‘Great’ 1911 Mercer headed to RM’s Monterey auction

The 1911 Mercer Type 35 R Raceabout was “the Ferrari 250 GTO of its day | RM Auctions
The 1911 Mercer Type 35 R Raceabout was “the Ferrari 250 GTO of its day” | RM Auctions

A remarkable 1911 Mercer Type 35 R Raceabout emerging from 65 years of ownership by one of America’s original classic car collections will be a premier highlight of RM Auctions’ flagship sale August 15-16 in Monterey, California.

An example of the “Great Mercers” that performed as the seminal sports/racing cars of the era, the Raceabout was owned by the late collector-car pioneer and devoted automotive researcher Henry Austin “Austie” Clark Jr., who purchased the car in 1949 for his Long Island Automotive Museum in Southampton, New York.

The RM auction, held as part of the Monterey Peninsula’s classic car events leading up to the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, will mark the first time the Mercer has been offered at public auction. The pre-sale estimate of its worth is $2.5 million $3.5 million.

The Mercer name evokes the very spirit of minimalist, sporting automobiles.”

“The Mercer name evokes the very spirit of minimalist, sporting automobiles embodied by the 100-mile-an-hour Type 35 series,” said RM car specialist Shelby Myers. “One of America’s original sports cars… the 1911 Mercer can be considered the Ferrari 250 GTO of its day.

“Add in an outstanding ownership provenance, a truly rich patina and character, and the fact that T-head Mercers only change hands on the rarest of occasions, and the stage is set for a truly special auction.”

The Type 35 R Raceabout was a prominent feature at the groundbreaking Long Island Automotive Museum, which opened in 1948 and closed in 1980. The sports car was driven regularly in many events, including the Bridgehampton races, which Clark helped organize and finance. Famous people have been pictured behind its wheel, including author Ralph Stein, actor Gary Cooper and Finlay Robertson Porter, the architect of the Mercer T-head, an important performance-engine development.

The Mercer was driven on Connecticut’s country roads | RM Auctions
The Mercer roaring along a country road | RM Auctions

Since the closure of the museum, the Mercer has been kept by Clark’s descendants in Connecticut, where it was enjoyed on the winding  roads of Fairfield County.

In a news release, RM described the contributions of Austie Clark – the scion of a wealthy sugar-plantation family whose fortune was diminished by the Cuban revolution – as an automotive historian, tireless collector and leading research authority.

“His incredible devotion to the hobby saw him accumulate such a vast and diverse collection of literature and photographs that its eventual relocation to the Henry Ford Museum involved a month of packing, three moving trucks, and over two decades of sorting through and filing 54,000 pounds of material,” according to RM. “In addition to his literature collection, Austie was responsible for saving many automobiles from the wrecking yard, and maintained an enviable collection of important motorcars at his Long Island Automotive Museum.”

Although the Mercer Raceabout stands on its own merits as an exciting and important early automobile, its value is undoubtedly enhanced by the long-time ownership of Austie Clark and two subsequent generations of family caretakers.

“Austie Clark was a connoisseur who knew great automobiles and made extraordinary efforts to preserve as many as possible and ensure they resided in good homes,” Myers said. “As a result, even a quarter century after his death, knowing that a car was part of the Henry Austin Clark Jr. collection is a stamp of approval, and the name is an integral part of its provenance.”

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