A Mermaid’s Tale: Bill Stroppe’s Wild ’57 Mercury Roadster

A Masterpiece Built for Speed

Bill Stroppe’s ’57 Mercury roadster, famously known as “The Mermaid,” was crafted with one purpose: achieving remarkable speed on the sands of Daytona Beach.

The Mastermind Behind the Machine

From his shop on Temple Avenue in Long Beach, California, Bill Stroppe became the Lincoln-Mercury division’s go-to racing expert throughout the ’50s and ’60s. For the 1957 Daytona Beach NASCAR race, Stroppe prepared four Mercury stock cars, with Fonty Flock securing a third-place finish on the beach/road course for the factory team. However, for the Speed Trials, a straight-line event during Speed Week in February, Stroppe unveiled something truly unique: The Mermaid.

The Birth of the Mermaid

The Mermaid was a topless ’57 Mercury featuring a tiny windscreen and a massive tail fin. Constructed from a production ’57 Monterey convertible, the windshield, frame, and top mechanism were removed to allow Los Angeles Indy car builder Eddie Kuzma to create and install a custom aluminum tonneau cover and vertical stabilizer. This dramatic tail fin is what inspired the car’s name. The unconventional design wasn’t just for show; removing the roof significantly reduced the car’s frontal area, crucial for straight-line speed.

Under the Hood

The Mermaid’s heart was a ’57 Lincoln V8 engine, enlarged from 368 to 387 cubic inches with a .125-inch overbore and Forgedtrue pistons. The engine was a powerhouse, featuring Hilborn constant-flow fuel injection, a Scintilla magneto, a Harmon & Collins roller cam, and custom-made Hedman headers. This robust setup reportedly produced over 400 horsepower on Stroppe’s dynamometer.

Making Waves at Daytona

An experienced Bonneville racer, Art Chrisman, piloted the Mermaid during the Florida runs, achieving a two-way average speed of 154.176 mph. This impressive performance secured second place in the experimental class, just behind Wally Parks’ hemi-powered ’57 Plymouth. In one notable run, the tachometer indicated a speed exceeding 180 mph, but a burst radiator hose ended the Mermaid’s time at Daytona prematurely.

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The End of an Era

Just four months later, in June 1957, Ford Motor Company agreed to the Automobile Manufacturers Association’s total racing ban, temporarily halting Lincoln-Mercury’s motorsports program. Despite this, the Mermaid did race at least one more time, competing against Ferraris and Porsches on the Riverside road course during the 1959 Kiwanis Grand Prix with Stroppe himself at the wheel.

Legacy and Recreation

The original Mermaid was eventually parted out, but its legacy lives on. Royce Brechler built a faithful recreation of the iconic roadster, which can still be seen at vintage car events, reminding enthusiasts of Stroppe’s innovative spirit and the glory days of racing.

The Mermaid remains a testament to Bill Stroppe’s ingenuity and passion for speed, forever etched in the annals of automotive history.

Our mission is to take you on a thrilling ride down memory lane, exploring the history, design, and unforgettable moments that define the golden era of automobiles.

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