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  Mermaid History

The Mercury Mermaid and it's high-tech engine were featured on the cover of the July 1957 issue of Hot Rod magazine. The tailfin and flashy colors gathered attention where ever the car went. Click here for larger image. Click here for larger image of motor.

In the mid 1950's many auto manufacturers used racing as a way to attract attention to new models. The motto became "race on Sunday, sell on Monday". Not only was racing good advertising, it also allowed manufacturers to try out and test new designs under harsh conditions. In racing circles of the day, Mercury had a solid reputation as a winner.

What many don't realize is in the 50's racing frequently took place in "natural" settings like the famed Salt Flats in Bonneville, UT and along the beaches of Daytona. In addition, racing was often a best-of-speed affair. Each racer took a trip up and back down the race strip, and the

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.

There's more coming! Check back soon for more Mercury Mermaid technical information and check the progress of of my NEW MERMAID project car.


Below is how the Mermaid feature page inside the magazine appeared:

For a close-up of the pictures, click here:

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