Glad people are enjoying this.
Stroppe spent '56 and '57 developing the Mercury M335 dual quad option to qualify for NASCAR. The engine was based on the Lincoln 368 and ~100 examples were built with cars pulled off the line and sent directly to Stroppe's shop in Long Beach, CA. Legend has it he wanted a West Coast racing presence partly resulting from Ford's new East Coast operation that was headed by his ex-employee, John Holman who later formed famed Holman-Moody.
Feature Article from Hemmings Muscle Machines
May, 2010 - David Traver Adolphus and Jeff Koch - Photography by Jeff Koch
It's always been about racing.
From the very earliest days, there have been cars built for the street to justify speed elsewhere, laying a thin skin of usability over an engine and suspension unsuited for everyday use. Homologation was the name of the game, and in the Fifties, that game was mostly about winning on the circle track.
Mercury took a very different approach. Inasmuch as they had a racing program at all, it had been focused on road racing--specifically for La Carrera Panamericana, with cars built by Bill Stroppe's shop in Long Beach, California. Lincoln was seriously involved in La Carrera, so it was a short step for Mercury to get involved. But the division's split from Lincoln in 1955 more or less coincided with the cancellation of the Carrera, leaving Mercury without a performance reputation of any kind, aside from some success in the bare-knuckle, wheel-banging world of economy runs, where, once again, their cars were built by Stroppe.
In those days, the Blue Oval wasn't yet a force to be reckoned with in NASCAR, where GM was consistently cleaning house, with Chrysler coming on hard. Stroppe, with John Holman in his shop, was modestly involved in 1956, but had only minor success with 312-cu.in. Montereys, as raced and famously flipped half-a-dozen times by Russ Truelove at Daytona Beach. Holman left Bill Stroppe's shop to take over Ford's racing program in Charlotte, North Carolina, a program that soon became Holman-Moody and took Ford to Victory Lane about every three days.
We haven't tracked down anyone who worked for Bill 54 years ago, but legend has it he wanted an answer to the new East Coast operation and his ex-employee. His opportunity came in 1957, when Mercury got a version of the Y-block 368, introduced in Lincolns in 1956.
Standard in Turnpike Cruisers and optional in the Monterey, the Y-block 368 was hot enough, a super-torquey 290hp, but without Lincoln's 300hp, fancy pistons and resulting 10.0:1 compression. A bored and stroked version of the 1954 Lincoln 317/341, it had been developed specifically to compete with Chevrolet and Chrysler, and Mercury chose it as its "NASCAR motor" for 1957.
Stroppe, as Mercury's official experimental and racing division, got the job of building both the race cars and the homologation units for retail sale: 100 units by NASCAR regulations. The 368 would be returned to Lincoln-spec 10:1 compression (10.8:1 in racing engines), but with a full race makeover featuring dual four-barrel Holleys and making 335hp, a figure ultimately confirmed on Stroppe's engine dyno.
In 1957, Hot Rod reported that the hi-po engine was destined to be a special order for the Turnpike Cruiser, but that didn't happen. Instead, Mercury pulled Monterey bodies-in-white from the line at Los Angeles Assembly in Pico Rivera and sent them 20 miles south to Stroppe in Long Beach. They were mostly stripper two-door sedans, their best compromise between weight and stiffness--although a handful of other bodies, including a Turnpike Cruiser, have turned up. With enough initiative, you could order the intake and twin Holley setup as a kit over the counter for your base single-four barrel 368, and a few hot rodders did, but Stroppe's shop built the M-335 engine with a high-lift Isky cam (.468-inch, intake and exhaust), mechanical lifters, heavy-duty springs, high-flow exhaust and other tweaks.
More than just the Lincoln engine went in. The front end of the car had a lot of Lincoln (or station wagon), too, and the first-year Ford aluminum bellhousing covered a heavy-duty clutch and 35-pound flywheel. In back, the suspension was truck-derived, and had the first-year 9-inch rear axle. The three-speed was the only transmission available, and it was built for heavy duty in the Stroppe shop.
The result was nasty. At idle, all you hear is a pure muscle-car chug and lope, thanks to the solid-lifter cam clattering away; it's a Sixties sound, not one you'd associate with tailfins. This is a car that means business.
