and Knipper at Savannah;
1912 - Hughes at Indianapolis - Hughes, Wishart and Pullen at Elgin - Hughes and Wishart at Milwaukee.
The car driven by DePalma at Santa Monica in 1912 had a modified/low slung chassis.

These bore/stroke dimensions of 4.375/5 were quoted even if the cars started in the 300-cubic-inch class! Most probably the bore was reduced to 4.37 for the 300-inch class, as quoted in the 1913 Indianapolis entry list : Wishart - 4.37/5 = 299.7 cubic inches.

The 450-cubic-inch racer (sometimes described as type 45) appeared at Indianapolis in 1913 :
The Automobile quoted 4.8/6-3/16 = 4.8/6.1875 inches = 447.6 cubic inches,
Motor Age quoted 4.8/6.189 inches, and a displacement of 424 cubic inches (!) in the technical data table - probably the source of some confusions.
Wheelbase = 112 inches. Bragg's car had wood wheel, DePalma's wire wheels.

On 30 April 1914, at the regular monthly meeting of "the metropolitan section of the Society of Automobile engineers at the Automobile Club of America", Finley Porter (= technical director at Mercer) read a paper on "Racing and its Effect on Manufacturing" :
"In reply to a query as to the weight of the motor per horsepower of the Mercer that won the grand prize race (Santa Monica/February 1914 - Eddie Pullen in 450-inch car) he stated that the motor weighed 782 pounds and that it developed 150 horsepower. Therefore, its weight per horsepower is 5.21. The question of wire wheels was brought up and Porter stated that the saving in weight was small but that there was less mass concentrated at the rim and more at the hub, the result being that the gyroscopic action of the wire construction is considerably less."

= = = = = = =

Type 35 production cars :
1913 :
model J = raceabout - bore/stroke = 4.375/5 inches - 300.7 cubic inches - wheelbase = 108 inches;
model K = runabout - 4.375/5 - 108;
model G = 4-passenger touring - larger engine 4.5/5 inches - 318.1 cubic inches - longer wheelbase = 118 inches;
model H = 5-passenger touring - 4.5/5 - 118.

1914 :
model J = raceabout - 4.375/5 - 108 - in 1914, the smaller 300-inch engine and the 108-inch frame were reserved for the raceabout;
model O = runabout - 4.5/5 - 118;
model H = 5-passenger touring/44-inch rear seat - 4.5/5 - 118;
model M = 5-passenger touring/49-inch rear seat - 4.5/5 - new frame/longer 124-inch wheelbase.

#7 robert dick

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 13:52

Question :

- The low-slung Mercer driven by DePalma in the 1912 Santa Monica race was famous under the name "Mercer Monk" and was sold to Huntley Gordon. Gordon was in the used car business in Los Angeles. In 1913 he drove the Mercer at Santa Monica and Bakersfield.
- In view of the 1914 season the Mercer Monk frame received a Wisconsin engine and the "new" car was christened Ray. The Ray was entered in the 1914 Indianapolis 500. Driver was S. F. Brock, a power boat man. The Ray was a combination of Mercer Monk frame (wheelbase 108 inches) and 450-cubic-inch Wisconsin T-head engine (5.1/5.5 inches). Brock withdrew after five laps with a broken camshaft.
- In November 1914, at Corona, it was Gordon himself who drove the Ray which had been rechristened Gordon special. He finished fifth. At San Diego, in January 1915, Gordon wrecked the special against a curb. It was rebuilt and in February 1915 Gordon started in the Vanderbilt and Grand Prize at San Francisco.

Is this correct?

#8 fines

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 16:21

Thanks all, and especially Robert for again providing some very informative stuff - several things now fall neatly into place, for example this picture...

Posted Image
© SDN-059885, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society

... supposedly showing Eddie Pullen's Mercer in the 1914 Elgin races. Since the car has left-hand steering and carries the wrong number it got me stumped. But now everything's as clear as mud: it must be a practice run, and the car's still carrying the number from Indy! Apparently, it only ever ran at Indy and Elgin. The left-hand steering may be influenced by Delling's input; his first "regular" Mercer design (the 22/70) also had it - what about the Deltal, I don't think I have ever seen a picture of it?

Another interesting tidbit is that Mark Dees in his "Miller Dynasty" wrote about the 1917 Pan-American built by former Mercer mechanic Tom Alley: "(...) the late racer Jerry Gebby, who was there, insisted that it was a 1915 Mercer racing chassis converted to left-hand drive", which made me struggle to think of a reason why anyone should want to do such an awkward conversion when there was no particular need for it - especially as the Miller engine that was going to be put into this car had its exhaust on the left! Perhaps it should read "a 1914 Mercer"?

