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Sterling Finishing ‘Retro Power’ for One-of-a-Kind Van Dam Creation

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At first glance, the twin Ford 427 engines at Sterling Performance in Milford, Mich., look “vintage.” But a closer look at the all-aluminum, 550-hp powerplants that are “bored and stroked” to 523 cubic inches tells a different story. Hidden below what Sterling principal Mike D’Anniballe called “Webber clone” intake manifolds are modern fuel injectors—both engines boast electronic fuel-injection systems and are completely computer controlled.

“The owner of the boat wanted the look of old-style Ford engines with carburetors, but with all the modern amenities,” D’Anniballe said.

That makes perfect sense given that the engines are headed for a boat from Van Dam Custom Boats, a world-renowned builder of wooden boats, based in Boyne City, Mich. Dubbed the Victoria Z, the boat is the “stretched” sistership of the famed 31-foot-long Alpha Z designed by Michael Peters, the well-known founder of Michael Peters Yacht Design in Sarasota, Fla., and built by Van Dam in 1998. Currently headed into rigging, the Victoria Z is 33 feet long.

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To view Sterling’s Ford 427 engine project from several angles, check out the slideshow above.

According to Van Dam Custom Boats designer Michel Berryer, the builder worked closely with Peters on the design for the new 33-footer. But while the construction process is decidedly old school, the design process is state of the art. Van Dam sent CAD designs of the stretched Alpha Z to Peters, who, in turn, sent his own CAD designs—including a new stepped hull—back to Van Dam for the Victoria Z.

“Michael and his guys went through it and put his brand-new tunnel stepped bottom on the design,” Berryer said. “It has a tunnel right down the middle past the second step.”

Already two years in the making, the Victoria Z was commissioned by a current Van Dam client who owns one of the company’s cruisers. Based in Alabama, the client had always loved the Alpha Z, according to Berryer, but wanted something that was larger and would accommodate twin engines. That the Victoria Z has the same beam as the Alpha Z will make for a tight installation of the twin Ford mills.

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To get a look at the remarkable Victoria Z coming together, check out the slideshow above. Photos courtesy Van Dam Custom Boats. (To view the entire Victoria Z slideshow on the Van Dam site, click here.)

“It’s going to be a bit of a gymnastic event, but we can do it,” Berryer said.

The team at Van Dam Custom Boats had hoped to put the Victoria Z through its first sea trial this summer but that probably won’t happen. Attending to every detail and getting everything done right—the folks at Van Dam are notorious perfectionists—are the top priorities for everyone involved.

“I don’t think we’re going to get her on the water this year,” Berryer said. “We were hoping we might, but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen. The total process of building this boat probably will be three years.”

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