For a big guy like our West Coast editor Jeff Koch, getting in something like our feature car, owned by Joe Ventura of San Diego, California, can be comical. The floor is tall, the roof low and the steering wheel wide. Wedge yourself in there--the seat won't go back far enough for long legs. You do it like a sports car: Sit first, wind your torso in and then swing in the legs.
Once inside, it's bare. No headrests, no mirrors--which you don't necessarily notice at first. Manual everything and an optional AM radio, no delete plate. The wrap-around glass, at least on Joe's car, was surprisingly warp-free, so the view wasn't as fishbowl-nauseating as some other late-Fifties cars. Edsel used the same piece of glass in its big '58s, along with many other 1957 Merc bits, giving a clear picture of the Ford food chain that made an Edsel a three-year-old Lincoln.
The rest of the cabin works well. The wrap-around dash isn't a knee-buster as on some other cars we could name (cough--Impala--cough). The three was only on the tree, as far as we know, and third likes to pop out, on this and other cars, so it's cool to rest your hand on the stick.
Joe completed the three-year restoration on our feature car literally as we arrived to shoot it, at 10 a.m. that day, so it wasn't what you'd call fine-tuned, and something was up with the heavy-duty clutch. It did get lighter as we used it, but takeup was at the top of the pedal, the 1-2 shift was balky (easy to go straight up into reverse--not good) and we could feel the clutch slipping on hard acceleration.
We're not going to judge, because the odometer was at 00005 for our shoot and test drive... and 00016 when we were done. Thanks, Joe! It was just as well, because the skinny 8.00-14 four-plies would light up like a Lucky Strike given half a prod of the throttle and the axle was a peg-leg. Only Lincoln had limited-slip in 1957, but it put up with our low-speed shenanigans.
When we started to get up some speed, second gear seemed too hairy and third was lugging, although the Y-block wasn't too bothered by that. All the more reason to get on it, then. Imagine sitting in what you think is a low-buck commuter... and then you stomp on it. Suddenly, the Jekyll and Hyde routine is on and all the barrels open up. Big, loud and vicious is the name of the game, and that's when we felt the clutch slip, big time.
No one ever tested this baby in the day, but Motor Trend took a 290hp Turnpike Cruiser, 400 pounds heavier, with a Merc-O-Matic, to 60 in 9.8 and the quarter in 17.2 at 80 MPH. With the same slippery, treacherous tires, we wouldn't expect the 0-60 to improve much, but the quarter mile ought to be much better, well into the 16s. Top speed of the Turnpike Cruiser was a listed 110 MPH; NASCAR rigs made about 115 at Darlington and close to 130 at Daytona Beach, which makes us think the street version could do 120 or better, depending on the driver's willpower.
The steering was as heavy as you'd expect in a car this big, but immediate and quicker than the usual manual slop box, and with less on-center goo. Nice. The heavy-duty suspension really pays off in cornering, which is surprisingly flat, but again, there were those tires, giving up lots of twist and yaw and wobble. This is not a wussy car, in any way. The station wagon 3-inch brakes worked well in our admittedly low-speed stops. Really, it all came down to the tires. We have no problem with them as part of the experience, but this was a lot of car on a little rubber, and, slow as it was, you can see how the horsepower race spurred tire development.
Back in the day, they had problems racing it, too. Stroppe campaigned two Montereys in NASCAR in the East, Tim Flock's #15 and Billy Myers's #14. Flock was in and out of the hunt, and even won the Convertible Series race, the car modified for a bolt-on roof, at Daytona Beach on February 16, 1957, with Myers in third. Flock also took second at the Rebel 300 at Darlington in May. But other than that, the long-distance program didn't have much success.
They did better on the West Coast, closer to home for Stroppe, who was part of the on-track team. Jimmy Mantz, Marshall Teague and "Thin Man" Sam Hanks all carried the Mercury flag, and it was back-and-forth, hot and heavy with the Pete DePaolo-led Fords that spring. Hanks won the (counterclockwise) 100-mile road race at the USAAC Championship at Pomona in late February, the first victory for the '57. With Jimmy Bryan in the #4 car, '57 Mercurys had four out of the top five starting spots at that race. It didn't take long for the blown DePaolo cars to come back, though, Troy Ruttman's car winning over Teague, Hanks and Mantz at Fresno on March 10. And that was the news: supercharged Thunderbirds. Who cared about Y-block Mercs?