Btw, re-reading my earlier post I realize I should've used a different word there for the 1914 Indy chassis (of Bragg and Wishart) - instead of "probably..." it should read: "possibly even the same chassis (as in 1913)"!

#9 fines

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 16:42

Originally posted by robert dick
These bore/stroke dimensions of 4.375/5 were quoted even if the cars started in the 300-cubic-inch class! Most probably the bore was reduced to 4.37 for the 300-inch class, as quoted in the 1913 Indianapolis entry list : Wishart - 4.37/5 = 299.7 cubic inches.

Robert, the Raceabout was eligible for the 300 CID class with its 300.7 CID engine! It is a not so well known fact that those divisions limited the capacity to the "nominal figure plus one", i.e. 161, 231, 301, 451, 601 and 751 cubic inches, respectively!!! The problem is how the cars were able to run in the bigger divisions, since they were usually exclusive, meaning that a car of 300.7 CID was allowed to run in the 300 CID class, but not in the 450 CID class! Do you have info on the dimensions of Hughes' car in the 1911 Elgin National and Vanderbilt races?

The 1912 car of Hughes was different from the Raceabout, even if it had apparently the same engine dimensions. Do you have anything about its wheelbase, since to me it looks a bit shorter.

The 1913 car: so it seems I was wrong about the monobloc, it was just an assumption based on a not very clear photograph. The designation "type 45" I've heard before, but couldn't figure out what it should stand for - thanks for that.

#10 fines

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 17:05

Originally posted by robert dick
Question :

- The low-slung Mercer driven by DePalma in the 1912 Santa Monica race was famous under the name "Mercer Monk" and was sold to Huntley Gordon. Gordon was in the used car business in Los Angeles. In 1913 he drove the Mercer at Santa Monica and Bakersfield.
- In view of the 1914 season the Mercer Monk frame received a Wisconsin engine and the "new" car was christened Ray. The Ray was entered in the 1914 Indianapolis 500. Driver was S. F. Brock, a power boat man. The Ray was a combination of Mercer Monk frame (wheelbase 108 inches) and 450-cubic-inch Wisconsin T-head engine (5.1/5.5 inches). Brock withdrew after five laps with a broken camshaft.
- In November 1914, at Corona, it was Gordon himself who drove the Ray which had been rechristened Gordon special. He finished fifth. At San Diego, in January 1915, Gordon wrecked the special against a curb. It was rebuilt and in February 1915 Gordon started in the Vanderbilt and Grand Prize at San Francisco.

Is this correct?

Interesting, yes - correct, I don't know! :(

A few observations: I have a picture of de Palma in a Racabout at Santa Monica, but it's not a racing picture - the car has lights, fenders and it's possible just a promotional pic. The frame doesn't look unusual to me, but so neither does the frame of the Ray or the Gordon! Low-slung? Hmm...

The "Ray" was also driven at Tacoma in early July by Brock, retired because of a broken frame (!) - I can't stop wondering if the "Rae" driven by Fritz Walker at Elgin in August was perhaps the same car! Opinions?

For the "Gordon" I have several appearances between November 1914 (Corona) and July 1916 (Visalia), driven by Gordon and then Frank Elliott. I always assumed it to have a Raceabout engine, but on rechecking I find it raced mainly in free-for-all and 450 events. One race at Tacoma in 1915 I have it entered in was perhaps a 300 CID event, but against that I have a question mark. So, perhaps it still had the Wisconsin engine?

#11 Uwe

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 17:23

Michael,

is the german translation for T-head "seitengesteuert"? Then the 1915 car was indeed a T-head. The first OHV Mercer came in 1922 (but wasn't a commercial success).

I remember Mercer for the commercial fight between the Raceabout and the Stutz Bearcat and, of course, the monocle windshield of the Mercer. Both cars had their fan community, with funny slogans for each others cars: "there was never a worser than a Mercer" or "you have to be nuts to drive a Stutz".

#12 fines

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 17:26

Originally posted by fines
The 1912 car of Hughes was different from the Raceabout, even if it had apparently the same engine dimensions. Do you have anything about its wheelbase, since to me it looks a bit shorter.

