1949 Baldwin-Mercury Special

1949 Baldwin-Mercury Special

1949 Baldwin-Mercury Special

Following the Baldwin-Payne Special, Willis Baldwin built this race car for use in SCCA’s modified classes on the short tracks of America. It competed from 1949 to 1959 and made it on the cover of Road & Track in May 1950.

For his second Special, Willis Baldwin used a conglomeration of Ford and Mercury parts in a competitive way. It later motivated many more people to create and race unique american specials, including Ferraris, Jaguars and Maseratis with V8 engines.

Starting from a 1946 Ford Frame, Baldwin removed the cross members and redesigned the chassis to be 14 inches shorter. He set the engine far back from its standard position, but kept the stock rigid suspension. The rest of the parts came from the Ford line including Mercury clutch, Mercury V8 and Ford steering rack.¹

The engine was custom built by Willis. Starting with a 59A bock, he bored and stroked the cylinders to get 284.4 in³. Attached to this were aluminum cylinder heads and an aluminum intake manifold. Furthermore Baldwin-designed twin-spark ignition and exhaust manifold were fitted.¹

It took Willis Baldwin 12 months to build this car. It was raced in Southern California before being sold to S&C Ford and owner Al Schalinger. Under him, it was raced by mechanic Sony Kennyon with great success until 1959. After an unfortunate accident due to rear axle failure, the Baldwin-Payne Special was nearly destroyed on New Year’s Day in 1960. Despite rolling several times both Sonny and the car were saved, but the hulk wasn’t resurrected until 1990.

Irv Dickson in Calfornia undertook the massive task of restoring the car with help from Sonny himself. Since then, the enthusiastic owner has continued to race the Baldwin-Payne Special. It made appearances at the 2003 Pebble Beach Concours and various Monterey Historic Races.

Sources & Further Reading

1.Pace, Harold. Vintage American Road Racing Cars. Motorbooks: 2004.

1949 Baldwin-Mercury Special Gallery

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In Detail

typeRacing Car
built atSanta Barbara, California, USA
engineersWillis Baldwin
engine1946 Mercury V8 w/Edelbrock Cylinder Heads
positionFront Longitudinal
block materialCast Iron w/Aluminum Cylinder Heads
valvetrainTripple Stomberg 95 Carburetors
displacement4660 cc / 284.4 in³
bore84.1 mm / 3.312 in
stroke104.8 mm / 4.125 in
power134.2 kw / 180 bhp @ 4000 rpm
specific output38.63 bhp per litre
bhp/weight220.32 bhp per tonne
body / frameSteel & Aluminum Body over Modified 1946 Mercury Frame
driven wheelsRWD w/1948 Ford Differential
front tires6.00-16
rear tires6.50-16
front brakesDrums
rear brakesDrums
f suspensionRigid Axle
r suspensionLive Axle
curb weight817 kg / 1800 lbs
wheelbase2540.0 mm / 100 in
transmission1939 Ford 3-Speed
top speed~209.17 kph / 130 mph