43 years after it helped launch the performance boat phenomenon, Fountain #1 is repowered with Mercury Racing engines and drives.
Today Reggie Fountain Jr. is a performance powerboat icon but in 1980 Fountain – a former member of the Mercury Factory tunnel boat racing team and a champion in the sport – had just lost his ride when Mercury pulled out of the sport during the Arab oil embargo. It was Racing team manager Gary Garbrecht who suggested that Fountain consider the business of building offshore-style performance boats powered by Mercury Hi-Performance engines. The rest is history, one of the seminal back-stories in the development of the modern performance boat. The first 33-foot Fountain 10 Meter Executioner was launched in 1980 and sold to a New York investment banker. Forty-three years later Fountain hull #1 is back in the possession of Reggie Fountain Jr. and faster than ever thanks to a re-power with modern Mercury Racing engines and drives.
The boat was acquired by Fred Ross, owner of Big Thunder Marine, who formed Iconic Marine in 2016 after acquiring the assets of the Fountain, Baja and Donzi brands. Ross had purchased the first Fountain from a Midwest dealer and gifted it back to Reggie in 2019.
The boat ran, but not well. A repower and rigging update was in order and that task was accomplished by BAR Marine of Jacksonboro, S.C., a Mercury Racing dealer owned by Ben Robertson Jr., a former tunnel boat and offshore racer who has worked in the past with Reggie Fountain. The project illustrates the challenges of re-powering a classic sterndrive performance boat.
The boat was originally powered by a pair of 475hp Mercury Hi-Performance 454 cubic inch engines fitted with Gale Banks twin-turbocharger kits and Mercury TRS #2 Speedmaster drives.
“When we got the boat, the engines were out,” said Robertson. “There was a lot of evident wear and tear but the boat was really solid, with no rot in the plywood stringers or the transom. We started by stripping out all of the analog rigging as the repower would be digital.”
The holes for the old TRS drives are not compatible with current Mercury Racing Bravo drives, so the transom cut-outs had to be filled with new plywood, reinforced inside the boat and re-glassed and finished. The original trim tabs were removed and those mounting holes also filled. Next the stripped-out engine bay and transom was scanned using a FARO 3D digital scanner, which creates data that was placed in a CAD program at Charleston Composites, a business affiliated with BAR Marine. A specialized marine digital design program was then used to calculate the placement of engine mounts and the X dimension for installing the drives on the transom.
For this repower, a package of Mercury Racing Bravo One XR Sport Master 1.5:1 drives with Integrated Transom System (ITS) was selected. The ITS sets the drive back about 7 inches and features integral power steering cylinders for a cleaner look and easier installation. The desired drive height was depicted in CAD and outlined on the transom before cut-outs were made with a reciprocating saw. With the ITS units and drives installed on 33.5-inch centers, engine mounting height could be determined. “We had to modify the stringers and make new engine mounts,” said Robertson. “We had to add material to raise the center stringer and lower the outers, but not by much. Then we made new aluminum engine mounts in the same style as the originals.”
The molded carbon fiber engine covers on top of the 8.7-liter V8 naturally aspirated Mercury Racing 565 engines would not quite fit below the aft edge of the engine hatch, and each was trimmed before the engines were installed. A sheet of paper might just fit between the inboard exhaust headers, and Robertson explains that he tries to get the drives as close together as possible to keep the props in the best water. New Mercury Racing K-Plane 380 tabs were installed in a horizontal position, rather than the original alignment with the bottom.
All of the old analog instruments and controls were removed and a new carbon fiber dash from Innotech Products was fitted, with cut-outs for a Garmin 8612 MFD and a Mercury VesselView 4 display. A control toggle for MDC TrimSync programmable auto trim was installed next to the original trim toggle switches.
Nick Petersen, performance propeller manager at Mercury Racing, helped Robertson select 15.25 x 30 Maximus ST Lab Finish propellers, a complicated task when repowering an older boat.
“Being a larger, stern-heavy boat, we typically opt for the Maximus over the Bravo I or MAX5 prop models,” said Petersen. “The drives aren’t mounted super high and the boat needs more bow lift at speed than some of the newer hulls, so we went with the 15.25-inch diameter instead of the full 15.63-inch model with the shorter tube. The barrel length of the Maximus is still longer than the standard MAX5 and also has more blade area.”
Robertson’s experience and his team’s expertise played a big part in this project. The pay-off was a boat that ran and handled well right off its new custom EZ Loader C-channel aluminum trailer.
“You could go with more power but I really like these 565 engines,” said Robertson. “They are easy to install, make great torque and run on 89 octane fuel.”
A very demanding customer was quite satisfied with the results. On April 12, his 83rd birthday, Reggie Fountain Jr. took the throttles for the first time and trimmed the re-powered hull #1 to perfection for a 91-mph blast down the Pamlico River. Then he turned around and did it again. Some folks never stop living Wide Open.