Tag Archives: Mercer

Cambrian Rally – Conwy County

Cambria is the Latinised form of the Welsh name Cymru from Old Welsh combrog and Proto-Brythonic word kom-brogos, meaning fellow countryman or compatriot, known to much of the rest of the world as Wales.

After studying Welsh rock strata in 1835 Adam Sedgwick named the first geological period of the Paleozoic Era the Cambrian period which characterised by the rapid diversification of lifeforms, known as the Cambrian explosion, some of which have been well preserved in the sedimentary rocks exposed in Wales.

Snowdon, County Conwy

500 million years after the Cambrian explosion 266 of the direct descendants of some of those lifeforms gathered in County Conwy to take part in the 61st running of the annual Cambrian Rally organised by the North Wales Car Club on Saturday February 13th.

The Cambrian Rally has moved from being the concluding round of the MSA Welsh Rally, Ravenol BTRDA Rally, FMP and ANWCC Forest Rally Championships last year to being the season opener for them this year.

 Mini John Cooper Works WRC, Conner McCloskey, Damien Duffin, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

With the intention of making a 4am departure from Bristol to see the opening stage of the Cambrian Rally I left home promptly at 5.30 after being unexpectedly invited out for tapas and sing a long the night before.

The delay was fortuitous as I ended up not far from Snowdon on the third Penmachno stage of the rally which sent the cars around the perimeter of the quarry where the #7 2012 McGeehan Motorsport Mini John Cooper Works WRC crewed by Conner McCloskey and Damien Duffin, who finished the event 4th overall, are seen above.

FIAT Abarth 131 Rally, Matthew Robinson, Sam Collins, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

Walter Rohrl, a hero in my youth drove a FIAT Abarth 131 Rally to claim his first World Rally Championship in 1980.

I believe the 1978 #30 FIAT Abarth 131 Rally seen above started as a more pedestrian brown model before being converted by RSD Rally Sport Development into a competition version, Matthew Robinson and Sam Collins retired the #30 from the event after exceeding the time limit before stage 6.

Hillman Avenger, Barry Jordan, James Gratton-Smith, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

In the 1970’s it would appear there were plans within the British product planning arm of the Chrysler Europe empire to produce an Avenger to compete with the Ford Mexico with a BRM developed 16 valve twin cam head.

It would appear a few heads got built and at least one was fitted to a car used by factory personnel but the project stumbled at this stage, I am not sure if the #64 1971 Hillman Avenger 1500 GL Luxe has one of the 16 valve twin cam BRM heads fitted but the BRM livery on the rear piqued my interest, the car driven by Barry Jordan and James Gratton-Smith unfortunately also retired, after Stage 3.

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI, Jayne Auden-Rowe, David Auden, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

The #75 1998 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo VI seen above crewed by Jayne Auden-Rowe and David Auden was classified 50th overall.

Skoda Favorit, Paul Ellis, Simon Jones, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

I could not resist going back to the puddle in the quarry as the final competitors went through Paul Ellis and Simon Jones make a splash in their way to a 70th place finish overall in their #120 1992 Skoda Favorit.

Ford Fiesta R200, Glynne Jones, Glenn Mercer, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

Similarly Glynne Jones and Glenn Mercer go temporarily amphibious in their Ford Fiesta R200 on their way to a 77th place finish overall.

Ford Fiesta 2000, Stephen Simpson, Andrew Roughead, Great Orme, Cambrian Rally,

Andrew Roughead moved from co – driving Andrew Fenwicks 6th placed Proton S2000 the week before on the Legend Fires North West Stages to sit beside Stephen Simpson in his #12 2010 Ford Fiesta S2000 seen above lifting a rear wheel on the final Great Orme Stage on their way to 8th place overall.

Ford Escort L, John Rowlands, Glenn Latham, Great Orme, Cambrian Rally,

Lifting a front wheel in classic Mk2 style is the #20 1976 2 litre Ford Escort L crewed by John Rowlands and Glenn Latham which came home 15th overall.

Peugeot 309 GTi, Tim Cains, Richard May, Great Orme, Cambrian Rally,

The sun came out for a short while and is seen above illuminating the faces of 36th place finishers Tim Cains and Richard May in their #85 1988 Peugeot 309 GTi.

