Go-Fast Blast from the Past: The Road to Lake X

Lake X provided the perfect location for Mercury to test its outboards and other projects.

Go-Fast Blast from the Past: The Road to Lake X
Go-Fast Blast from the Past: The Road to Lake XMercury Marine

Mercury Marine President Carl Kiekhaefer had just taken control of the Lake X property and, with a cigar clamped firmly in his teeth, used a bulldozer to scrape a road down to the lakeshore and make a clearing.

It was Kiekhaefer who came up with the name Lake X. The creator of the Mercury outboard was so obsessed with secrecy that he once denied a request from a troop of Boy Scouts to tour his plant in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, because a spy from hated rival Outboard Marine Corporation might have been lurking in their ranks. In 1957, Kiekhaefer crisscrossed Florida in his company plane, scouting for a warm-weather location that would offer him absolute privacy for testing new outboards and other confidential projects. A patch of water near St. Cloud called Lake Conlin looked promising. Only a rough dirt trail through a cypress woods infested with large snakes and alligators led to the shore of the 1,400-acre lake, which was surrounded by about 17 square miles of private property controlled by a single owner. There were no buildings on the property, and no utility services were available. It was essentially cut off from civilization. Kiekhaefer thought it was perfect.