fastest of the two trials was
recorded. Basically, whoever went the fastest was declared the winner.
Unlike highly modified, hand-built race cars today, race cars of
the 50's were truly "stock" vehicles taken off the assembly line
and modified. Engines, suspensions, drive trains... they were all
tweaked but kept essentially the same. Heavy items not essential
to racing (like interiors) were typically tossed to reduce weight.
Bill Stroppe was chosen by Mercury
to head up it's experimental racing division. They raced full-sized
Mercurys sporting highly customized Lincoln engines that often produced
over 400hp! The Mermaid was one of Stroppe's brainchilds. With it's
huge tail fin and sleek look it was a true attention-getter on the
beaches of Daytona as well as a fast performer. To reduce weight
and drag Stroppe's crew not only removed the interior but removed
the windshield and replaced it with a small drivers-side-only cockpit
shield. The effort paid off in performance. In one particular run
at Daytona, Art Chrisman drove it to a recorded a one-way speed
of 159 MPH. After a bit of tweaking it reportedly reached a top
speed of 180 MPH!!
After the Daytona speedweeks, the
car went back to S. California, and did some promotional stuff for
local Mercury dealers. Shortly it was parted out, with the engines
going one way and the body another. Last reported as being owned
by a fellow in Riverside Ca. who tried to make it street legal.
It was believed to have been junked out sometime thereafter. Some
of the engines(there were several) lived on in other racecars and
street machines. I know of at least two that still exist.