“You Must Have Had Help!”

I’ve had some time to reflect over the Holidays. It was cold and snowy here, so I began dreaming about boating in Florida or Lake Havasu with our new QC4v, 1350 hp engines. Inevitably, that leads me to thinking of the incredibly talented people at Mercury and Mercury Racing who made it happen. Sad how little credit they get for their effort – at least, beyond our hallowed walls. Things I hear make me want to scream, “We have the talent right here!

The QC4v team with their creation just before the Miami Boat Show launch, February 2010.

Whoa! “Quad overhead cams!” And all metric stuff… “Metric equals furrin’, don’t it?” “It looks European.” “Porsche must have designed it for Mercury Racing.” “AMG designed it.” “Lotus…” And so many times, “What block is that based on?” I’ve heard (or read) all of these things, and more.  I’m flattered; that’s good company.  But folks, this was an in-house job.

One thing for sure: Fred K didn’t design it! (OK, I styled it, attended countless meetings about it and did the initial carbon tooling work. And I wrangled the money to pay for it.) No sir, Iclicked nary a mouse anywhere near a ProE CAD station (except once, when I leaned over Tom Immel’s shoulder).

However, I did assemble the best team of marine propulsion engineers, designers, technicians and support staff in the world. And whatever talent we may not have “up here on the hill,” we  borrow from “Mother Mercury” across town – or from a good supplier. The QC4v and the M8 drive are the result of their collective ingenuity and effort. Look at us: Aren’t we an awesome bunch? And that’s just the ones who were at Racing on the day Jeff Isom took the picture. Every one of us has an important roll.

Yes, I had help – inside and outside help. Lead dog, Erik Christiansen (above – right, front row), is Racing’s Director of Engineering. He pretends to direct the technical folks in this flock. I imagine that I (left, front) guide him and the rest of them.

Fred K and the Racers, performing daily. Steve Wynveen (left) on keyboards, Rick Hannemann on STOP button synthesizer.

Great teams work that way. They’re driven by their own passion, not by orders from Erik or me. It’s like jazz improv: I booked the club. The band knows what music we want to play, but each member brings a unique instrument and performs well. We know when our set starts and when it is scheduled to wrap. We know that at the end of the gig, we have to pay for what we’ve consumed (unlike the Blues Brothers). And when we’ve performed well, your cover charge will pay expenses, tip the wait staff and leave a little extra for those who funded our tour. When you get your hands on “our album,” you’ll sure enjoy yourself.

Yes, we have had outside help, too. Indirectly, it is the sum of all our teachers, our unique education and learning experiences – our lives, so far:

My dad and I were testing twin I-6 “Towers of Power” on a cat at Lake X, Summer 1966. (I’m the soft-headed one with the helmet.)

Our education? UW-Madison, Michigan State, Marrion, Northwestern, GM Institute, et. al. and…Skinned Knuckle Prep School, out back (In my case, under headmaster Carl “Mr. K” Kiekhaefer).

Work? It’s been Fond du Lac, Detroit, Oshkosh, Stillwater, St. Cloud, Miami, Dubai, Chicago, Panama City and… beside a smelly dumpster in New Orleans (offshore race, hot summer, mid-1980s).

Erik checks out a Bugatti W-16 block and heads in Germany.

Benchmarking? In Stutgart, Novi, Cologne, St. Agata, Munich, Modena, Afalterbach, Hethel, Frankfurt and…text books, symposiums and on the internet.

Carl Kiekhaefer’s 1956 NASCAR champion engine on a dyno at Merc Racing in Oshkosh, WI.

Racing? It’s been Daytona and Elkhart Lake (cars), Iron Mountain (snowmobiles), Long Island, Gurnsey, St. Louis, Freeport, Parker, Rouen, Isle of Man, Orange Beach, and…in the sand of Truman Annex, Key West (boats).

Racing’s water cooled turbos evolved from collaboration with a key supplier.

More directly, suppliers have helped: They’ve shared their experience and taught us – and learned from us. In part, we choose them for their curiosity. Castings, camshafts, turbos, chain drives, transmissions and microprocessors were all collaborations.

Mercury’s commitment to excellence: our badge is worn proudly.

Nevertheless, the concept, engineering, design, development, production and accountability for 1350 hp, QC4v, 9.0 liter V-8 – the “pulling it all together” – happened at Mercury Racing, on the hill, in Taycheedah, Wisconsin, overlooking Lake Winnebago. That’s why our 1350 wears a “waving M” on each piece – my contribution (dimensioned in millimeters) right here in the US of A.

My heart-felt thanks to all who helped create…and to those who enjoy the fruits of our labor. My New Year’s resolution? There’s more help coming in 2011 because, “We have the talent right here!

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