This year marks our 45th anniversary. My have we evolved.
For over 20 years, I’ve welcomed visitors from all parts of the globe who come for a personal tour of our operations. It’s fun to meet people who enjoy our products. I love to see their expressions and hear their comments. All leave with a better understanding of what we do here. Visitors are amazed at the hand-craftsmanship and palpable pride that our people put into the products.
Mercury Racing was first established as a division of Mercury Marine in 1973. Known as Mercury Performance Products at the time, it’s sole responsibility was product development and promoting Mercury’s image through racing.
Racing Through the Years
The ’70s was an era of outboard factory racing where Mercury battled Outboard Marine Corporation (parent company of the Johnson and Evinrude brands at the time) for bragging rights across the globe.
“Those were the golden years of tunnel competition,” said Team Mercury driver Bill Seebold. “Back then, winning prestigious events such as the 6-hours of Paris or 3-hours of Amsterdam had a direct impact on European outboard sales!”
The factory race team was the first to run the all-new V6 Mercury outboard that would become known to the world as Black Max. The engine earned its stripes winning races for a good two years prior it’s 1976 public debut. Mercury Racing would produce a number of competition outboards based off the V6 platform.
It was during this time the nomenclature “XS” was used to differentiate 2-stroke high performance Mercury engines from like power recreational models.
The ’80s was the era of Miami Vice and all things offshore. Offshore racing was experiencing an evolution regarding boat size and demand for more power. Engine, sterndrive and propeller development were taking place at a frantic pace.
When I first started with Mercury Racing in the Fall of 1988, the III SSM sterndrive was being revised with more robust components and released as the III-A. Surfacing shaft drives were starting to appear in both U.S. and European venues. Racing’s answer to the surface drives was the IV SSM drive. A shorter vertical driveshaft raised the prop and, with a longer skeg, made a potent surface drive out of sterndrive geometry. The engines of the day were again overpowering the IV SSM drive’s capacity. Internals were improved and, in 1987, the V SSM was introduced.
Kiekhaefer Aeromarine introduced the Kiekhaefer sterndrive in the Fall of 1988. Known today as the M6, the robust drive was the end-all solution at the time in terms of product design and durability. In many applications, it still is. The M8, which is two inches shorter than the M6,was developed to handle the massive torque of our turbocharged QC4 engine platform.
The Roaring ’90s
This was the era of the tech bubble and what a wild ride it was. On July 20, 1990, Brunswick Corporation acquired Kiekhaefer Aeromarine, a high performance marine propulsion and accessories business. The company, established in 1970 by Mercury Marine founder Carl Kiekhaefer, was known for their quality machining and production of high performance marine engines, sterndrives and accessories (trim tabs, trim indicators, control systems, and propellers).
The two companies were merged and Kiekhaefer Aeromarine owner and President Fred Kiekhaefer, son of the late Carl Kiekhaefer, was named president of the new Mercury Racing division. Mercury Racing was established as a business unit of Mercury Marine in 1992. The Kiekhaefer Aeromarine manufacturing plant was expanded in 1993 and all Mercury Racing personnel, production and supporting departments consolidated to the newly expanded Plant 36 facility in 1994.
The establishment of the independent business unit meant the need to change focus to consumer products for revenue generation. A number of memorable products were introduced including the 2.5 EFI Series outboards, Pro Max 300 Outboard, 500 EFI and 900 SC sterndrives. the company name was changed to Mercury Racing in 1999.
The past eighteen years has seen an exponential advancement in engine technology and the success of our company. SmartCraft technology enabled us to greatly improve the idle quality of our legacy big block engines such as the 1075 SCi and 850 SCi sterndrives; introduced in 2004-2005. While these were game changing at the time – the 2010 release of the QC4 1350 sterndrive was revolutionary.
We unveiled the QC4 automotive crate engine at the 2013 SEMA show in Las Vegas. It was a great opportunity to share our revolutionary engine design outside of the marine world and promote Mercury Marine’s rich automotive history. We’ve enjoyed great success over the past five years, culminating with the release of our latest engine, the SB4 and our partnership with our exclusive distributor, Roadster Shop.
The 2015 Miami show was a fun show to be at. This is where we unveiled our two most powerful consumer engines ever; the 1550 Dual Cal sterndrive and 400R outboard. Both were applauded for their power rating and engineering excellence and have since performed above and beyond expectations in the field.
QC4 Family Expansion
The QC4 sterndrive family continues to expand with the 2017 release of the naturally aspirated 860 and the granddaddy of turbo models; the 1750 competition model. The new Dual Calibration QC4 1350-1100 enhances the versatility of the popular QC4 platform by enabling users to switch to the 1100 power mode on 89 octane fuel (Rec 90) when boating in areas where 91 octane fuel is not available.
Our role at Mercury Racing is to maximize engine and boat performance – regardless of the application – race or pleasure. We are constantly looking to enhance the boating experience by offering specific propeller models custom fit for specific applications.
Having grown up on the water in Oshkosh, Performance Propeller Manager Scott Reichow has a personal knowledge of Racing’s heritage. He has also been responsible for the development of a number of propellers designed for niche applications from bass boats, bay boats and multi-species hulls, to offshore center consoles and multi engine catamarans. Scott says it best when he states, “performance isn’t only about being first to the fishing hole or first to the pin. It’s all about enjoying the ride and replicating that positive experience time and again.”
It’s been incredible to experience the past 30 years of Mercury Racing’s colorful history. It was an honor to work with Fred Kiekhaefer, Erik Christiansen and many of the hard-working individuals who have had a hand in making this the world leader in high performance marine propulsion.