Originally posted by robert dick
Up to 1913, the Mercer racing cars were more or less hopped up type 35 raceabouts. Motor Age and the Automobile always quoted 4-3/8 or 4.375/5 inches for the bore/stroke dimensions (= 300.5 cubic inches) and 108 inches for the wheelbase (...)

Wer lesen kann ist klar im Vorteil... :D Alright, so the 1912 racer had the same wheelbase as the Raceabout. But...

Originally posted by robert dick
1911 - Hughes and Bigelow at Indianapolis - Hughes and W. F. Barnes Jr. at Elgin - Hughes, Barnes and Knipper at Savannah;

... I have Harry Knight in the third Mercer for this race, Knipper in a Lancia for the Tiedeman Trophy!?

#13 fines

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Posted 05 April 2005 - 17:33

Originally posted by Uwe
Michael,

is the german translation for T-head "seitengesteuert"? Then the 1915 car was indeed a T-head. The first OHV Mercer came in 1922 (but wasn't a commercial success).

Yes, a T-head is a side valve engine, with two camshafts on either side of the crankcase. But I'd be careful not to read too much into such statements, they usually pertain only to production cars. In the same vein, it's well known that the first left-hand drive Mercer did not appear until 1916...;)

#14 robert dick

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 08:28

Knipper - Savannah 1911 : Has to be checked - I don't have the 1911 Motor Age at hand, but I think Knipper drove a Mercer in the 1911 Savannah Challenge Trophy - he drove a Lancia in 1910.

= = = = = = =

The story that the frame of the ex-DePalma Mercer Monk was used for the Wisconsin engined Ray, which became the Gordon special, is just an idea at the moment.
The facts are that
- the 1912 ex-DePalma Mercer was sold to Huntley Gordon,
- the 1914 Indianapolis Ray was entered by Gordon and described as Wisonsin engined Mercer chassis,
- the Ray and the Gordon special look rather similar.

It is correct that the Rae driven by Fritz Walker at Elgin in 1914 also had a connection with the name Ray, with Elmer Ray. But I couldn't find any connection between Elmer Ray and the 1914 Indianapolis Ray.

The Rae can be seen in the background with # 16 (Elgin 1914) at :
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/browse/
search for "Grant Mulford"
photo # SDN-059829, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society.

The Rae was a typical Fritz Walker job :
Walker served as mechanic for Jenatzy in the 1903 Gordon Bennett. In 1911 and 1912 Walker was a member of the Mercer crew. In 1913 he served as mechanic for Mulford and Rickenbacher in the Mason. In 1914 he was Billy Knipper's helper, at Indianapolis in the Keeton, at Sioux City in the Delage.
In 1914, Walker was living at St. Louis.
With Frank Allen, formerly mechanic for Frank Verbeck, Walker began to rebuilt a 1903 touring Mercedes in a small shop near the Anheuser-Bush brewery.
The Mercedes was the property of Elmer Ray, a St. Louis engineer connected with the Central Welding Co. and the Superior Oxygen Co. Elmer Ray had purchased the Mercedes when he was a student at Cornell University.
The result of Allen's and Walker's work on the old Mercedes was called Rae.
Walker started in the 1914 Elgin National, but the Rae broke a valve on the first lap.

Walker's Rae and Brock's 1914 Indianapolis Ray were two different cars.

#15 robert dick

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 12:21

The Deltal :
http://www.classics....s02/lg02-06.jpg
and
http://www.tamsoldra...nCarsTurn2.html

#16 fines

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Posted 06 April 2005 - 16:01

Originally posted by robert dick
Knipper - Savannah 1911 : Has to be checked - I don't have the 1911 Motor Age at hand, but I think Knipper drove a Mercer in the 1911 Savannah Challenge Trophy - he drove a Lancia in 1910.

Yes, you're right it was 1910, my mistake. In 1911 I have Knipper only at Indy (in a Benz). But I still have Knight in the third Mercer... :D

Originally posted by robert dick
- the 1914 Indianapolis Ray was entered by Gordon

You're positive? My info on the entrant is "S. F. Brock" with a BIG question mark!

Originally posted by robert dick
Walker served as mechanic for Jenatzy in the 1903 Gordon Bennett. In 1911 and 1912 Walker was a member of the Mercer crew. In 1913 he served as mechanic for Mulford and Rickenbacher in the Mason. In 1914 he was Billy Knipper's helper, at Indianapolis in the Keeton, at Sioux City in the Delage.

Do I understand that correctly, "helper" means he was the riding mechanic at these races?

