Widely known in the marine industry as “the father of the stern drive,” Charles Strang died today at his home in Illinois. He was 96 years old.
Strang’s early stern-drive was the predecessor of the units putting power to the water on many of today’s high-performance catamarans and V-bottoms. Photo courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Strang served as Carl Kiekhaefer’s top engineer for 13 years at Mercury Marine, according to a press release from the Fond du Lac, Wis., marine engine and accessories companies. After leaving Mercury, he became director of Outboard Marine Engineering (OMC) and later became the company’s chief executive officer and chairman of its board of directors.
As an engineering student at Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1948, Strang sketched his first stern-drive designs. His mother, Ann, is responsible for the famous Mercury ‘Phantom Black’ engine color,” the release stated.
Popular in the powerboat and automobile racing worlds, according to the release, Strang served as the president of the Union Internationale Motonautique, powerboat racing’s international sanctioning body, as well as the president of the American Power Boat Association, the domestic arm of the U.I.M. In 1998, NASCAR impresario Bill France announced that Strang would become the National Commissioner for NASCAR, a position he held for 10 years. In 2015, Strang was inducted into the MOPAR Hall of Fame.
“Charlie was an avid powerboat racing ambassador and a brilliant engineer,” said John Pfeifer, the president of Mercury Marine, in the release. “He loved engines and loved Mercury Marine. We could always count on Charlie to lend his support to the industry. He lived an incredible life and is responsible for a lot of the success we have today.”
Editor’s Note: When this story went live, a photograph of Mr. Strang was not available. Speedonthewater.com will add an image of Mr. Strang to this story when one becomes available. Click here to read Charles Strang’s complete obituary.