Famous Mercurys on Highway, Dragstrip and Oval

Greg Zyla
Q: Greg, there won't be any more Mercury cars after the 2011 models, so which year do you feel was most important to Mercury as a car brand on the dealer showroom, on the drag strip and on the racing ovals? Bob L., Owego.

A: Bob, wow---now that's a question! I would have to say that the year 1949 and 1950 were pivotal for Mercury as a road car, as Ford introduced its all new post war models to a waiting public ready to buy.

And buy the '49 and '50 Mercury they did, to the tune of 203,339 in '49 and then 334,081 in '50, the latter better than Dodge's 332,782. When you consider that Mercury only sold 70,198 in its 1939 debut to Dodge's 186,474, the numbers speak for themselves.

On the drag strip, 1966 was the year of the Mercury, as four teams received factory Comets including "Dyno" Don Nicholson, Kenz & Leslie, Eddie Schartman and Jack Chrisman. These teams were the first to received the first ever "flip top" fiberglass body funny cars, compliments of Mercury. The injected on nitro cars dominated the racing action and I was fortunate to see all of them run in person that first year.

On the ovals, the Mercury Cyclone and Montego models from the late 1960s through the decade of the 1970s comes close, but for me it's the 1964 Mercury Marauder of Bill Stroppe that left a lasting image. Debuting in 1963, Mercury used the Marauder designate for the first time for one of its cars instead of an engine. The '64 Marauder won on road courses and ovals, chalking up five NASCAR and seven USAC wins. The Bill Stroppe Mercury race cars were the hot setup, and were finished in a red, white and blue paint scheme.

Granted, the Cyclones and Montegos won way more oval races, but I'll take that '64 Marauder. Drivers included Parnelli Jones, who won the USAC Championship, and Darel Dieringer, who won for Stroppe on the NASCAR trail.

Thanks for the question.
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