Originally posted by robert dick
In 1914, Walker was living at St. Louis.
With Frank Allen, formerly mechanic for Frank Verbeck, Walker began to rebuilt a 1903 touring Mercedes in a small shop near the Anheuser-Bush brewery.

I have a Fred Allen winning a minor race in an Oldsmobile in 1907, I suppose it's not the same person? Anyway, so the Rae was a Special built from an old Mercedes - perhaps a 60 PS? At 564 CID, it would have fit well into the 1914 scene! Or, perhaps it had an entirely new engine? Though I'd like to think that with a few tweeks it would have been able to challenge a few of the usual backmarkers...

Thanks so much for the Rae info and the Deltal pictures, although naturally I would have prefered a contemporary one - but it's nice to see the old warhorse is still raging! :up:

#17 robert dick

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Posted 07 April 2005 - 08:01

That Gordon entered the Ray/Indianapolis 1914 was confirmed by Motor Age later in the year.

S. F. Brock is also quoted as Fred Brock in the power boat scene (it's the same man) :
http://www.lesliefie..._like_slomo.htm

= = =

Walker was riding mechanic in the Keeton/Indianapolis 1914 and Delage/Sioux City 1914.
The Rae/rebuilt Mercedes was most probably a 1903 60-hp.

Photo of Walker :
http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/browse/
search "Merz Walker"
photo # SDN-057198, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society

#18 fines

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Posted 08 April 2005 - 12:37

Do you have a picture of the "Monk"?

#19 robert dick

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Posted 08 April 2005 - 13:40

Originally posted by fines
Do you have a picture of the "Monk"?


Nothing at hand concerning DePalma/Santa Monica 1912.

But the car on the last photo/first post (SDN-057893, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society) - (Elgin 1912, Pullen in Mercer # 31) is perhaps not THE Monk, but something very similar.
To avoid misunderstandings : With low-slung I wanted to say that the car as a whole looked low, lower than the "standard" Mercers. The frame was not underslung.

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#20 robert dick

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Posted 09 April 2005 - 07:37

300-inch Mercers :
Hughes's Mercer, # 36, Elgin 1912 (photo before last/in first post - SDN-057894) :
The first start of this car was at Indianapolis in 1912, driven by Hughes, # 21. It was a completely new car. The bore/stroke dimensions were quoted as 4-3/8 by 5 inches, the wheelbase as 108 inches. But in addition to the streamlined body, the engine had been modified (in comparison with the earlier standard racers) :
- intake on the left hand side, exhaust on the right hand side (the engine was still a T-head),
- transverse shaft in front of the forward cylinder for the magneto and the water pump,
- camshafts running in ball bearings,
- hollow pushrods,
- valve diameter 2-1/2 inches, valve lift 7/16 inch,
- 2-inch Rayfield carburetor.
In the 1913 Indianapolis 500, the same car was driven by Wishart, # 22; this time with a 2-1/8 inch Rayfield carburetor.

Elgin 1913 :
DePalma's (# 21) and Wishart's (# 23) 300-inch Mercers were quoted as 4.37/5.0 inches, valve diameter 2-3/4 inches, valve lift 7/16 inch, 2-inch Rayfield carburetor.
Luttrell's 300-inch Mercer (# 27) was quoted as 4.376/5.0 inches, valve diameter 2-3/8 inches, valve lift 7/16 inch, 1-3/4 inch Rayfield carburetor.

The valve diameter of the production type 35J raceabout (bore/stroke = 4.375/5 inches) was 2-1/4 inches, with a valve lift of 7/16 inch.
The car driven by Luttrell at Elgin in 1913 was probably an older works racer from 1911, a first evolution with a valve diameter of 2-3/8 inches.
Then we have Hughes's 1912 Indianapolis car with a valve diameter of 2-1/2 inches,
and the 1913 Elgin works cars with a valve diameter of 2-3/4 inches.
The carburetor size grew from 1-3/4 inch to 2-1/8 inch at Indianapolis in 1913.

The Mercer "Monk" (DePalma's car at Santa Monica in 1912) was probably an intermediate step between the older 1911 works racers and Hughes' completely new 1912 Indianapolis car.
The Monk was described as "DePalma's low-slung Mercer". This can be interpreted in two ways :
either the writer wanted to say that the Mercers were low-slung in general, or he wanted to say that DePalma's car in particular was low-slung.
I didn't find any photo showing DePalma's car in company of other Mercers (to have a direct comparison). The impression that the Monk was lower than the standard racers can be false (since, compared to the competitors, the Mercers were low in general).

