New England Motor Sports Museum



This is the only New England car to compete in the Daytona Beach/Road course Grand National races which were run until 1958 that survives.

The car is a 1956 Mercury and is the real thing, not a “replica” or “tribute” car. Before Daytona Truelove raced locally at Bridgeport, CT’s ¼-mile oval that was built inside a baseball park. In 1953 he flat-towed a modified-sportsman car to Daytona and finished 60th of 130 coupes and sedans that ran.

Then in 1955 he drove his family sedan, a ’55 Ford, to finish 27th in a Daytona Grand National race. The car had a single roll-over bar behind the driver. As time for the 1956 Grand National race in Daytona neared, NASCAR official Bob Sall told him of a deal where he could get a new Mercury for $2,500, payable on time. Terms of the deal required insurance. He told the insurance agent it would be a family car. Truelove’s mechanic added a roll bar, removed the rear seat, had the car lettered and Russ drove it to Daytona.

There Truelove connected with John Holman and Bill Stroppe who were running a factory effort. Holman gave him a 260 HP engine kit and Truelove purchased a set of Firestone tires. The combination was potent and Truelove qualified 5th at 128 MPH in his flying mile time trial. During the race he decided to pass Jim Reed on the inside as they neared the North Turn. The car got into soft sand and began a wild series of barrel rolls. He remembered that “….my bell had been rung pretty well,” so off he went to spend the night in the hospital.

The car was badly damaged and couldn’t be driven home. Finding a way to get it back to Connecticut required some creative thinking. Truelove connected with George Clark who was taking four repossessed cars to Connecticut on a trailer. Clark agreed to take Russ’s wrecked Mercury and Buddy Krebs’ car which had also been wrecked in the race. Truelove and Krebs drove repo cars home while the trailer journeyed north carrying the wrecks to Connecticut.

Pictures of the accident were flown to New York in the hands of the pilot of a commercial flight. There, they were turned over to Life Magazine which ran the sequence as a spread in the March 19, 1956 issue of the magazine. Ironically, the car had been numbered 226 and the crash happened in the second month on the 26th day. Mercury executives in Daytona offered Russ a new body if he would continue to race the car, an offer Russ accepted. The bent frame was straightened at a local auto body shop.

When repairs were completed, Russ flat towed the car to Langhorne, PA, the Syracuse mile where he earned $250 for finishing 10th, Old Bridge, NJ and the Elkhart Lake road course. But Russ wanted to return to Daytona so he hit Bill France up for some financial help. France gave Russ $125, enough that Russ made the trip with the car flat towed behind a 1949 Lincoln. 57 cars ran time trials for the 160 mile Grand National race in which he blew the engine. While he was in Florida, the dealership he worked for was closed by the bank so he returned with no money, no car and no job. His autobiography is titled, “I’ll think of Something.” He joined Sikorsky aircraft and quit racing.

Russ maintained ownership of the car until his death at age 93. It has become the property of the NASCAR Hall of Fame who has loaned the car to the New England Racing Museum for one year.