Communicating the technology within. Some technology is simply beautiful on its face. The induction and air balance system of the QC4v platform required only minor refinement to “style” it. It’s just cool – like the 1970s Kiekhaefer fuel injection trumpets from my dad’s “Champion Maker” Class 1 offshore race engines. With QC4v, some minor shaping and angularity masked the required hoses and clamps, but the inlet runners whisper, “You know why we’re here.” Big air!
Cast exhaust manifolds, in a world previously occupied by gleaming polished stainless, was a bigger challenge. We opted to communicate the pulse tuning of the exhaust system through subtle relief in the casting surfaces – indicating the pairing of ports and the side-to-side differences. This also helped function: maintaining a high scrubbing speed of the manifold cooling water.
The injection fuel rail is an example of easy: simple and elegant. Just minor faceting and satin finish – to gleam and highlight its role and place.
Very little can be done to improve the looks of a turbo. They just have to work. Turbo “hot section” housings and exhaust waste gates were most difficult. Here, function ruled. Their job is to pull waste heat from the engine’s exhaust and use it to compress inlet air for a more dense and explosive mix in the combustion chamber – yet they’re water jacketed to remain cool in the engine bay! Hot and nasty work with a lot of stresses. This part of the design was all about structure and robustness.
“Cam circles” on the front engine housing are the only truly superfluous design elements on the QC4v engine. They were inspired by the functional cam covers of 1950s vintage race cars; however, they exist to tell the world, at a glance, “Four cams! This ain’t your daddy’s big block.” Just like the “M” on each piece says, “Mercury.” And it’s free, once designed into the tooling, so why not? Kind of cool, too, the way light dances on those surfaces.
Design DNA. Continuity provides comfort, especially when your past was rich with innovation and a passion for excellence. So DNA is good. The Porsche 911 is probably the best example of design DNA. You can still see the profile of the 1960s in the latest “991” incarnation coming next year. You know at a glance, Porsche. The good thing about the DNA metaphor is we’re allowed to evolve in a new direction. Also, since we supply propulsion and it’s inside the boat, change isn’t quite as obvious. Nevertheless, the QC4v platform defines our future product design DNA. From the past, we employ a front cover reminiscent of classic Mercury outboards. On the air inlet boxes, I mimicked the duct detail from the 300 ProMax “Alien” cowl.
Movement. The top cover exists to protect the electronic engine control unit (ECU) and electrical connections from accidental damage (and provides locations for diagnostic instructions underneath and product labeling on top). Its gracefully tapered wedge shape and accent “bump-outs” hint of speed while providing clearance for the ECU, wiring and connectors. Exhaust manifolds, too, are canted to suggest forward movement. The manifold edges are softer due to internal flow dictates and limitations of casting technology.
Negligee. I had a lot of fun designing the air intake boxes. It was damned near impossible to assemble and fit in the available space between the turbo compressors and the Inlet manifold. I started with an integral intake and coil cover. The intakes were pathways for air to the compressors; the coil covers were non-functional, cosmetic design DNA to valve covers of old. But I couldn’t get it assembled nor secured. Lots of iterations with soft foam shapes. No go.
Plus, I wanted to “show some cleavage” – the inlet runner tubes look so good when you can just peak behind the air boxes! Finally, I hit upon the idea of securing them to the top tubes – floating above the coils, rather than covering them. Also, shaping them, like a plunging neck-line, to reveal some of the runner tubes. Voila, negligee! Racing’s Engineering Director, Erik Christiansen drew the line when I wanted to back light the intercooler behind the runners with cool LEDs. Some engineers are such purists.