Larry Lohse was a cordial and humorous guy, who I came to know and admire during my career in the high-performance marine industry, with uncommon talent. He worked 40 years designing and developing marine propulsion. He was a humble giant among the many contributors who made sterndrive propulsion the success it has become.
The principal engineer behind the Mercury Racing No. 6 drive, Larry Lohse died yesterday at his home in Fond du Lac, Wis. He was 81 years old.
At Mercury in the mid-1960s, he and I became friends. He was a project engineer designing MerCruiser stern-drives—including the II and III drives. During summers back then, I was a detail draftsman and often assisted him. His outgoing personality and helpful mentoring helped forge one of the best collaborative engineering teams I’ve ever worked with. His leadership and design skill helped make MerCruiser the No. 1 marine propulsion system of all time.
When E.C. Kiekhaefer, Mercury’s president (and my father), left Brunswick in 1969 and started Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Motors, he hired Larry. He was project engineer designing, among other projects, the K-Drive models—K400 for recreation and K600 for competition.
One of KAM’s potential clients was BMW Marine GmbH.
While that collaboration didn’t come together, BMW hired Larry to head stern-drive design and development for the Munich, Germany firm. While I was working as a management consultant for Price Waterhouse, Larry brought me to Munich to meet with BMW directors regarding their marine business development. I gave them an honest assessment of what it would require. They chose to exit the business instead. Larry never held it against me.
After my father’s passing in 1983, I bought Kiekhaefer Aeromarine Motors’ assets and started Kiekhaefer Aeromarine, Inc. As soon as I could, I recruited Larry as vice-president of engineering. Not long after, we had him designing “Sterndrives by Kiekhaefer,” which were introduced in 1988. Winning back-to-back Offshore World Cup Championships in 1988 (Don Johnson) and 1989 (Peter Markey), we got Mercury’s attention and their parent—Brunswick Corporation—bought Kiekhaefer Aeromarine.
Thanks in large part to Larry Lohse, high-performance powerboats such as this 2020 Outerlimits SL 44 owned by Texan Cass Shewbart still boast Mercury Racing No. 6 drives. Photo from the 2020 Miami International Boat Show by Pete Boden copyright Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
I became president of Mercury’s Racing Division. Larry stayed with me as director of engineering until his retirement. In that role, he mentored Racing’s designers and engineers. The engineers, designers and technicians of Mercury Racing remain committed to excellence. Larry’s stern-drives, now labeled No. 6 drives, continue to rack up racing victories and weekend glory. Some of Larry’s prodigy are still designing propulsion—and they are Larry’s greatest legacy.
Larry Lohse was among my very best friends, before and long after his retirement. Larry and his wife, Lou, shared some amazing adventures with us and I will miss him.
But his contributions live on.
Editor’s Note: Fred Kiekhaefer is the former president of Mercury Racing.