Not long ago, David Wommack was in south Florida attending a poker run in his Fountain 38 Lightning powered by twin Mercury Racing HP525 EFIs with Bravo One drives. After the run he had planned a trip to Bimini, but early in his run he broke a drive. A friend recommended Brian Jackson at Offshore Outdrives in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Wommack brought the boat to Jackson on Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning, the drive was fixed and Wommack was on his way to Bimini.
“It makes you feel good when you go out of your way to help someone and they’re happy,” said Jackson, who has been in business since 2004.
Offshore Outdrives maintains the drive units for STIHL and several other offshore racing team.
Jackson’s friend and longtime business associate Grant Bruggemann, owner of Grant’s Signature Racing in Bradenton, Fla., said that Jackson goes above and beyond every time they do business together. “He’ll always go the extra mile to make sure you’re extremely happy with your service,” said Bruggemann.
For example, if Bruggemann sends Offshore Outdrives a dirty or scuffed up drive that needs internal repairs or parts replaced, Jackson will fix it, but he’ll also sand and buff and have it looking brand new. Jackson also will send Bruggemann pictures of broken internal components so he knows exactly what needs to be repaired. “He’s completely up front and honest,” said Bruggemann.
Offshore Outdrives works on drives ranging from the MerCruiser Alpha One up to Mercury Racing NXT6 and M-8 drives and lower units for virtually every outboard in the Mercury and racing division lineup. The company, which consists of 47-year-old Jackson and an assistant, also maintains the drives for the STIHL, Sailor Jerry Autonation, Talbot Excavating, ALEX AND ANI, Envy, The Hulk and other offshore racing teams.
Jackson started in the marine business as a drive painter in 1989 at Doller Marine. He was working for Miami-Dade Truck as a painter and he told the late Ron Doller that his company was using the wrong catalyst in its drive paint. Doller hired Jackson on the spot. He started as a painter but worked his way into taking apart the drives and cleaning them under the watchful eyes of industry veterans Matt Gilvey and John Klumpjan.
Brian Jackson: “The biggest thing is, after a certain amount of time depending on the horsepower, you need to take apart the drive and completely go through it.”
Jackson went to school for Speedmaster drives and when Gilvey left to go work for the legendary Bobby Moore, Jackson worked alongside Klumpjan for two more years before he decided to start his own business, Offshore Outdrives, which is based in a 2,500 square-foot-facility. He and Bruggemann actually shared a warehouse a block away from the current Offshore Outdrive headquarters before Bruggemann moved to the west coast of Florida.
Jackson said he takes his job seriously because of the speeds the boats are running and what can happen at those speeds.
“Building these things on some of the really fast boats, their life depends on it,” he explained. “When I’m at a race and I see a boat break, I’m saying, ‘I hope it’s not something I worked on.’”
He’s been out in his share of fast boats, especially when he used to share a shop with Bruggemann.
“I’ve had my fair share of going 180,” said Jackson. “Now that I’m older, it’s scarier. A lot of thoughts go through your head.”
If he has a pet peeve, it’s that more boat owners don’t spend the time and money to maintain their drives. “They don’t want to bring in the drive for service,” explained Jackson. “They change the oil, but the biggest thing is, after a certain amount of time depending on the horsepower, you need to take apart the drive and completely go through it.”
Jackson said that Speedmaster IIIA and V drives are the hardest to work on because of the way they come apart, the bearings and how the pre-load is supposed to be done. When it comes to big power, he said shimming the gears becomes much more critical on the NXT6 and M-8 drives. Jackson had concerns with early versions of the Bravo, but says the current version is an “excellent drive.” He added, “You can put 500 or 600 hp on it and if you know what you’re doing it will live.”
And if you do happen break one, you can take it to Offshore Outdrives because Jackson will do whatever it takes to get you back on the water quickly.