#21 robert dick

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 10:35

The Mercer Monk was not low-slung in particular, not lower than the other Mercers.
During the 1911 season, Hughie Hughes used to carry a toy monkey as good-luck bringer so that his Mercer became known as Mercer "Monk".
The ex-Hughes car of 1911 was driven by DePalma at Santa Monica in 1912, then sold to Huntley Gordon.

= = = =

Seems that Huntley Gordon had a brother : Tom.
According to Motor Age, Tom Gordon entered the Gordon Special for Huntley Gordon in the 1914 Corona race.

Any additional info or confirmation concerning Tom Gordon?

#22 fines

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Posted 12 April 2005 - 19:01

Tom Gordon? Never heard! :(

But thanks for this wealth of information, I couldn't have dreamed of finding something approaching this without your help! :up:

One question, though: the 1913 Elgin 300 CID racers, did they have racing bodies or did they look like Raceabouts?

#23 robert dick

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Posted 14 April 2005 - 08:21

1913 Elgin - 300-inch racers :
The cars of Wishart and DePalma had racing bodies (Wishart drove his 1913 Indianapolis car = ex-Hughes/1912 Indianapolis).
No photo of Luttrell's car, most probably an ex-works Raceabout from 1911.

#24 fines

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 13:31

Originally posted by fines
Another interesting tidbit is that Mark Dees in his "Miller Dynasty" wrote about the 1917 Pan-American built by former Mercer mechanic Tom Alley: "(...) the late racer Jerry Gebby, who was there, insisted that it was a 1915 Mercer racing chassis converted to left-hand drive", which made me struggle to think of a reason why anyone should want to do such an awkward conversion when there was no particular need for it - especially as the Miller engine that was going to be put into this car had its exhaust on the left! Perhaps it should read "a 1914 Mercer"?

A bit more on the LHD Mercer of 1914: Perhaps it was also driven by Pullen at Tacoma in 1914, although that would make it difficult to explain its Indy number still being on the car at Elgin. It was, however, likely used by Louis Nikrent at Corona later that year, where his car was described in Motor Age as "the small Mercer". Perhaps it was also used by Nikrent in the Vanderbilt and Grand Prize races early the next year, where his teammates' (Pullen and Ruckstell) cars were described as 450 CID racers, while I have found no mention of the capacity of Nikrent's car.

More importantly, however, a picture on the Rumbledrome site shows Otto Henning in a (the?) LHD Mercer at the Chicago opener in June! Henning had at least wo more outings in a Mercer that year, at Elgin and Minneapolis, but remember: he had also driven a Raceabout in 1914! But, most interestingly, here we have a direct connection to the Pan-American/Bender and Tom Alley: Henning, like Alley, was a resident of the Chicago area and the original driver of the second "Ogren Special", the first racing car with a Miller engine, in 1916. Ogren, a small scale car manufacturer from the Windy City, had started in the racing game by running a 1914/15 vintage "drop-frame" Duesenberg for various drivers, including Tom Alley who, according to Dees, had ordered the Miller "Iron Four" (the prototype SOHC 289 CID engine as opposed to its alloy siblings) in September of 1916, and commenced building the Pan-American in January 1917.

The plot thickens. But still, there are a few questions left unanswered: Presuming that Henning raced the LHD Mercer for the rest of the 1915 season, that would still leave it idle for the 1916 season - Henning took over the Ogren Duesenberg from Alley after Indy. And, according to Phil Harms, Henning had one more appearance in a Mercer, in September of 1917, three months after the first outing of the Pan-American. : Of course, this may have been a completely different car, perhaps even his old Raceabout again, who knows? Another thing: was Otto Henning in some way related to Cotton Henning, the famous mechanic? Though Cotton worked for a long time for Mike Boyle in Chicago, I'm not sure if he was from that area. His prior employers included C. L. Richards, George Wade (both from Kansas City) and Pete de Paolo (Indianapolis? New Jersey?).

And what of Alley? Perhaps he'd heard that Harry Miller was already advancing his design and decided not to waste his time with Ogren (who was going from one bankruptcy to another, anyway). Did he buy the LHD Mercer from Henning right away? But why not race it? What of the second "Kleinart Special" he drove at Chicago? This car does not appear anywhere else in my records! Also, what are the links between Art Klein and Hugo Ogren, who appear to have had some sort of a "joint venture" in 1916? And how does Ora Haibe fit in here? Was the second Kleinart perhaps the "Sebring Special" of 1915? Actually, there are so many connections between all those special builders it's almost bizarre!

