The 1910 – 1914 Mercer Raceabout is perfectly described through its name – basically, you could buy one, take some unneeded bits off to immediately take it racing.
That was the philosophy behind this, probably one of the first attempts at making a purpose-built lightweight roadster. Jay Leno owns one and he seems to think very highly of it. The Raceabout is powered by a (small for the age) 4.8-liter four-cylinder which could make as much as 55 hp.
Back in the day, the manufacturer said it was perfectly safe at 70 mph (110 km/h) and that it could exceed 90 mph (140 km/h) top speed. By the end of its production life, it even got a four-speed gearbox!
The car was apparently very successful in racing, winning five of six races in its debut year of 1911. Mercer’s racing program was cancelled when renowned racing driver Spencer Wishart and his mechanic John Jenter were killed during a road race in Eglin, Illinois in 1914.