Sixty years ago this month, one of automotive history’s most radical looking factory experimental vehicles appeared on the cover of Hot Rod magazine. Looking as though the entire top had been shorn off save a single, shark-like fin directly behind the driver, the “Mermaid Merc” was unlike anything else ever conceived or designed up to that point. Built specifically for the 1957 Daytona Speed Trials by Bill Stroppe and other Mercury crew/team members, the Mermaid was created for one reason—speed.
It started out as a standard 1951 Mercury Coupe. And then Sam and George Barris got their hands on it. Here’s a look at the “the most famous custom of the classic era,” a one-of-a-kind original that set a new standard for style and attitude in the custom car building scene.