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Explore 50 Years of Innovation, Milestones, and people that have helped create Wide Open.


In 1947 a boat powered by the new Kiekhaefer Mercury Lightning outboard won its class in the grueling, 130-mile Albany to New York powerboat marathon. Carl Kiekhaefer quickly realized the marketing potential presented by racing and in 1948 encouraged the American Powerboat Association (APBA) to sanction grass-roots, Stock Utility classes to showcase the speed of Mercury outboards alongside rivals Evinrude and Johnson. Success in competition established the Mercury reputation for high performance. Kiekhefer’s unquenchable desire to dominate his competitors created a culture of winning at Mercury. The race was on.

Vintage Race
Lake Topo Map


In 1957 Carl Kiekhaefer crisscrossed Florida in his plane scouting for a warm-weather location that would offer him absolute privacy for testing new Mercury outboards. A patch of water near St. Cloud called Lake Conlin looked promising. Only a rough dirt trail through a cypress woods infested with snakes and alligators led to the shore of the 1,400-acre lake. There were no buildings on the property, and no utility services were available. It was essentially cut off from civilization. Kiekhaefer thought it was perfect.


To maintain secrecy Kiekhaefer began calling his new “undisclosed location” Lake X. In 1958 Kiekhaefer attempted Operation Atlas, a 34-day endurance trial that would see two boats powered by 70-hp Mercury Mark 75 outboards run non-stop on Lake X for 25,000 miles, equivalent to a circumnavigation of the world. Over the ensuing years development of new Mercury performance and racing engines, hydrodynamic testing, and race-boat rigging was conducted at Lake X. Some of the fastest boats on the water earned a Rigged at Lake X sticker.

Operation Atlas

“The great thing about Lake X was that you could be in and out of the boat house in just a few minutes,” said Fred Kiekhaefer. “We had all the tools and technicians, all the props and gear ratios, spacers to adjust drive height. We did a lot of testing for our OEM boat builders at Lake X. The first V-6 outboards were tested there, the first MerCruiser sterndrives, and all our racing engines.”


For 50 years Mercury Racing has made some of the coolest high performance marine power on Earth. But we didn't get here alone. Thanks to our amazing employees and some of the best customers out there, we continue to celebrate 50 Years of Wide Open!

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A Wide Open Timeline

19 73

The Mercury Marine Hi-Performance Products Department was established in 1973 to provide amateur and professional boat racers with a complete marine racing center.

Explore 1973 +


Mercury Marine Hi-Performance Products Department opens in a leased building at 20 Wisconsin St. in Oshkosh, Wis.


Mercury Hi-Performance offers 2.4-liter V6 competition outboards.


Mercury Hi-Performance moves to 2521 Bowen Street, Oshkosh, Wis.


The 2.4-liter V6 outboard is offered for high-performance pleasure boats, just as the tournament bass boat market begins to grow.


Team drivers Billy Seebold, Reggie Fountain and Earl Bentz, dubbed the Black Angels, had dominated the top levels of national and international tunnel boat competition.

It’s the era of Superboats and Miami Vice as interest in off-shore powerboat racing and the escalating performance of pleasure boats takes off.

Explore 1980 +

19 80


Fred Kiekhaefer becomes president of Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Inc.


A 43-foot Wellcraft Scarab powered by twin MerCruiser Hi-Performance 630hp 8.9-liter Lamborghini V12 engines wins the Budweiser Challenge Cup, a 1,039-mile race up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to St. Louis, with Miami Vice star Don Johnson at the helm.

19 90

Brunswick acquisition of Kiekhaefer Aeromarine results in the integration of two outstanding product lines and the development of more products for high-performance pleasure boating.

Explore 1990 +


Brunswick Corporation acquires Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Inc. and begins the integration of Kiekhaefer Aeromarine operations and products, including the Sterndrive by Kiekhefer, Zero Effort controls, K-Plane trim tabs and propellers, with Mercury Performance Products. Fred Kiekhaefer is named president of the new organization.


Introduction of the MerCruiser Hi-Performance 525SC, the first mass-produced supercharged and warrantied marine engine. By 1992 Hi-Performance would add 600hp and 750hp supercharged engines to the line.


Hi-Performance operations are consolidated in the newly expanded Plant 36 facility, the former Kiekhaefer Aeromarine building located on “The Ledge” overlooking Lake Winnebago.


Mercury Hi-Performance becomes Mercury Racing.

High performance meets low emissions as Mercury Racing squeezes thrilling performance from the latest outboard engine technology.

Explore 2000 +

20 00


Mercury Racing OptiMax 200 XS combines low-emission two-stroke technology with race-proven hardware. It’s the ultimate advancement of the 2.5-liter V6. A 3.2-liter 300hp Mercury Racing OptiMax 300XS would appear in 2006.


New Mercury Racing CNC-machined 5-blade Sterndrive Cleaver propellers offer a new level of precision for the most-demanding racers and performance boaters.


Mercury Racing Verado 350 SCi, the first high-performance four-stroke outboard, features custom cool-air induction, Racing Advanced MidSection, power steering and SmartCraft digital controls. The supercharged 2.6-liter L6 powerhead delivers instant thrust and 350 peak horsepower.

20 10

Mercury Racing offers racers and performance boaters astounding performance aided by advanced technology in a new generation of sterndrive and outboard engines.

Explore 2010 +


Mercury Racing takes sterndrive performance to a new level with the introduction of the Quad Cam Four Valve (QC4) 1350, a 9.0-liter turbocharged V8 designed from the crankshaft up for marine duty by Mercury Racing. The engine is mated to a new robust M8 drive and electro hydraulic transmission.


Mercury Racing Verado 400R sets a new benchmark for four-stroke outboard performance.


Mercury Racing debuts a new generation of high-performance outboards with the reveal of the 250R and 300R models based on a deep-breathing 4.6-liter V8 powerhead with QC4 heads, rugged midsection and gearcase options, power steering and a host of advanced technology.


The supercharged 4.6-liter V8 Mercury Racing 450R model elevates outboard performance to another level. It’s the most powerful consumer outboard ever offered by Mercury Racing.

Mercury Racing returns to its roots with new competition outboard motors designed to offer performance that is both exciting and sustainable.

Explore 2020 +

20 20


Mercury Racing introduces the Apex Series, low-emissions outboards designed for closed-course competition. The Mercury Racing 360 APX is a potent four-stroke V8 designed specifically for boats competing on the UIM F1H2O World Championship.


The new 3.4-liter V6 four-stroke Mercury Racing 200 APX outboard is approved by the American Power Boat Association for the OPC Formula 200 tunnel boat class as an alternative to aging Mercury Racing 200XS OptiMax and older two-stroke V6 outboards.


Mercury Racing joins the E1 World Championship as Official Propulsion and Propeller Partner and begins development of a 150 kW (about 200 hp) electric competition outboard for this new circuit-racing series.

Building the Future

Mercury Racing charges into a Wide Open future, celebrating 50 years of advancing the art and science of performance on the water.

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