In Part 1, Rick explored “odd power” for the good guys of our military. Here, I’ll share some odd power experiments for peace-time fish hunters.
377 Super Scorpion. A unique boat featured on the water at Mercury’s 2001 Orlando dealer meeting was a Super Scorpion 377 bass boat. The joint project between Mercury Racing and Chub Bryant, owner of Stroker Boats, was intended to show the world an alternative to outboards for bass boats. It was a great way to showcase our compact, stroked, 377 horsepower, 6.2 liter ski engine and promote the Super Scorpion 377 small block sterndrive. The performance was very good in the Stroker bass boat. However, we just couldn’t change the minds of the “clamp-on” outboard motor fishermen. And that’s ok. Mercury has plenty of options for them (see the blog, Application Dependant - Part 1).
The engine had a successful run, but not in bass boats. It proved to be potent power in smaller single and twin engine offshore sport boats. (I ran one for a season in a Baja H2X and had a blast!) Unfortunately, the more exotic and expensive small block never could compete with the better value of a basic big block in this price sensitive sport boat market. The 377 Super Scorpion morphed, through cost (and power) reduction, into the successful 320 hp merCruiser 377 Mag.
Deuce High. Digging through my archives for Rick’s turbine outboard article, I came across another off-the-wall product: Mercury Racing’s ProMax Deuce High. This one was a full-out engineering project. It was a combination of our fuel injected 2.5 Liter ProMax EFI powerhead and an advanced propulsion system. The mid section and gearcase were designed from a potpourri of sterndrive and outboard hydrodynamic engineering concepts and a very clever prop clutching device.
The most unique of its design innovations was its 2-speed automatic gearcase. The engine drove two, counter rotating props on the same axis — like the merCruiser Bravo Three. Unlike the Bravo Three, the props were sequentially shifting: On initial acceleration, one prop would free-wheel while the other spooled up quickly. A computer controlled, hydraulic clutch system automatically engaged the second prop when the engine reached a preset torque. This enhanced hole shot, big-time!
Water pickups were built into a removable skeg. (Lots of debate with my boss about the wisdom and cost of the stainless steel “girdle” skeg. I lost.) The fully surfacing gearcase was designed to run with the full torpedo above the water. The water running beneath the propeller hubs and torpedo improved propeller efficiency and eliminated torpedo drag.
The counter-rotating, fully surfacing props delivered unsurpassed boat speed and very good fuel efficiency; It also improved handling and stability because steering loads were neutrally balanced at all planing speeds. The boat was amazing crossing wakes or waves at odd angles – it just tracked like an arrow! Much easier to drive than a typical high performance bass boat.
Unfortunately, it couldn’t be sold at the price of an arrow – more like a cruise missile. The expensive hardware (two exotic stainless steel props, the stainless steel girdle/water pickup and the prop shaft/clutch mechanism) cost too much for the bass market. Deuce High saw one boat show, but not production. Not enough fish hunters would pay the steep premium for its performance. But doggone it, that Deuce High wild card flew! (If I can find it around here someplace, maybe I’ll put it on a boat and surprise some unsuspecting fisherman.)
These two products taught me two important business lessons: 1) If one leads too fast (even a good application like 377 can be too far ahead for its time), your customers can’t or won’t keep up – and we fail; 2) If a great idea (Deuce High) can’t be produced at a price the consumer views as a value, they won’t buy – and we fail. These days, we listen more before we spend to develop new products – and (so far) we’ve succeeded.