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Author Topic:   Mercruiser VAZER Sterndrive
jimh posted 08-08-2007 09:36 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  
Mercury Marine knows that high fuel cost will force boat buyers to look for greater fuel economy from their boats and generally lower costs overall. As an alternative to the very expensive outboard motors that power today's boats, Mercury Marine's Mercruiser division has developed a new line of inboard four-stroke sterndrive engines which they call the VAZER. This new product line adapts a small displacement, low cost, fuel efficient automotive engine:

"Vazer is based on the proven GM Vortec 1600 4-cylinder single overhead cam engine mated to an all-new compact sterndrive."

Watch for this concept to be applied to "introductory" (as in first-time boat buyer) boat models, perhaps even including a Boston Whaler boat. A 17-foot hull somewhat akin to a 170 MONTAUK and powered by a 100-HP sterndrive would be an attractively priced package. I imagine that the cost of the sterndrive would be much lower compared to the rather more exotic Veradito four-stroke outboards now offered. It has to be much less expensive to buy a block from GM than it is to cast and build the Veradito motor in the relatively low volume of its current production. General Motors probably makes more of these 1.6-liter motors in a day than Mercury makes of the 1.7-liter Veradito in a year.

I would not be at all surprised to learn that down in Edgewater they have been experimenting with adapting the VAZER propulsion package to a Boston Whaler boat.

See for more information.

Would you buy a Boston Whaler with a VAZER sterndrive? How about a 22-footer with twin VAZER's?

jimh posted 08-08-2007 09:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
In case you think I am crazy, go to the VAZER website and watch the video. As the announcer says "Until now smaller boats had little choice for power..." you see a Boston Whaler MONTAUK on screen. I think the handwriting on the wall could not be any clearer.
Dick posted 08-08-2007 09:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick  Send Email to Dick     
I think you are on track Jim. I read the article in the latest Merc dealer magazine and was intrigued but the thought of it being installed in a Whaler never entered my mind.
Like you, I wouldn't be surprised if they are working on one.
jimh posted 08-09-2007 09:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here is an interesting Press Release from General Motors. Note the date:


December 13, 2001

GM To Offer 1.6-Liter Industrial Engine

Small Displacement Extends GM's Industrial Portfolio

PONTIAC, Mich. - General Motors announced the availability of a 1.6-liter single overhead cam inline 4-cylinder engine to the industrial market beginning immediately. This engine, called Vortec 1600, widens GM's industrial engine range from 1.6-liter to 8.1-liter. Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) and the industrial marketplace, which GM is committed to serving, have expressed interest in the 1.6-liter.

"With the addition of the Vortec 1600, GM has a broadened portfolio to satisfy the smaller displacement industrial market with great value and a trusted design," said Rick Dunagan, executive director of OEM sales for GM Powertrain.

Design features of the Vortec 1600 include a 79 millimeter bore by 81.5 millimeter stroke, 9.4:1 compression ratio and cast aluminum cylinder head with valve seat inserts. An iron block is used for strength and durability. The Vortec 1600 also features a distributorless ignition system which reduces maintenance and increases reliability. The entire
engine will be backed by the GM Service Parts organization.

Originally designed by Opel, the engine is assembled at the Sao Jose dos Campos engine plant in Brazil. Current automotive applications include the Chevrolet Corsa sold in South America and the Opel Corsa sold in Southeast Asia. The engine has a long history of refinements and has proven to be a value leader for General Motors.

Home Power Generation

Residential standby power is one application anticipated for the Vortec 1600. Many homeowners are now purchasing standby power generators for which the Vortec 1600 is well suited. The 1598 cubic centimeter displacement conserves fuel compared to some larger displacement engines but still provides adequate power for most residential needs.

