A history of firsts

It’s easy to look back at 75 years of Mercury Marine history and point to major milestones, such as the first 100hp outboard in 1962, the first V-6 outboard in 1976 and the first fuel- injected supercharged sterndrive to produce more than 1000hp (the HP1075 SCi) in 2004. However, Mercury has made so many significant advances — from the sublime to the simple — that improved the quality of boating, that the world of boating sometimes takes them for granted.

For example, in 1952 Mercury introduced the first splined propeller shaft, eliminating the need for a shear pin. More than 40 years later, to make the world’s best propellers available to all boaters, in 1995 Mercury introduced the first hub kits to make Mercury propellers work on competitors’ engines. One of Mercury’s earliest technological advances came in 1947, when the company introduced the first “full-jeweled power” in an outboard, which meant it was equipped with anti-friction ball, roller and needle bearings in all major bearing locations, improving reliability and efficiency. A year later, Mercury introduced the first in-line four- cylinder two-cycle outboard, the Mercury Thunderbolt, ushering in the modern era of outboards.

Fast forward to1954, when Mercury introduced the Mark 40, the first outboard to produce one horsepower per cubic inch, followed two years later by the 60hp Mark 75, the first six- cylinder outboard and the most powerful at the time. In 1957, Mercury’s jet prop, through the propeller hub underwater exhaust, was introduced to the industry. To reduce emissions and make two-stroke outboards more efficient, Mercury was the first to introduce Direct Fuel Injection in 1996. On the sterndrive side, the twin-prop Bravo Three made its debut in 1992.

In 1994, Mercury introduced the first 3-liter outboard, the 225 Offshore. In 2004, the Mercury Verado became the world’s first supercharged four-stroke I-6 outboard. In 2010, Mercury Racing introduced the most powerful consumer engine in history, the 1350hp, followed by Racing’s QC4v 1650hp in 2013.

For the past 75 years, when people talk about marine industry “firsts,” they are almost assuredly talking about Mercury Marine

Dale Rose (Mercury years: 1979 – present)

After serving in the U.S. Navy, Dale Rose went to work for Kiekhaefer Aeromarine in shipping and receiving. With only about 50 employees at Kiekhaefer, “we all wore a lot of hats,” Rose said.

Sometimes he would finish his shift, and then go bale hay on the Kiekhaefer farm. When working all-nighters, “Mr. Kiekhaefer would come into the plant with buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken — he’d make them open in the middle of the night and would bring it in himself.”

When Rose donated a kidney to his brother and took time off from work to recover, his mother reported that Kiekhaefer wanted to see him immediately. “I thought I was getting fired, but he gave me a personal letter and a watch he had engraved, that I still have on today,” he said. “If you did your job, you didn’t have any problems.” Thirty-five years later, Rose is an analyst at Mercury Racing. “It’s a good place to work,” he said.