Nissan Micra Tropic, Niel Andrew, Dominic Adams, Great Orme, Cambrian Rally,

54th place finishers overall and 2nd in the 1400C class were Niel Andrew and Dominic Adams in the #86 1994 Nissan Micra Tropic seen above heading into the sunset sans rear bumper cover.

Ford Fiesta S2000, Charles Payne, Carl Williamson, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

After nearly 48 mins of competitive driving Charles Payne and Carl Williamson in their #3 2009 Ford Fiesta S2000 came home just 1 second behind the winners …

Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX, Luke Francis, John H Roberts, Penmachno, Cambrian Rally,

… Luke Francis and John H Roberts in their #6 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Evo IX who also won this event in 2012.

Volkswagen Lupo E, Paul Barbet, Chris Sheriden, Great Orme, Cambrian Rally,

Paul Barbet and Chris Sheriden above are heading to an evening 81st place finish overall in their #127 2001 Volkswagen Polo E.

As darkness rapidly fell after the action was over I managed to stumble back across Great Orme back to the car park after another great days entertainment.

Thanks for joining me on this Cambrian Rally edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for a look at the last of this month’s featured Camaro’s. Don’t for get to come back now !


“55 hp at 1,650 rpm” – Mercer Type 35 Series J Raceabout #996

Today’s story begins with John A. Roebling who designed the Brooklyn Bridge amongst many others. John had a son Ferdinand Roebling who together with his cousin John’s nephew Washington A. Roebling II and Kuser Borthers John L, Frederick and Antony, tycoons from the world of banking, bottling and brewing bought out a vehicle manufacturing business from Washington’s friend William Walter in a foreclosure sale in 1909.

Mercer Type 35 J, Palo Verdes, Concours d'Elegance

The new investors renamed the company Mercer after Mercer County, New Jersey where the factory had been located since 1906 in a former brewery owned by the Kusers. They set about building a vehicle which would establish the brand in competition and the result was the 1910 Type 35 J Raceabout.

Mercer Type 35 J, Palo Verdes, Concours d'Elegance

Powered by a 4 cylinder 4.8 litre / 293 cui motor producing 55 hp at 1,650 rpm the Type 35 Series J was designed to safely and consistently be driven at over 70 mph. With a top speed of over 90 mph a Type 53 Series J won five out of the six events into which it was entered in 1911, only missing out to the Marmon Wasp in the inaugural Indy 500.

Mercer Type 35 J, Palo Verdes, Concours d'Elegance

The history of today’s featured 1913 Type 35 Series J chassis #996 goes back to 1935 when founder of the VMCCA and founder director of the Wolfden Antique Auto Museum of Southborough, MA, Mr. Cameron Bradley, bought the car from a used car dealer for $100.

Mercer Type 35J, Palo Verdes, Concours d'Elegance

In 1977 Mr Bradley sold 996 on to present owners Ken and Sharon Gooding, parents of the Gooding and Co Auction House President David Gooding.

My thanks to Geoffrey Horton who took these photographs a couple of years ago at the Palo Verdes Concours d’Elegance.

Thanks for joining me on this “55 hp at 1,650 rpm” edition of “Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres” I hope you will join me again tomorrow for Ferrari Friday. Don’t forget to come back now !


Jumping Coffee Cups ! – Lotus Esprit S1 Group 5

When Richard Jenvey announced that he would be competing in the 2 litre / 122 cui division of the Group 5 World Manufacturers championship with a Lotus Esprit in 1978, such was my naivety that my heart leapt with joy at the prospect of the domination that BMW had enjoyed in this class with the brick like BMW 320i would at last be broken by a proper sports car.

Richard made a name for himself driving modified sports cars including a supercharged MG Midget in ’73 and a Lotus Elan from ’74 to ’75 winning the 1975 Modsports Championship. In 1975 Richard also started racing in the European Sports Car Championship with the unique Vogue 2 litre / 122 cui sports car a car he eventually bought, modified and sold to team mate David Mercer.