Choose Your Fuel

The Vortec 1600, sold to OEMs without an intake manifold or fuel system, allows OEMs to customize their own fuel/intake system to sell to their customers. The Vortec 1600 will be adaptable for use with gasoline, liquid propane (LP) or compressed natural gas (CNG). Each fuel type has different applications. Gasoline is good for higher output mobile equipment. Liquid propane versions will be preferred by indoor material handling vehicles. CNG is a favorite of gen set manufacturers. An OEM calibrated engine control module is available for each specific need.


jimh posted 08-09-2007 09:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Here is the current (2008) information brochure on this OEM engine from GM Powertrain: industrial/2008_1600_Industrial.pdf

They list this engine in the "industrial" category, not in the "marine" engine section.

penningtonjeff posted 08-09-2007 01:33 PM ET (US)     Profile for penningtonjeff  Send Email to penningtonjeff     
The front-and-center photo example is of a pontoon boat before- and after-VAZER. This will definitely go into pontoon boats first - the outboard has to be the most expensive part of a pontoon boat, WAG would be 50% of the cost? VAZER rigged on a pontoon means better margins, and more room to compete on price.

The GM press release says the block can run on CNG/LP. Fast forward 10 years on Continuous Wave to the debate about where to locate the propane tank on your VAZERtauk.

I see Blue Rhino cylinder exchanges on every gas dock!!

Tohsgib posted 08-09-2007 03:32 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tohsgib  Send Email to Tohsgib     
Guys...yes the engine is probably cheap but you forget how expensive a transom assembly, outdrive and trim setup is. Not to mention more gauges and massive weight. I really don't see how this 1/0 is "much" cheaper than a 90hp outboard once you factor in the rigging, etc.
andygere posted 08-09-2007 04:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
Interesting concept, but cheap I/O powertrains aren't a new idea. OMC used to make an I/O based on the V4 outboard powerhead, and those never seemed to catch on. For open bilge boats like runabouts and bass boats, the VAZER makes a lot more sense. The same goes for pontoons, which are cheaply adapted for this type of engine. For a foam-filled hull like the Montauk, I think that whatever savings might be realized in the motor would be quickly eaten up by the additional FRP required in the hull, and a new and more complex liner mold.

For years, Volvo made a nice living selling cheap 4 cylinder I/O units that were bolted into every 19 foot Bayliner Capri (and comperable boats) out there. These were reliable powerplants, and they sold a lot of them. I think that is the market segment that Mercury is really going for, particularly since they own a large stable of runabout boat manufacturers, including the ubiquitous Bayliner. The bottom line for Brunswick is what will sell. I think the typical Whaler buyer is going to stay away from I/O power, and if you look at the popularity of previous I/O Whaler offerings, this has been the case in the past. I think your typical boat show first time runabout buyer will purchase these things up in scads, especially if they are priced $500 less than the outboard powered Reinell across the aisle.

brisboats posted 08-10-2007 07:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for brisboats  Send Email to brisboats     
Andy is right there have been lots of attempts at little inboard outboard powerplants and none could be deemed a runaway success. OMC had the V-4 powerhead mated to an electric shift sterndrive foot, Force brought us the L drive with a outboard powerhead and mercruiser used little renault engines. All failed yet the mercruiser iron duke 2.5 and 3.0 engines 120-140 horsepower proved to be unstoppable little powerplants.

In my opinion this Vazer has a tough row to hoe. It is a neat powerplant and aimed squarely at the pontoon crowd/craze so there is a chance. But to me a 1.6 liter single overhead cam tilted 50 degrees sounds much like the motor in my long since rusted away 75 VW rabbit sans that nifty composite intake. Would I buy one? Probably not. I remember the little mercruiser 60 hp made by Renault in a friend's Penn Yan and a 90 hp later version as being weak and gutless even in a small 16 foot hull. Another scare factor for me is the aluminum head on a cast iron block guess it just brings back all the 3.7 liter 470 series engines woes. I do hope it works for mercruiser's sake and have a GM iron block aluminum head vortec 6.0 in my truck that has been flawless.

I wonder of the engineers thought about slanting an iron duke. The GM based iron duke 2.5/3.0 liters are economical, simple, proven design and could take seawater running through them. This vazer motor has to be closed cooled and brings a lot of additional plumbing with it. I'd buy an i/o boston whaler with a mercruiser 250 cubic inch straight six but would pass on a vazer until proven. I would even go for a four stroke outboard over this powerplant on a Whaler.


Teak Oil posted 08-11-2007 11:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
A friend had a Bayliner Volvo with a 2.3 liter Ford sterndrive, and that thing was USELESS. WOT was below 30mph. We tried to go through the inland waterway and that boat was so slow on the Burt and Mullett lakes that I had to run my Liberator with the tabs all the way down and plowing water just so I didnt get way ahead of him.

