Virtual Tour – Part 6: Propellers

A technician puts finishing touches on a 5-blade CNC Cleaver sterndrive propeller.
Checking blade thickness on a classic 3-blade outboard cleaver.

Continuing from Virtual Tour Part 5: Sterndrives, Transoms & Accessories…we will visit the Mercury Racing Propeller Department’s finishing area.

People are fascinated with propellers. The response to Scott Reichow’s Prop School blog series proves people are craving to learn more. Our visitors are a bit surprised when they enter Racing’s propeller finishing area. I think they are expecting to see a number of robotic machines pumping out finished propellers. Nope. What they do see is highly skilled craftsmen creating precision tuned works of art. Each puts their finishing touch on every propeller Racing makes – including our CNC machined Sterndrive Cleavers.

Lab Finished props gave Team Mercury a competitive edge in the outboard factory war days of tunnel boat competition.
Have props, will travel. A classic photo of Mercury’s mobile prop lab during the golden era of outboard factory tunnel boat racing.

The trademark, “Lab Finished,” was created by Mercury Racing back in 1970s – when factory outboard racing required a dedicated Engineering Lab to create specialized props. We have proven through the years that hand-working a prop enhances performance. This is particularly true for props run at elevated transom heights (surface piercing) and higher RPMs where impact-induced vibrations and other nuances are amplified.

Only a small percentage of our propeller line is designed specifically for racing. Our most popular propeller is mostly used for recreation: the Bravo I. We first enhanced performance of this MerCruiser sterndrive propeller by lab finishing them for racing. Read more

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Virtual Tour – Part 5: Sterndrives, Transoms & Accessories

Continuing from Virtual Tour – Part 4: Horsepower Highway…we will follow the assembly of Mercury Racing sterndrives, transoms and accessories.

Sterndrives

Mike Riedi inserts the drive shaft on a Bravo One XR Sport Master gearcase.
Mike lowers the Bravo One XR upper housing on the Sport Master gearcase.

Mercury Racing offers a variety of sterndrives fit for virtually any application. Bravo One XRs are enhancements of existing designs while NXT1, NXT6 and M8 drives were designed and developed in-house for Mercury Racing sterndrive packages. The Bravo One XR is a beefed up version of MerCruiser’s Bravo One drive. It was developed to withstand the rigors of offshore racing and performance boating. Our Bravo One XR Sport Master drive targets surface piercing applications. Bravo One XR and Bravo One XR Sport Masters are popular options for boats fitted with 525 EFI, 565 and 600 SCi engine packages. Mike Riedi, who has over 30 years experience building high performance outboard gearcases, also builds Bravo Sport Masters.

Transoms

Joe Backhaus building a M series transom plate.
Dave Vehrs preparing a NXT6 drive for the installation of the dry-sump oil pump.

Joe Backhaus builds Integrated Transom Systems (ITS) for Bravo One XR and Bravo Three XR drives. He also assembles M-Series transoms used with Mercury Racing  NXT1, NXT6 and M8 drives.

Next door to Joe, Dave Vehrs (when not man-handling our 18-wheel Marketing big rig in the Arizona Desert or Florida Keys) builds the drives to go with Joe’s transoms.

When I first started working here, I attended outboard and sterndrive service schools. Drive building was the sterndrive school’s main focus. A beginner quickly learns the challenge of building a drive – over and over – to get the shimming right for correct gear tolerances. It was with this experience that I gained an appreciation for what Mike and Dave do every day. I’m still a rookie; these fellas are top-shelf pros. Read more

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Virtual Tour – Part 4: Horsepower Highway

Continuing from Virtual Tour – Part 3: Outboard Production…we will follow the assembly of Mercury Racing big blocks – those based on GM’s 502 c.i. platform.

Horsepower Highway

Jon VanDenBogart prepares to install a crankshaft in a CNC machined 502 cu.in. cylinder block.
Pre-assembled pistons and connecting rods are matched to a designated cylinder block to ensure proper fit and function.

“Horsepower Highway” is where our 525 EFI, 565, 600 SCi , 662 SCi and 700 SCi sterndrive engine family is built. One technician hand builds each engine from a bare cylinder block to a “long block” (with all the rotating and reciprocating bits fitted inside). Sub-assembly work prior to an engine build includes the rotating assembly: balancing a crankshaft,  matching it with a camshaft, pistons, rings, and connecting rods for later fitment into the block.

Horsepower Highway was conceived, engineered and built in-house. It features a unique rail system and assembly fixtures used to transport cylinder blocks along the line. At each station, all the required tools and components are located for assembly. Each technician controls the speed of his build, moving the block along at their own pace. If something doesn’t look right, it is his discretion to stop right then and there. The build begins with installation of a camshaft. Next is the installation of a crankshaft, timing chain and matched piston and connecting rod sets. The bottom end is sealed with the installation of the oil pan.

The engine is rotated on its assembly fixture to enable work on the top end: The cylinder heads are installed; then push rods and rocker arms. Temporary valve covers mask the valve train prior to paint. An intake is the last component installed before the long bock goes to our paint line. Upon return from paint, it goes back on The Highway for installation of a bell housing.  Color matched valve covers replace the temporaries to complete valve train assembly. Transmissions for NXT1 or NXT6 drive models are installed at this point as well.

Jon rolls a 700 SCi long block along Horsepower Highway.
It’s not everyday one sees a Nanna Yeller 565 rolling along The Highway. Mike Rebedew puts finishing touches on the 8.7 Liter long block.

Long blocks for various engine models look similar. One noticeable difference is the intake (long blocks with naturally aspirated intakes are destined to become 525 EFIs or 565s; those with pressure charged intakes will become 600/662 or 700 SCi’s). Custom color long blocks stand out, too. The “dress line” is where an engine get its true personality. Read more

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