For decades when Mercury needed to test a new motor or a racing team had a place to dial-in a new hull, there was only one place to go, Lake X. Known to tunnel-boat and offshore racing teams as “The Lake,” the secret test facility was a one-stop shop with the most knowledgeable crew for stern drives and outboards and a full collection of equipment. In 2018, Mercury announced that it has agreed to return to the central Florida property, leasing the facility.
“Mercury Marine is closing in on its 80 anniversary (in 2019) and we have a rich heritage that is unmatched in the marine industry,” said Michelle Dauchy, Mercury Marine chief marketing officer, in a statement. “Returning to Lake X is an opportunity to build an immersive brand experience around that heritage and capitalize on the popularity of the Mercury brand. We have been able to host customer and media events as well as take advantage of the lake to test product.”
Lake X was originally built in 1957 by Mercury founder Carl Kiekhaefer and was later sold to the Kirchman Foundation, which still owns the property today. It has 12,000 acres of land and 1,440 acres of water. Based in St. Cloud, Fla., Lake X is roughly three miles long, one-mile wide and nearly six miles in circumference. The facility was used for performance tests of Mercury-powered boats, research and design, product testing and endurance validation. Mercury left Lake X after choosing not to renew its lease in 2004.
The most famous event that took place in 1957 at Lake X was a 50,000-mile endurance run that featured two boats running continuously on a closed 5.8-mile course, 24 hours per day, until the boats completed the distance. They even had re-fueling boats that would pull up alongside to top off the tanks while the test boats were running.
“We hear stories all the time about folks who worked for Mr. Kiekhaefer and their wonderful experiences at Lake X,” said Dauchy. “We want to create new memories and build on our heritage of performance, reliability and to merge together our new Go Boldly brand cache with almost 80 years of history.”