"Everybody long 'bout those years was looking for big cubic inches," said Pete Taylor, who built a couple of Mercury 368s for Holman-Moody in 1957. Installed in Thunderbirds, Holman-Moody, in an ironic turn, had borrowed those cars from Pete DePaolo. "It was a cubic-inch war 'round about then," said Pete, who said the Mercury engines were strong, but heavy--they ran them in the 12-hour Elkhart Lake race with no problems. "A lot of iron there, but it put out pretty good horsepower. But the 312 Ford would outrun it, especially with a blower on it." And the supercharged Thunderbird engine certainly grabbed the headlines. "There wasn't but two cars on the East Coast that was Mercurys," said Pete, "and they wasn't written about too much... It's just a heavy, mishandling car. It didn't work out that well."
Hmm. Big cubic inches. Race engine. Not too good in the curves. Why, that sounds like a muscle car to us. Pete also tells us that race teams, at least, could buy them over the counter from Ford. "We got a whole, complete engine from Ford, including the dual quads," also including the Isky cam Stroppe used, he said. "We took it apart and blueprinted it."
A photo from Hot Rod showed a room full of race 368s being prepared in Stroppe's shop in 1957. Not that we see the M-335 being faked, but it's good to know they were out there. Joe mentions that Stroppe-built street engines have a number stamped on the front of the intake manifold; his is #33 in the production run, and he knows the unstamped over-the-counter-strength versions are out there.
Mercury's, and Stroppe's, time came when the race ban was lifted about five years later, and they ruled the 1963 season with the S55 Marauder. The lessons Stroppe had learned with the M-335 program undoubtedly contributed to that success. So maybe the Monterey wasn't much of a force on track, or even within the Ford universe, after the Thunderbirds came on. So what? We know which one we'd rather have today. It was the most powerful engine ever put in a Mercury up to that point, and oh man, is it one evil machine.Some pics from Hemmings of Stroppe's customized engine with M335 valve covers, dual quad intake, etc.
According to Holley's archives, the carbs were developed for the Mercury Trackmaster program and are proprietary Ford. In case you're looking at the swap meet, the correct numbers are ECU H / List 1545, with metering blocks 1889 / 1892. I have not been able to find these numbers published anywhere, and Holley was tight-lipped about what they could divulge. A set of correct carbs, air cleaners, and dual quad intake sold on ebay for over $6k a couple years ago. That did not include the valve covers.Stroppe's Shop
Here's some photos of Stroppe's shop where the M335s were being built. Mercury turnpike cruiser engines in the foreground, looks like a Lincoln engine with large air cleaner in the background and a M335 dual quad engine beyond that.
Recently came across this vintage blower air box and wondering if anyone has any info on it. Is marked Lincoln 368 and is for a supercharged dual quad setup. According to the seller, it was off a 1956 Lincoln race car and had a top cover with a Lincoln emblem on it, Spaulding and Stroppe decals. Any info appreciated: email@example.com
Seller's description:VINTAGE EARLY LINCOLN V8 SUPERCHAGER CARB BOX. FOR 2X4 314,368, HAND MADE FROM STEEL, CAME IN THREE PIECES, MISSING TOP. AS I REMEMBER IT WAS FLAT AND HAD LONG BOLTS THAT WENT THROUGH THE TOP AND INTO THE THREADED BASE, IT HAD A LINCOLN EMBLEM ON IT AND COOL SPAULDING AND STROPPE DECALS.
I HAVE HAD THIS FOR ALMOST 30 YEARS. CAME OFF A 1956 LINCOLN RACE CAR, WAS SUPPOSE TO HAVE COME FROM A CARRERA PANAMERICANA RACER. I REMEMBER THE CAR WHEN I WAS YOUNG BUT THOUGHT IT LOOKED LIKE A STOCK -CAR. I DON'T KNOW WERE THE TOP WENT BUT I DID HAVE THE MCCULLOCH SUPERCHARGER AND PULLEYS BUT SOLD THEM AT A SWAP MEET. IT LOOKS LIKE IT WAS CHROME AT ONE TIME BUT IS RUST NOW, STILL A VERY COOL EARLY PART.