#25 ReWind

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Posted 20 June 2005 - 17:30

Originally posted by fines
Though Cotton worked for a long time for Mike Boyle in Chicago, I'm not sure if he was from that area. His prior employers included C. L. Richards, George Wade (both from Kansas City) and Pete de Paolo (Indianapolis? New Jersey?).

An answer from this site:

Also from the Kansas City area were Tony Gulotta and Harry "Cotton" Henning, both mechanics. Gulotta became a driver later in his career and finished third at the 1927 Indy 500. Henning retired from racing after the 1939 Indy 500 and became a real estate developer in California. Henning, originally from Independence, was a personal friend of Harry Truman and worked on Truman's automobiles at one time.



#26 m9a3r5i7o2n

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Posted 01 January 2007 - 17:16

5 liters = 5 x 61.02 = 305.1 cubic inches of piston displacement exactly. This is 5 cubic inches more than the stated 300 cubic inch limit quoted in so many of the old literature. Since this was a take off from European racing cars of some class this worry about one or two cubic inches is surprising as anything under 305.1 would be in its class. Since an engine with a bore and stroke of 4-3/8" = 4.375” exactly and 5” = 5.000” exactly the result would be 300.660 cubic inches and this is accurate within .0002 cubic inches.
Measuring devices at that time were things like Inside Diameter Micrometers graduated in .001” and Vernier calipers measuring in .001” increments. Only a few places such as Cadillac used Johansen Gage Blocks to make their inspection devices accurate. Johansen Blocks were and are very very expensive. Only places now using Laser measuring devices are more accurate.

The so called 450 cubic inch class also has the same flaw as the so called 300 cubic inch class. The nearest Liter class might have been the 7.5 Liter class which is exactly 457.65 cubic inches. Quickly rationalizing the 457.65 cubic inches down to 450 cubic inches.

1 Liter = 61.02 cubic inches according to my ,"Handy Multipliers for Engineers".

M.L. Anderson :)

#27 m9a3r5i7o2n

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Posted 07 January 2007 - 16:44

The so called 450 cubic inch class would be 7.5 Liters x 61.02 = 457.65 cubic inches.

The Automobile quoted 4.800 x 6.1875” = 447.856 cubic inches.
Motor Age quoted 4.800” x 6.189” and a displacement of 424 cubic inches.

See the callout above for an explanation of the racing class in Europe. Considering
the usage of Decimal equivalents of Simple Fractions in the early part of the Twentieth
Century I believe the actual dimensions were 4.8125” (4-13/16”) x 6.1875” (6-3/16”)
= 450.2 cubic inches.
M.L. Anderson :)

#28 fines

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Posted 11 November 2007 - 09:52

Marion, thanks for your contribution!

About the "so-called" 300 and 450 cubic-inch classes, they were in fact "real" :) Cubic centimetre capacity classes were used in Europe before the Great War, but the popular 8-, 5-, 3-litre etc. classes were later inventions (ca. 1920). Cubic centimetre capacities were not used in US Racing before 1920; classes were indeed divided by cubic inches: 601, 451, 301 and 231 cubic inch limits were used for most of the races, and for convenience these classes were usually called 600, 450, 300 and 230 CID.

#29 robert dick

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 18:24

450-inch Mercers, Wishart and Pullen
http://memory.loc.go...5300/15377v.jpg

Bragg
http://memory.loc.go...6300/16395v.jpg

Portrait Pullen
http://memory.loc.go...00/3c00611v.jpg

Pullen, Sheepshead Bay
http://memory.loc.go...2900/22932v.jpg
http://memory.loc.go...2900/22934v.jpg

Ruckstell, Sheepshead Bay
http://memory.loc.go...2900/22939v.jpg

#30 fines

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 18:59

De Palma at Indy, 1913

http://memory.loc.go...00/3b03796r.jpg

#31 MPea3

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Posted 18 September 2008 - 19:48

This one slipped through the cracks. Looks at the apparent difference in age between Eddie Pullen in this shot and the portrait robert dick links to above.

Photograph information

#32 Michael Ferner

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Posted 24 March 2010 - 21:58

A bit more on the LHD Mercer of 1914: Perhaps it was also driven by Pullen at Tacoma in 1914, although that would make it difficult to explain its Indy number still being on the car at Elgin. It was, however, likely used by Louis Nikrent at Corona later that year, where his car was described in Motor Age as "the small Mercer". Perhaps it was also used by Nikrent in the Vanderbilt and Grand Prize races early the next year, where his teammates' (Pullen and Ruckstell) cars were described as 450 CID racers, while I have found no mention of the capacity of Nikrent's car.

