In late 2009, I got a phone call—followed shortly by a non-disclosure agreement sent via email—from Fred Kiekhaefer, then president of Mercury Racing in Fond du Lac, Wis. More animated than usual, and that’s saying something, Kiekhaefer had a proposition for me. But he couldn’t say more until I signed and returned the NDA, which I did.
With its first quad-cam four valve engines—all released at the annual Miami International Boat Show—Mercury Racing forever changed the high-performance marine engine game. Photo of the naturally aspirated 860 engine above courtesy/copyright Pete Boden/Shoot 2 Thrill Pix.
Turned out that Mercury Racing was going to introduce its first quad cam four valve, turbocharged engine, a 1,350-hp techno-beast that would change the world of high-performance marine power and propulsion in in the most profound way since the introduction of the stern drive. The engine would debut at the 2010 Miami International Boat Show in the latest Cigarette Racing Team-AMG creation, Kiekhaefer told me, and I was getting the exclusive.
So for the next few weeks, I spent many hours on the phone with Kiekhaefer and Skip Braver, the owner and chief executive officer of Opa-Locka, Fla.-based Cigarette. When the show opened, the news of the Mercury Racing 1350 story broke on speedonthewater.com, while a feature article on the entire QC4v engine and Cigarette-AMG project was published in Cigarette’s exquisitely produced Smokin’ magazine.
Within a year, twin 1350s became the powerplants of choice for exotic high-performance catamarans and V-bottoms. Was it perfectly reliable? Of course not—no engine platform ever is. But it was a whole lot more reliable—and eliminated the dreaded “turbo lag” that previously made turbocharging less than coveted in marine engine applications—than other high-performance marine engines of similar power levels.
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