Installing Confidence - Guest Blog by Ray Lee
A 2002 Lavey Craft 2750 NuEra V-bottom runabout was the first boat I had custom ordered, and the process was exciting. I got to design gelcoat graphics and an over-the-top audio system and dozens of little details, right down to the placement of each gauge on the dashboard. I selected a 425hp Mercury MerCruiser HO 496 engine to power what was quite literally my “dream boat” and it's the very vessel that ignited my passion for performance boating.
The 496 HO was an outstanding engine package and was as reliable as the rising sun. But it only took my boat to around 68 mph, which seemed fast on paper but before long left me wanting more. Thus began my long quest for faster.
I soon found a 470hp Mercury Racing HP500 carbureted engine and jumped at the chance for more horsepower. I sold the 496 HO engine, bought the HP500 and sent it off to a seemingly reputable local shop get a Whipple supercharger installed before the engine was dropped into the boat. I immediately fell in love with the new level of torque and horsepower, but the shop that installed the supercharger had set the engine up to run too lean, which caused it to grenade each time I ran her even remotely hard. The engine failed three times before I discovered the issue, and each repair came out of my pocket. I was learning the perils of working with “custom engine” facilities.
I finally located a reliable engine shop in Arizona. They knew the best way to set up carburetors and superchargers and it was not long before I was enjoying the pleasures of boating again with my now bullet-proof 750hp engine. I ran the boat offshore in the Pacific, the inland lakes of California, on Lake Havasu and the various waterways of the West Coast-based events. After many enjoyable seasons, the engine was feeling tired. It was time to think of the next step. I chased a dead end when my engine shop tried to build a custom 1100HP EFI engine that was powerful but never reliable. I never had confidence in that engine, which made my few attempts at pleasure boating mostly unpleasurable. This engine catastrophically grenaded on Memorial Day weekend 2022.
As the publisher of Speedboat Magazine, I have become rather familiar with the plethora of power options currently available, including those from Mercury Racing. After some consideration, I decided that the Mercury Racing 600SCi package would be ideal for me and my Lavey Craft. I purchased the engine through Teague Custom Marine of Valencia, Calif. TCM founder and Speedboat Senior Tech Editor, Bob Teague, and his company are long-time Mercury Racing dealers and have an unblemished reputation within the performance boating community. Bob is an industry legend, so I knew the installation was going to be impeccable.
Bob and his team went through the carnage of my previous engine and meticulously re-rigged the engine compartment and transom to accommodate the new Mercury Racing powerplant. It was like Christmas morning for me when I got the call that the job was complete. I brought her home on December 17 and as soon as the holidays were over my fiancée, Julie Stepnick, and I drove out to Lake Havasu for the Lavey’s maiden voyage with her new power. We bundled up against chilly 60-degree temperatures to put the initial hours on my new 600.
From the moment I turned the key my boating experience was transformed. It had been so long since I experienced pure confidence. I knew that the engine would start. I knew that it would restart. I knew that it would run well, and I know it will continue to run well. The boat planed more quickly, ran steadier, and was more civil around the docks. Also, to my delight, the torque and power of the 600SCi seemed to rival my blown-up 1100. The pleasure was back.
The confidence Mercury Racing offers performance boat owners is a big reason it is about to celebrate 50 years of excellence. It’s not just the ability to produce a powerful and sophisticated marine engine and market it to the masses, which they obviously do remarkably well. It’s their incessant research and development that provides the consumer with the priceless experience to know that their products will always provide dependable, worry-free performance. Thanks to Mercury Racing I’m back running Wide Open.