The more we share (lean on) automotive technology and production volume, the more affordable our products can be. The marine industry is tiny compared to the car and truck world. The high performance market is even smaller. To put it in perspective, GM supplies almost the entire marine industry for a year – performance and mainstream – in one day’s engine production. We cannot (and need not) replicate millions of hours they’ve spent on R&D and manufacturing engineering. We pay for it, a little at a time, in the price we pay for components we buy.
General Motors’ big block V8 has served us well – with a relatively low cost platform and many performance parts. The big block is the backbone of Mercury Racing’s sterndrive products (and most competitors, too). The geometry is simple. The mechanism has endured and evolved for 60 years!
Through time, we’ve replaced carburetors with EFI; distributors with computers. We’ve improved valve materials, rockers, and more. We’ve fitted blowers, and then screw compressors, all in pursuit of power. We’ve added aluminum heads – ported to improve flow and power. We’ve fitted closed cooling to better control temperature, reduce corrosion and increase power. Many of these improvements followed the automotive industry’s embrace of technology – though it was a reluctant, “hug your sister” style embrace imposed by government emissions and fuel economy regulations. The autos’ embrace brought technology costs within reach of our humble little industry.
However, the auto industry is driven to lighter cars (fuel economy and emissions) and is moving to smaller displacement engines. Good bye 8.1 liter and hello, 6.2. Conversely, the offshore performance market is driven to larger displacement and bigger power in order to overcome water drag and fulfill consumer desire for fast boats with ever more comfort and reliability.
This divergence keeps me awake at night: How long will big blocks be available? Fortunately, GM and others have assured continuing availability of 8.2 liter and 9.1 liter blocks. Mercury Racing builds these into consumer and racing engines from 525 to 1,200 horsepower. In November, Racing will also begin building 8.2 long blocks for the standard MerCruiser product.
The divergence also spawned Racing’s quad cam, four valve (QC4v) 1350 sterndrive. For power, the GM based big block has been wrung out. While there is more power to be had, reliability goes straight to pieces. There is no automotive incentive to go bigger; just the opposite. So, we persuaded our parent, Brunswick, to fund our ingenuity (during a recession, too)!
Thankfully, we have our big 1350 powerhouse now. While there are no GM parts inside, we’ve benefited from automotive experience: QC4v is our adaptation and scaling up of auto racing technology – tailored by marine experience, insight and invention. And few compromises.