When thinking of the annual SEMA show – held each fall in Las Vegas – visions of cool cars, cutting edge technology and innovative products come to mind. And of course, there are the lovely models to help direct your attention to the products on display. Or distract? I could never get that straight.
All of this vast gathering comes together to showcase the newest and best in the automotive world. Think SEMA and think cars. Or perhaps something a little more on the wet side?
This year, there was at least one display that was turning heads and it wasn’t on four wheels. In fact, it was on its side! Yes, the car guys and gear heads got to ogle an impressive assembly of technology, all sitting pretty in the hull of a boat. In fact, that very hull was an impressive bit of technology all on its own. And we haven’t even gotten to the combined 2,700 horsepower neatly tucked away in the engine bay.
So, to understand why a big, 41 foot boat was front and center in the bastion of automotive wonder, we gotta look at the formidable drive-lines on this thing. And the best part is that it’s got two of ‘em.
Massive Power for Boat or Car
Oh, did I just hear muted whimpering from some of the car guys out there? Well, fear not, because these same engines are going to be available for your car, but you’ll probably only need one at a time.
First, let’s have a quick look at that hull. Composed using a 100%, full epoxy infused technology via the use of vacuum bagging, the process allows for the epoxy to be formed over the gel coat without possible air bubbles being entrapped during the build – a potential problem with a traditional hand layup. Carbon and Kevlar are also introduced in the running surfaces, areas that will take the greatest punishment when it’s go time.
A Lot of Horses
Scuttlebutt at the SEMA show was that this boat could touch 200 MPH. That’s fast in anything, but to do it on water takes a little more ‘Oomph’. Remember that not only are we having to push the weight of the boat and crew, but overcome the friction of the water. Sure, the catamaran hull design helps in that department by reducing the surface area of the boat coming in contact with the water, but we still got to get it moving forward in the first place. The same precept used to get the most speed out of cars holds true with boats. Throw in more horsepower.
Horsepower is why Mercury Marine chose the 50th SEMA show as the venue to unveil their new power plants. Shy of having even more of the aforementioned models standing around one of their engines, they were able to create quite a stir by partnering with Dave’s Custom Boats and this beautiful boat. Dave’s is no stranger to go-fast boats, having produced state of the art performance boats for two decades.
The twin 1350 HP engines push power through M8 drives, designed to handle the immense torque of the motors. The Mercury Racing QC4v engine designation is derived from the in house designed, quad cam, four-valve, turbocharged setup.
Also part of the display was an exotic car, sporting the 1650 crate engine, the 9-Litre V-8 sharing the same aspects as its marine incarnation. Unlike the M-41, I’m sure just the one engine will be enough.
A New Approach
The unveiling of this line of performance engines coincides with the recent announcement by Mercury Marine that they will be building their own gasoline engines for their MerCruiser stern drives and Zeus pod drives. This was a big step for the company, when considering that they had been getting their power plants from GM (+ Ford in earlier years) and merely ‘marinizing’ them. No longer will they be simply applying their own exhaust and cooling systems, painting them black and shipping to the boat manufacturers. Instead, Mercury will acquire bare block cores from out sourced manufacturers (most likely GM) and fitting them out with their own technology.
This is a bold move for Mercury, who has been around since 1939, a move motivated by the increasingly rapid makeovers in the corresponding automotive engines. Engine technology is evolving at a quicker and quicker pace and car builders are forced by competition to embrace it, leading to engine production cycles being ever shortened. To maintain a longer term grasp over their marine engine designs, Mercury felt they will be better served by providing their own, steady supply to the end users – boaters & repair facilities – as well as their mainstay, that of the boat manufacturers.
Old is New Again
This foray into the automotive world isn’t a first for Mercury Marine. Its founder, Karl Kiekhaefer, was an influential force in NASCAR, having won 80% of the races he entered from 1955 to 1957, capturing three national championships. His innovations in the sport are still with us today. These include ‘firsts’ such as his crew being the first to wear matching uniforms and practice pit stops. His team was also the first to transport their cars with enclosed haulers, emblazoned with team colors, of course. Amongst his technical innovations were pleated paper air filters and wide base rims, originating in his road racing R&D efforts.
Move forward to 1990, when Mercury Marine was tapped by General Motors produce the all-aluminum, 350 cubic inch LT-5 engine for the new Corvette ZR-1. GM approached Mercury as they had already developed the expertise in design and manufacturing of their aluminum marine engines. Taking the concept one step further, Mercury Racing took an LT-5, modified it for marine use and put it a Baja 223 sport boat (Baja was a manufacturer owned by Brunswick, the parent company of Mercury Marine).
The boat was paired with a similarly powered 1990 Corvette and the duo was known as the ‘Wette Vette’ project, touring the country, creating its own stir. So it looks like the show at SEMA was a revisit of a tried and true marketing concept, with the big difference being the incredible advancements in technology for both boat and motor that has happened in the ensuing years.
As with anything, time and talent leads to better, faster and safer products. When it comes to a prestige boat like the M-41, there is a sense that Dave’s Custom Boats has realized their goal to ‘Build the Best’. By merging state of the art technology with a refined look not commonly seen on go fast boats, the combined talents at Dave’s and Mercury Racing have produced an end product that is sure to turn heads well beyond SEMA.
So, if you think that all this power, technology and killer good looks would be a nice addition to your collection, it can be had as a package – boat, custom trailer and hauler – for 1.25 million USD. Sure, that might be a bit pricy for most folks, but imagine the delight of hitting the throttles in this refined beast. Given what an enchanting ride this boat is, it’s appropriate that the venue for this year’s show was on non-other than the aptly named Paradise Road.