The story of Mercury Marine is largely dominated by the larger than life man who founded the company, Carl Kiekhaefer. Known for being one of the most powerful early forces in NASCAR racing, his understanding of speed to sales translated to the water as well. By the time the late 1950s rolled around, it had been more than 20 years since America had the speed record for an outboard powered boat. While ol’ Karl was not necessarily angling for it actively, a couple of guys in the western part of the United States were convinced they had the people together to do the job but they needed the engine.
The plan started to come together in 1957, a year after the chief engineer of Mercury Marine was tinkering with a high performance engine project in secret. Why in secret? Kiekhaefer wanted Charlie Strang concentrated on NASCAR development and NASCAR development only. Thankfully, boys will be boys.
Strang was contacted by Jack Leek and Hugh Entrop of Washington State who told Strang that they had the craft but they needed this hot rod engine he had developed to get the job done and get the outboard record back to America. Strang sold the idea to his boss and took a stock Mercury Marine 60hp Mk 75 engine, tuned on it to run methanol and ended up with a 75hp piece. 75hp claimed anyway.
The other guys that need credit here are Ted Jones that built the boat and Don Henrich who designed the propellor. Those guys allowed a group of people with about half the horsepower of European rivals (and even domestic ones) to succeed. Making nearly 70 runs over 100mph the guys hit pay dirt in late 1958 with speeds of over 109. Their two way average took the record back to America and stupefied the largest competitor of Mercury Marine, OMC (outboard motor company owners of brands like Johnson and Evinrude).
This video is great because it tells the story, even the delays that basically cost Entrop and Leek their normal jobs! This is a killer story and the boat that Entrop skips across the water at nearly 110mph is so small, so on the edge, and so near crashing, it is amazing to cringe at even today. Yeah, that is him kind of kneeling on for dear life.