Marauder, Cyclone, Caliente. They might be names you know, but are you aware of the M-260, the M-335 and the M-400?
Probably not, but you should be. Mercury’s performance program started back in 1956 when the Y-Block V-8 was still in its infancy, but stock car racing was hot and heavy. While I won’t focus on it here, that was the first year Mercury offered a hotter than hot option for those wanting to go get ’em in USAC and NASCAR. Called the “Mercury M-260 Optional OHV V-8”.
Here’s the specs: Cast iron block. Displacement: 312 CID. Bore and stroke: 3.80" x 3.44". Compression ratio: 10.00:1. Horsepower: 260 @ 5000 RPM. Torque: 345 @ 2800 RPM. Carburetors: Two Holley 4000 four-barrels.
The M-260 was competitive, but that was in the lighter Ford/Mercury chassis used from 52–56. The boys at FoMoCo’s second level knew that the ’57 and ’58 chassis were now going to be based on the Lincoln line, so more get up and go was going to be needed.
What was the answer? Well, now that they were Lincoln-based, they had access to the Lincoln V-8. Before you go, “oh, that’s great use a luxo-barge V-8 in competition” we should remember that the Lincoln mill powered Lincolns to 3 consecutive Pan American Road race wins — and each time placing at least two cars in the top three!
Best, the Lincoln mill was out to its highest displacement at 368 CID and its cylinder heads had been revised with high-flow ports and 2.00 Intakes and 1.64" exhaust valves. While they were pushing around some pretty heavy iron, they could roll!
Mercury also had the advantage of the shops in California that had prepped those ’52 — ’54 Lincolns, so it didn’t take a rocket scientist to see where they needed to go to get some serious HP from the Lincoln mill if they wanted to use it in competition.
Thus, the M-335 was born. Bill Stroppe of later Baja 1000 fame was given the task of making the 368 into a race engine. Stroppe, as Mercury’s official racing division, got the job of building both the race cars and the units for retail sale (50 customer units according…