This motor will have to be on very light boats and probably less than 17'.

It does look to be much more compact than the Mercruiser 3.0 block, which is long and rough running at low speeds.

I bet this sterndrive is at least $1500 cheaper than a Mercury 90 Four Stroke EFI. Outdrives made in a large volume are not expensive, all you have is a U-Joint and shaft, a outdrive housing, some gears and two hydraulic rams. With no overhead tied into R&D on developing the powerhead they can pass that savings on.

This will work as long as no one tried to put this drive on a 19 foot cuddy cabin.

dfmcintyre posted 08-12-2007 11:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
I was over at the EAA's fly-in event at Oskosh a few weeks ago, and a firm over there was in the final research phases of a three cylinder, six piston diesel engine. Weighs 150lbs and produces 100hp. It caught everyones attention. It currently has a supercharger, but are working to change it to a turbo, which will use less power.

Interesting stuff.


Moe posted 08-13-2007 08:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for Moe    
The VAZER specifications say 573 pounds weight. Once you put that in a light boat, it won't be light anymore, at least not in the stern. And for that reason, it will probably need to be a fairly beamy boat if 17 feet long. Compare that to the 399 pounds of a 90/115HP Mercury.

If used under the deck of a pontoon, I'd hope it would come with a snorkel.


GSH posted 09-02-2010 01:31 AM ET (US)     Profile for GSH  Send Email to GSH     
I’m bringing this old tread back, as I think I’ll be able to stay on topic!

I presume that the Vazer concept is now dead and gone, perhaps because the boat building companies didn’t file up to place orders as expected, which would indicate poor market judgment for this case from MerCruiser.
And after all, 100 hp is not much for a sterndrive package.

What I’m wondering: did they ever really start the production? I’ve tried some, but cannot seem to find any ‘real life’ boats with Mercruiser Vazer propulsion anywhere!


jimh posted 09-07-2010 12:12 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Thanks for reviving this discussion. Coincidentally, I was wondering about the status of VAZER myself the other day. It seems to have disappeared. If you do a search on GOOGLE NEWS, there is nothing found.
brisboats posted 09-07-2010 09:41 PM ET (US)     Profile for brisboats  Send Email to brisboats     
If history has proven anything it takes a large volume engine adapted for a sterndrive application to make the bean counters and investors in a marine company happy. This VAZER concept had huge red flags from the beginning and while a novel concept it was probably headed for failure as I stated over three years ago. Mercruiser tried the 3.7 liter as an innovative and state of the art design and what happen in that case was of Edsel proportions. Agreed GM produces several hundred thousand of engines in a very short timespan. Marinizing those engines has proven to be a practical approach for the sterndrive market.

The problem with this one was the very things that make for a lightweight powerplant ie., an aluminum block and/or head also require the need for a closed cooling system. The added complexity, cost and plumbing of closed cooling often negates the initial weight savings of the base engine. Old school sterndrive buyers like a simple lump of iron in the boat, easy to service and cheap to replace. The venerable GM smallblock 5.7 liter can produce 260-300+ horsepower easily and reliably. It is no wonder it has been one of the most used engines in a sterndrive application. Overhead cams, light weight aluminum blocks and heads fair much better in cars that boats.

Power to weight ratio a 70 horsepower outboard would outperform this one.


Tohsgib posted 09-09-2010 11:42 AM ET (US)     Profile for Tohsgib  Send Email to Tohsgib     
I agree but if you research this I would wager that 90% of all I/O powered pontoon boats are on lakes or rivers. Being a saltwater boater I RARELY see an I/O pontoon, 99.5% or outboard. If running fresh water you would not require a fresh water cooling system. The Vazer being only 100hp was also designed for entry level toons and maybe the cost was not that much cheaper than a 40hp outboard.
GSH posted 09-15-2010 04:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for GSH  Send Email to GSH     
I’ve found some information partly answering my own questions:

Yes, the Vazer was produced, and it was even sold on export (from the US).

I now have a magazine article on the installation/repower of an old Norwegian Fjordling 17 HT (hard top) boat where a MerCruiser Vazer setup replaces the original I/O. The article is from 2007, somehow I missed that issue of the magazine in question...

JimH, I’ll send some additional info on this to your e-mail! (You’ll need to use the google translator)


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