Baldwin Mercury Special

Mechanical Notes

Cast iron block with aluminium cylinder heads and intake manifold.

Autobody Notes

Steel & aluminium Body over modified 1946 Mercury frame.

Specific History of This Car

Hot on the heels of the success of his first special, the Baldwin-Payne Special, Willis Baldwin built this race car, which came to be known as the Baldwin Mercury Special, for use in SCCA’s modified classes on the short tracks of America. It competed from 1949 to 1959 and famously 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. The car’s chassis was from a 1946 Mercury that Baldwin shortened by 14 inches, and as with his first special, the front cross member was removed and a tubular crossmember was installed. He set the engine well back from its standard position, helping to distribute the vehicle’s weight more evenly. The suspension was the stock Ford setup, with leaf springs front and rear. The rest of the parts came from the Ford line including a Mercury V8 and Ford steering box.

The engine was custom built by Willis. Starting with a 59A bock, he bored and stroked it to get 284.4 in³. Attached to this were aluminum cylinder heads and an aluminum intake manifold, exhaust headers and a modified camshaft.

It took Willis Baldwin 12 months to build this car and it was raced in Southern California before being sold to S&C Ford and owner Al Schalinger. Under him, it was raced by mechanic Sonny 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 repairing 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.

In 2006 the car was sent to Auto Restorations for a complete restoration.