The problem with “Best Of” product stories or lists is that they polarize people. If the product you happen to build or own is included, the author of the story or list is brilliant. If not, the author is an idiot.
Call me one or the other—I’ve certainly been called both—but I’m willing to take that chance as I look out at the sea of high-performance marine engine builders across the United States and pick my “Fab Five.”
But first, the usual disclaimer you find with “Best Of” stories: There are lots of great builders out there. That your favorite didn’t make my list doesn’t mean he’s not fantastic or that I’m dissing him. It just means he didn’t make this list. That’s all.
Heck, off the top of my head I can name more than a dozen great engine builders who didn’t make this list. And I have a feeling that none of them, most of whom I know personally, will think I’m particularly brilliant when they read this. But so be it. As I said, I’m willing to take that chance.
So without further ado, I give you …
Crockett Marine Engines
Based in Ruby, Mich., renowned engine builder Tyler Crockett just released a pair of 1,500-hp, 573-cubic-inch, supercharged engines for a 42-foot-long Fountain. However, not all of Crockett’s creations are so exotic, as he builds less-powerful engines all the way down to a naturally aspirated and carbureted 400-hp offering. Crockett’s engine production averages about 40-plus primarily electronically fuel-injected units a year, with prices from $12,000 to $50,000, as well as a host of engine upgrade kits that he can install in-house or ship to mechanically inclined go-fast boat owners. Few builders have a better reputation than Crockett, who had been in business for more than 30 years.
Crockett also rebuilds and refreshes engines, reprograms electronic control units (ECUs), “cleans and flows” electronic fuel injectors, and creates custom parts in his machine shop, which is equipped with a dynamometer.
Ilmor has its roots in the automotive world, most notably Formula One racing. But Ilmor Marine president Paul Ray describes the Plymouth, Mich., outfit as an “engineering company.” The popularity and success of the company’s consistently reliable and durable V-10 engines bear that out.
Ilmor has four engines in its line: the Gen IV MV10 650 and MV10 725, and the Gen III MV10 570 and MV10 625. Both of the Gen IV offerings come with Ilmor’s Indy drive. (Buyers of the Gen III engines must purchase Bravo-style drives from other vendors.) While Ray admits Ilmor could build higher-output engines with the company’s existing platform, the company’s near-future focus will be on the lower-end of the power spectrum—all the way down to 300 hp.
At the 2011 Miami International Boat Show, Mercury Racing followed up its game-changing quad-overhead-cam, twin-turbocharged 1350 engine (which debuted the previous year at the same event) with the introduction of an 1,100-hp version based on the same platform. (See the Boats.com feature, “Mercury Racing’s Dynamic Duo. Mercury Racing: Dynamic Duo) Those spelled the end for the once top-of-the-line 1075SCi and 1025/1200 dual-fuel engines – they’re discontinued.
Meanwhile, the Mercury Racing line still includes the popular 525EFI, 700SCi, and 850SCi. Mercury Racing’s drive-and-engine packages range from $60,000 to $203,000. Other services offered at the Fond Du Lac, Wisc., plant include propeller lab-finishing and engine refreshment.
According to Sterling’s Mike D’Anniballe, a pair of the Milford, Mich., company’s new twin turbocharged 1,700-hp engines are headed for a Skater 388 catamaran. Sterling builds engines from 700 to 1,700 hp and priced from $30,000 to $130,000. D’Anniballe admits that his new marine engine business—his shop also does a significant amount of parts durability testing work for the automotive industry—has declined dramatically from its peak of more than 50 engines a year. However, his rebuild and refreshment business is booming. “We’re really busy with that kind of work,” he says. “I’m not sure how to say this, but we are getting a lot of business rebuilding and refreshing other engine builders’ engines.”
Teague Custom Marine
Earlier this year, Teague Custom Marine’s 1,365- and 1,335-hp engines received California Air Resources Board certification, which is major accomplishment for the Valencia, Calif., engine builder—or any engine builder for that matter. The two engines are the most powerful in the builder’s line of electronically fuel-injected models, which includes 800-, 900-, 1,000- and 1,200-hp mills.
Standard on all Teague Custom Marine engines of 1,200 hp and above is the new Velvet Drive 72-LHP hydraulic transmission and exclusive Severe Duty Drive Plate, which reportedly can handle up to 2,500 foot-pounds of torque. Teague builds 50 to 75 engines a year with prices from $30,000 to $80,000. Additional services include a complete machine shop, rigging, and an extensive parts department with the largest selection of Mercury propellers west of the Mississippi.
Matt Trulio is the editor at large for Powerboat magazine. He has written for the magazine since 1994. Trulio’s daily blog can be found on speedonthewater.com, a site he created and maintains, which is the high-performance arm of the BoaterMouth group.