Lotus Esprit Roll Out

Photo Courtesy Richard Jenvey Copyright 1979

With a group of enthusiastic amateurs Richard set about building his Group 5 Lotus Esprit in 1978. The team retained most of the original Lotus backbone chassis and built a monocoque around it effectively turning the Lotus backbone chassis into a passenger.

Richard tells me that when the Lotus Sales Director approached Colin Chapman to support another team about building a similar car Colin Chapman hit the table so hard to emphasise a negative response that his coffee cup jumped off the desk. When the Sales Director made a second approach, on behalf of Richard, Colin appears to have learned a valuable lesson and relented agreeing to supply enough parts for Vegatune to build a 270 hp 2 litre / 122cui engine on favorable terms. Lotus also supplied an Esprit body shell with which to make the mould for the racers body. The original body shell was then sold on which helped cover ‘a fair fraction’ of the costs of building the car which ended up right on the minimum weight limit.

Lotus Esprit, Silverstone

The Polaroof Morfe Racing Lotus Esprit first appeared at the Dijon 6 hours in April 1979 qualifying first in class ahead of a Fiat X1/9 and BMW 320i, but was the first of the three to retire from the race with engine maladies. At Silverstone, where the car is seen above, the Esprit qualified 3rd in class behind the debuting Lancia Beta Montecarlo turbo and an older BMW 320i. During the race Richard and David Mercer only had to finish to win the class but distributor problems saw the car retire.

Over the following two years Richards Lotus made at least seven further starts in World Championship and German Championship events recording a best 7th place finish in the 1981 German Championship round at Zolder. Once the engine was reliable little problems continued to beset the Esprit including seat padding slipping which caused Lawrie Hickman to inadvertently break the gear linkage in his efforts to avoid an accident at Dijon. On another occasion with in a couple of miles of the finish flag and a class victory at the Nurburgring, where the start money was always very generous, a loose alternator wire, combined with running with the headlights on, flattened the battery and officials prevented Richard from connecting the spare which the car carried.

Lotus Esprit, Silverstone

Richard and Lawrie Hickman, who co drove Richards Lotus in 1981 agree that the Esprit was fabulous to drive but was underpowered against the factory turbocharged Group 5 cars running in the same class from Lancia, BMW and Ford which had over 600 hp available ! Interestingly as the Group 5 series was coming to an end Richard started building a turbocharged Group C car, which was never completed due to a late change in the regulations and Richard had plans to run the Lotus with the turbocharged motor from the Group C project before it was retired.

Unfortunately these plans also came to nought when a batch of faulty con rod bolts failed while the normally aspirated motor was being ‘run in’ during practice for the 1981 Silverstone 6 Hours, causing the team to miss the race and starting money. Even more importantly the engine failure also caused the team to miss collecting the ‘very generous’ start money at the Nurburgring two weeks later and so the Esprit retired without ever running with the more powerful motor.

Lotus Esprit, Silverstone

Richard still owns the Esprit which he describes as being “spread around Shropshire”, he is currently engaged in re-accumulating all the parts in one place with a view to either selling it or building it for his son, Mike Jenvey, to race in classic events.

Regrettably, although the Esprit added welcome variety to the events in which it competed, the privateer Morfe Racing with Polaroof team, like the contemporary Janspeed Triumph Twin Turbo TR8 team did not have the level of backing to compete reliably let alone competitively against the works supported outfits of Lancia in the World Championship events which were joined by Ford in the German Championship events.

The photo’s show the Esprit’s official “roll out” to the raspberry patch in Richards garden and the remainder the Esprit’s British debut at Silverstone in 1979.

My thanks to Richard Jenvey who kindly answered my questions about the project, also to The Nostalgia Forum regulars Alan Raine, who suggested I get in touch with Richard, Tony “Giraffe” Gallagher who kindly passed on Lawrie Hickman’s observations, Norman Jones, fausto, Simon Hadfield, fatbaldbloke, Jesper O Hansen, Edward Fitzgerald, La Sarthe, Simon Lewis and Tony Kingston for their comments.

Thanks for joining me on this ‘Jumping Coffee Cups !’ edition of ‘Gettin’ a li’l psycho on tyres’, I hope you will join me again tomorrow. Don’t forget to come back now !