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Sterling Projects Update: E-85 1550 Conversions, Ford 427s and 1700 Upgrades

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Mike D’Anniballe and the crew at Sterling Performance in Milford, Mich., have been keeping busy with a number of projects beyond new engine builds and refreshment, as well as their constantly ongoing automotive fuel system durability testing work. Among the more intriguing jobs for the Milford, Mich., high-performance marine engine builder has been converting two sets of its supercharged, 1550-hp fuel injected PSI blower engines to being able to run on E-85 (ethanol-based) fuel rather than their “standard” 116-octane Sunoco gasoline.

“The bottom line is the stuff flat-out works,” said Mike D’Anniballe, the owner and founder of the company. “We have already done baseline testing, and we picked up 130 hp and 100 foot-pounds of torque with E-85 in an apples-to-apples against 116-octane race fuel.”

One set of E-85 1550s is going to the Cat Can Do offshore racing team. Another set is headed to a client who owns an Outerlimits V-bottom. D’Anniballe described the modifications to enable the 1550s to run on E-85 as “relatively simple” and easy to accomplish.

“We had to do a compression change, a spark-curve change, and fuel-curve change and a cam shaft adjustment,” he said. “There really wasn’t much more to it.”

Though D’Anniballe has only built one set of 1700-hp turbocharged engines (read the most recent story), he hasn’t stopped developing them. In fact, he said the engines currently are being outfitted with new turbochargers that boast a “completely new design,” improved intercoolers and revamped and improved induction systems. “We are hoping to be able to make 1,900 hp with it,” he said.

On the “retro side” of its business, Sterling is building a special pair of 427-cubic-inch Ford engines for a new wooden boat from Van Dam Custom Boats in Boyne City, Mich. Modern in terms of terms technology but vintage in appearance, the engines are targeted to produce 500 hp a piece. D’Anniballe said he’s honored to be working with one of the top wooden powerboat builders in the world.

“I call it ‘furniture that floats,'” he said. “Van Dams are the most incredible boats you will see on the planet.”

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