More importantly, however, a picture on the Rumbledrome site shows Otto Henning in a (the?) LHD Mercer at the Chicago opener in June! Henning had at least wo more outings in a Mercer that year, at Elgin and Minneapolis, but remember: he had also driven a Raceabout in 1914! But, most interestingly, here we have a direct connection to the Pan-American/Bender and Tom Alley: Henning, like Alley, was a resident of the Chicago area and the original driver of the second "Ogren Special", the first racing car with a Miller engine, in 1916. Ogren, a small scale car manufacturer from the Windy City, had started in the racing game by running a 1914/15 vintage "drop-frame" Duesenberg for various drivers, including Tom Alley who, according to Dees, had ordered the Miller "Iron Four" (the prototype SOHC 289 CID engine as opposed to its alloy siblings) in September of 1916, and commenced building the Pan-American in January 1917.


Found an article in the Chicago Tribune dated June 5, 1915: "Ed Schillo yesterday entered what he has chosen to call a Schillo special for the 300 mile race here on June 19. The car was known as a Mercer less than a year ago when, with Eddie Pullen driving, it finished second to Ralph De Palma's Mercedes in the Elgin National. Pullen drove the car 301 miles without a stop, setting a nonstop record which endured until William Carlson drove 305 miles without a halt on the coast during the winter's racing.

"When the Mercer company decided to bring out a new type of car for this season the car Schillo now owns was stored in the factory. E. H. Delling, chief engineer of the Mercer company, finding that he had not given himself enough time to prepare the new cars thoroughly, decided to let Schillo buy the Little Mercer, as it was known.

"Otto Henning of McHenry, Ill., who was at the wheel of the stock Mercer which gained some undeserved notoriety as being a party to the accident which killed Spencer Wishart in the Elgin National, has been selected to drive the car for Schillo. Wallace Davis of Glenview was named as mechanician. The Schillo special arrived yesterday, and will be ready for practice on the local speedway as soon as the track is cleared."

Which basically explains the "Rumbledrome" picture. :) The Schillo brothers ran the "Schillo Motor Sales Company" in Chicago, dealing with Mercers, Hupmobiles etc.

The plot thickens. But still, there are a few questions left unanswered: Presuming that Henning raced the LHD Mercer for the rest of the 1915 season, that would still leave it idle for the 1916 season - Henning took over the Ogren Duesenberg from Alley after Indy. And, according to Phil Harms, Henning had one more appearance in a Mercer, in September of 1917, three months after the first outing of the Pan-American. : Of course, this may have been a completely different car, perhaps even his old Raceabout again, who knows?


I still don't have an answer to what the car was doing in 1916, but I found out to my surprise that Mercer still ran a "works" team in 1917! Pete Henderson, Joe Thomas and Walter Haines were the drivers at Cincinnati that year, and Al Schillo replaced Henderson, who rejoined Duesenberg at Chicago. Which makes it more than probable that Henning did drive a "works" Mercer at Sheepshead Bay, alongside Haines! I can only presume that the cars were still the 1915 300-inch racers.

#33 Michael Ferner

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Posted 30 March 2010 - 20:25

I still don't have an answer to what the car was doing in 1916...


Well, now I have: Chicago Daily Tribune, March 30 in 1916:

The construction of the Ben Hur Specials will be started as soon as the motor has been tested, not only on the block but in the chassis of Al Schillo's Mercer.


Sure, the Schillo's had several Mercers, but I don't think they would've tested a new and "revolutionary type" of Indy Car engine in a Raceabout. The next sentence is also interesting:

The engine is the invention of an American engineer whose identity the backers of the cars refuse to disclose and is patterned somewhat after the motors of the team of Delages, built for the 1914 French Grand Prix and recently purchased by Harry Harkness, the New York sportsman, which are peculiar in that the valves are opened positively in both directions, being closed as well as opened by the cam.


Well, according to Mark Dees, the prototype Miller Single Cam "utilized desmodromic valve action", and was "shipped to Chicago" in August of 1916, c/o Tom Alley! Alley already quit the Ogren team in June, and was reportedly "building a new car" - could he have been involved with the Ben Hur project? This prototype engine is believed to have ended up in the second "Ogren Special" in September, but more research is necessary here. Of the Ben Hur, nothing more is heard until October, and even then the car is a non-starter. Again, more research is needed, but one possible explanation for it all could be that the Ben Hur people took delivery of the Single Cam prototype, tested and rejected it, then waited for an "Alloyanum" replacement which didn't satisfy them either, and by then the racing season was over and interest possibly waned. Alley may have picked up the tab and the whole programme with the help of a new sponsor, Pan-American, and off he went with the old Mercer chassis and the new Miller engine!????

