PAGE 57. 1956 Mercury Hermes 50cc Scooter

The Mercury Cycle Company

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Mercury Industries (Birmingham) Ltd. started in 1947. They were based in Stratford Road, Birmingham and manufactured large numbers of bicycles. They subsequently moved to Dudley.

With the start of the 1950s cyclemotor boom, they were commissioned by Cyclemaster Ltd to adapt some of their frames to suit Cyclemaster engines. They also adapted their delivery bicycle, and this was sold as the Cyclemaster Roundsman.

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The tie-up with Cyclemaster proved lucrative and, as a result, they appear to have got the ‘moped/scooter’ bug. It’s quite understandable, as just about every manufacturer wanted to cash in on these two new crazes that were revolutionizing transport. However, their next foray into motorized vehicles was not so successful.

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…Because, unfortunately, the Mercury Hermes Scooter was a total disaster. Although Mercury tried introducing several more models over the next 3 years in a desperate attempt to recoup losses, by 1958 the company went into liquidation. With such limited production, examples of the Mercury motorcycle, moped or scooters are now very hard to find.

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1956 Mercury Hermes Scooter

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Here’s some photos of my Mercury Hermes scooter. It came from the Combe Martin Motorcycle Museum in North Devon, which closed down some years ago.

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Although the German machines used the reliable Sachs engine, when Mercury built the Meister Solo-Roller under license in Great Britain, they used the JLO engine instead.

It was a decision that was to doom the Hermes to failure.

Its pull-start – similar to lawnmowers – was a troublesome device, and because so many of the scooters were returned for repair under the warranty, Mercury sued JLO for £20,000.

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Few Mercury Hermes scooters were still on the road by the following year; though mine was first registered by Birmingham County Council in 1958, so I assume it must have remained unsold in a shop somewhere until a gullible customer bought it. Its taxdisc shows an expiry date of 31st December 1959, and the pull-start on the engine is broken, so I assume this one suffered the same fate as the others, and did not last more than a year before it came off the road.

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Meister Solo Roller

Compare the Hermes with its ancestor, the Meister Solo-Roller, which came on the market in Germany in 1955.

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The 1955 Solo Mammut-Roller (below) sported the same 50cc Sachs engine as the Meister.

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Below you have a better view of the accessories on offer.

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As with the mopeds, women feature prominently in the adverts: obviously this was the prime market for mopeds and scooters in the fifties. These small scooters were developing into the next fifties motoring craze, the ‘Scooterette.’ (See page 59)

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Other Mercury Models

The Mercette was a 46cc moped with a unique 4-stroke engine (below). You can read more about this model in the ‘Moped Archive’ article ‘The Lost World’ by Mark Daniels.

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The 50cc Mercury Hermes and Mercette Scooters were withdrawn from sale by 1957.

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In 1957 the company introduced the ‘Grey Streak’ motorcycle, with a 2-speed 98cc Villiers engine (above). It sold for £85.10s, and the engine was obviously much more reliable than the ill-fated Hermes. However, it competed with many identical 2-stroke Villiers-powered machines in the highly competitive lightweight motorcycle market and did not sell well.

The Mercury Dolphin Scooter, which arrived in the same year, sported a similar Villiers 98cc engine, and was priced at 100 guineas. Thankfully, this Mercury scooter had a kick-start!

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The 60c.c. Whippet 60 looked like a moped but, being 60cc, competed in the small scooter market. It had parts common to the Mercette. With the collapse of Mercury it was sold as the Dunkley Whippet (pictured below; photo courtesy Mark Daniels).

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Mercury’s final excursion into the scooter market was also their last. The 98cc Pippin came out in early 1958, but the company went into liquidation the same year.

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