1965 Mercer-Cobra Roadster.

Mercer was an American automobile manufacturer that produced cars before World War II.

It had always been one of those lesser-known automotive manufacturers. It was establish in 1909 by William Walter, the original factory would be located in Hamilton. However, debt problems would cause Walter to be bought by the Roeblings who would change the name to Mercer after having relocated the company to Mercer, New Jersey.

After Washington Roebling’s death in the Titanic disaster, Mercer would be acquired by Emlem Hare. Hare would go on a spending-spree and would end up overextending himself. Mercer would slip away into history without too many people really noticing. But just one vehicle commissioned to Mercer by the Copper Development Association changed everything!

After World War II, inspired by the machines of war, reality and of fiction, car design and innovations would explode onto the scene. Almost every imaginable design would be produced. Many were elegant. Many others represented paradigm shifts. Others were just incredibly radical designs. The automotive industry was the modern artist’s canvas.

One such artist/designer was Virgil Exner. One of Exner’s first designs was the 1947 Studebaker Starlight Coupe. Exner would earn a reputation for truly amazing design concepts. 

He ended up becoming Vice President of Design for Chrysler. Later, unfortunately, Exner suffered a major heart attack and would end up retiring from Chrysler.

Just before  retiring and finishing his career, Exner was approached by Esquire magazine to create some modern “fantasy” designs based on classic and antique cars.

Virgil Exner and his creations, 1957.

Mercer-Cobra Roadster was one of those four designs created by Exner and published in the December 1963 issue of Esquire as an extremely modern interpretation of the Mercer Raceabout. 

Upon seeing the design exercise, Copper Development Association’s president, George M. Hartley, immediately got in touch with Exner and asked him to finish the design in order to actually make the real car. With help from Carrozzeria Sibona-Basano in Turin, Italy, the Mercer-Cobra Roadster was thus born.

Sitting on 16-inch wire wheels with brass covers, the lovely one-off concept was finished in Pearl White and received a wraparound curved Plexiglas windscreen along with a black leather interior. Numerous brass and copper accents were added, and even the 4.7-liter V8 engine received a similar treatment on some of the components. On top of that, even the four-wheel brake discs were made from copper alloy, while a similar theme was carried over inside with multiple surfaces adorned by brass and copper touches.

If you’re wondering about the car’s destiny, it was sold back in 2011 by RM Auctions for a cool $660,000.

Based on the articles by Adrian Padeanu for motor1.com, Jeremy McMullen for cnceptcarz.com and the materials of theinspirationgrid.com