#34 Michael Ferner

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 16:40

Seems I was a bit premature with my conclusions: Tom Alley reportedly visited Harry Miller's shop in early August of 1916 "for the purpose of constructing a new machine to be called the Tom Alley Special" - this effectively rules out any involvement of either Tom or Harry with the Ben Hur project. But, maybe we're witnessing the gestation of the "Golden Submarine" here? Maybe Alley's funds ran short, and he was forced to abandon the "Tom Alley Special", instead taking one of the engines and mating it to the Schillo Mercer, after the Ben Hur crew was through with it? Barney Oldfield, who in November was reported as having a new Miller engine fitted to his Delage, may have stepped in to save the day, and the rest as they say...

#35 D-Type

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 17:08

5 liters = 5 x 61.02 = 305.1 cubic inches of piston displacement exactly. This is 5 cubic inches more than the stated 300 cubic inch limit quoted in so many of the old literature. Since this was a take off from European racing cars of some class this worry about one or two cubic inches is surprising as anything under 305.1 would be in its class. Since an engine with a bore and stroke of 4-3/8" = 4.375” exactly and 5” = 5.000” exactly the result would be 300.660 cubic inches and this is accurate within .0002 cubic inches.
Measuring devices at that time were things like Inside Diameter Micrometers graduated in .001” and Vernier calipers measuring in .001” increments. Only a few places such as Cadillac used Johansen Gage Blocks to make their inspection devices accurate. Johansen Blocks were and are very very expensive. Only places now using Laser measuring devices are more accurate.

The so called 450 cubic inch class also has the same flaw as the so called 300 cubic inch class. The nearest Liter class might have been the 7.5 Liter class which is exactly 457.65 cubic inches. Quickly rationalizing the 457.65 cubic inches down to 450 cubic inches.

1 Liter = 61.02 cubic inches according to my ,"Handy Multipliers for Engineers".

M.L. Anderson :)

Being excessively pedantic:

1 inch = 2.54 cm is an exact conversion. This leads to 1 litre = 61.02374409 etc cu ins using my £1 calculator. Giving 5 litres = 305. 1187205 etc cu ins.

But in 1910 the best they could do in normal practice was 7-figure logarithms.

Not that this invalidates anything you have said. Clearly 1 litre = 60 cu ins was considered "close enough" as the extra 5 cu ins would make no real difference to performance. Possibly the letter of the regulations was more accurate than the rounded figures reported.

#36 Michael Ferner

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 17:25

See post #28, Duncan - it's a red herring! :)

#37 onelung

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Posted 31 March 2010 - 22:38

I hope I'll be forgiven this ... it's not a Mercer, but the folk looking at this thread may well be able to tell me what it is.
I understand it to be Earl Kiser - if so it's pre August 1905 when he lost a leg in an accident - and the location is possibly Harlem race track.
Thanks for your indulgence.

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#38 robert dick

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 08:49

The driver is Earl Kiser - the car (not 100% sure) a Winton track special built to replace the older Bullets - the event the Spring meeting of the Chicago AC, 27-30 May 1905, Harlem track.


#39 Terry Walker

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 09:44

A lot of litres: 4 huge pots, maybe 10 litres or so? Note the numerous safety features . . .

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#40 D-Type

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Posted 01 April 2010 - 15:46

See post #28, Duncan - it's a red herring! :)

:blush: I don't know how I missed that!

#41 robert dick

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Posted 02 April 2010 - 08:13

Correction concerning Earl Kiser's track special:

It is not a Winton. The car is a 70-hp Tincher built in Chicago.

I couldn't find the exact bore/stroke dimensions. A 70-hp Tincher was exhibited at the Chicago show in February 1906, and described in "The Automobile" as "bringing back memories of Théry's 1904 Gordon Bennett winner".
Théry's Brasier engine displaced around 10 litres with the dimensions of 150/140 mm (the Brasier had cylinders cast in pairs, with L-head - the Tincher at the Harlem track had four single cylinders, with T-head).


#42 onelung

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Posted 16 April 2010 - 22:05

Robert, many thanks for putting a name to this vehicle - and my apologies for not responding earlier... :up: