Oddities & Rarities – Part 3: Race Power

How many outboards can you lay down in a boat?

Maybe this should be “Part 3 through # n” — since few things are odder or rarer than “one-offs” tried in pursuit of a speed record or race victory. Still, some stand tall above others in sheer audacity. Here are some outboards with an identity crisis.

While it ran, it was fast! Count ’em – six sets of exhaust pipes!

Because of the high power to weight ratio of a Merc 2-stroke powerhead, it was inevitable that Mercury Racing’s Fred Hauenstein would lay some outboard engines down on their sides in his Arcadian Unlimted U-86 and go after inboard hydroplane competitors.

A single surfacing prop emerged between a pair of rudder/water pick-ups (port removed in photo)

Fred’s configuration was four engines per side – for a total of eight powerheads. Each of the 2.4 liter V-6 Mercury engines pulled 305 hp and was tied to a common surfacing prop shaft with rubber cog belts — a total of 2440 hp! Fred told me, “Our one mistake was trying to keep it light by using outboard drive shafts to carry the engine-side belt pulleys.” These shafts would flex and belts would rip apart. Only one mistake, Fred H?

Here’s the Popeye’s Cougar! I guess Charlie McCarthy didn’t care for my duck in a pot. (Photo courtesy of Historic Offshore Race Boat Association)

Later, Al Copland commissioned a Popeye’s offshore racing boat with eight 2.0 liter Mercury outboard powerheads. The 2.0 liter engines were chosen to stay just below the 16 liter limit for Class 1.

I remember a 1986 APBA Offshore powerboat race in Sarasota — seeing this strange looking, low freeboard, Popeye’s Chicken & Biscuits boat. Inside, it looked like a scale model of one of those turn-of-the-century (19th into 20th) factories with machines and belts and shafts everywhere! I was  thinking, “It’ll never stay running, but if it does, it’ll be fast!”  It did; and it was — just not that particular day…

Now that Charlie located pictures of Popeye’s for me, I have no need to include this. Yet, here’s a duck in a clay pot. Still pretty odd, don’t you think?
Here’s a close up of an engine and belt. (Photo courtesy of HORBA.)

“My design for the belt drives in that was a bit heavier and, therefore, survived and won an actual offshore race,” Hauenstein said to me, proudly. (His choice of words and intonation said clearly, “This is a kilo record boat and nothing else.”) That one race victory was required in order to be eligible to set records — though its offshore victory was with six 2.4 liter Mercs. Popeye’s, with Al Copland driving and Bill Sirois throttling, set an offshore Class 1 [kilo speed] record, but “…it could have gone quite a bit faster!” according to Hauenstein. Always could have, Fred H. Always could have.

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2 thoughts on “Oddities & Rarities – Part 3: Race Power”

  1. Hey Fred, if we could have kept the belts in the unlimited, it would have been a winner. I still say it was the ONE mistake. Now, with hind-sight, I realize there was an easy fix even with those drive shafts. We used Mercury Racing props exclusively and the boat performed as planned except for the belts. Anyway it was fun and would not have happened without the backing of my brother Jim and Mercury Racing, along with Crew Chief Bill Chatfield who made a lot of the parts and rigged the boat.

    Thanks for the memories.

  2. I would really like to see more detail pictures of the 8 engine boat…I was never able to see it in person…I have several updraft pre brideport 2.4’s and I would love to be able to try and set up my old cigarette (40′ Sunoco..Penske boat…) and have just 2 shafts & props instead of the four CLE lower units..and four 28 & 30 pitch props….The boat runs very good.. But it would run even better with the CG weight down in the boat instead of hanging on a bracket off the transom…Buz MacDowell

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