How One Owner Achieved 550 Hours with his Mercury Racing QC4 1350s
Acceleration never gets old, and nothing beats the heart-pounding rush of dropping the throttles to unleash the torque generated by a pair of Mercury Racing QC4 sterndrive engines. It could be the ultimate performance-boating thrill.
Dave “Magoo” Megugorac is a performance boat owner addicted to the QC4 drug. Magoo, as he’s known to his friends, prowls Lake Havasu and Lake Powell in a DCB M35 powered by a pair of Mercury Racing QC4 1350 engines, and in his new rig, a DCB M44 with a pair of Mercury Racing Dual Cal 1350/1550 engines below the hatches. The 66-year-old has run the DCB M35 cat to 163 mph to win the Desert Storm Shootout four years in a row, and won his class at the 2019 Lake of the Ozarks Shootout at 156 mph in the M44.
Magoo craves the thrill of performance boating, but he’s also keenly aware of the price of admission.
“I’m really kind of cheap,” he explains. “Too many owners get into these boats and then find out they can’t afford to own them. But I’ve got five seasons and more than 500 hours on the M35 and it has never once let me down. The secret is to use, but not abuse, the powertrain.”
Impressive machines that they are, Mercury Racing QC4 sterndrive engines also operate under incredible stress. Eventually these thoroughbreds will need to come “back to the barn,” as it were, for fresh legs – a complete inspection and update in the hands of the Mercury Racing technicians manning the QC4 Factory Refresh program. The factory-recommended interval for the 1350 engine is 200 hours. Magoo has more than doubled those hours and his engines are still fast and reliable. That’s not due to luck.
A Fast Family
Magoo was raised with a hot rodder’s mentality. His grandfather owned a service station in Santa Monica, Calif., and as a teen his father Dick “Magoo” Megugorac joined Low Flyers Racing Club, a crew that raced on dry lakes and included many of the founding fathers of SoCal hot rodding. Dick opened Magoo’s Street Rods in Canoga Park, Calif., in the 1960s and built a number of high-profile custom cars. His hot rods were known for having intricate mechanical detail and outstanding reliability. Dave Megugorac was working as a technician in a California Cadillac dealership when, in 1988, he started Magoo’s Automotive Consultants Inc. to provide third-party inspection services for extended warranty administrators – he’s an expert in failure analysis. When he retired and got into performance boats, he brought that perspective to the water.
“Rule one is do the maintenance, by the book, with a factory-trained tech,” said Magoo. He has his 25-hour oil changes and fluid checks done by Mercury Racing dealer Barrett Custom Marine in Lake Havasu. More detailed maintenance, including engine valve lash checks, water pump replacement, engine alignment and drive and transmission service, is handled by DCB at 100-hour intervals.
“I delivered both DCB boats to Dave, and he is always by the schedule,” said DCB sales manager/VP Tony Chiaramonte. “He follows the 25-hour break-in cycle, which many owners don’t have the patience for. They want to run their new boat. And he always has an eye on the oil temperature gauges.”
Managing oil temperature is key to long engine life, according to Magoo.
“These are fabulous engines, but they put incredible stress on the oil,” he says. “I start the engines and idle until the oil reaches 180 degrees. I won’t roll the boat over (get on plane) until I see 180, and then I won’t throttle up until the oil is 202 degrees and the thermostats have opened. When I come off plane, I idle the engines until the oil temp comes down to 194. Depending on the air and water temperature, this might take five minutes. If people in the boat want to swim, well they just have to wait.”
Chiaramonte says Magoo will not deviate from this routine. “I’ve been with him at poker runs and the fleet starts to take off, and most owners would be on the throttles to stay with the group, but Magoo will just wait if his oil temperature’s not right. He doesn’t care.”
According to Mercury Racing Service Manager Bob Krupp, the QC4 was rigorously validated to where the recommended maintenance and refresh intervals were set. Depending on how the customer uses the engine, the refresh interval may sometimes be extended, especially when following the recommended maintenance intervals. Posted engine refresh intervals are guidelines, not gospel.
“Engine hours, valve lash, and oil blow-by on the breathers are indications of engine health,” said Krupp. “If we see oil in the valve cover breathers it’s a sign the piston rings are worn. On the higher horsepower QC4 turbocharged engines the cylinder pressure is very high such that over time the valves may start to recess into the cylinder heads. The clearance gets too tight and during service you’d go to a thinner shim, but when the valves can no longer be shimmed it’s time to refresh the engines back at the factory where authentic Mercury Racing parts are replaced to further extend the life of the engine.”
Magoo preserves his valves by limiting time at full throttle.
“I run the boat hard, but I try to be intelligent,” said Magoo. “Some owners out here will run wide open all the way to the dam. I never stay at wide-open too long. I don’t care to hold it there to get that last mile an hour unless it’s a speed run. I’ll bury the throttles, then back off and let it breath, bury it and let it breath. I’m not racing so why hold it wide open?”
Krupp reminds performance boat owners that the rev limiter is not a replacement for fundamental driving skills, especially offshore. Learning to throttle in rough water will preserve high-performance engines.
“When I got into this, I realized I had no business running 140 mph,” said Magoo. “So I took a driving class with Tres Martin and got a complete understanding of how to throttle, trim and safely handle the boat.”
How impressive is Magoo’s engine life?
“He’s way out there,” said Krupp, who notes that when run hard a 1350 engine may need a refresh at 100 to 125 hours, “but I guess it shows what’s possible. The QC4 engines are pretty incredible machines that provide a unique driving experience on the water like no other engine.”
Photos courtesy of Tommy Gun Images