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Ed Lane (33) - Jeff Hunt (57)

Ed Lane (33) and Jeff Hunt (57) are working with Quicksilver to test their new engines.

When you hear company names like Mercury and Quicksilver, the first thing that likely comes to mind is hitting the water on a sweet boat.

While this is a more than valid conclusion, your way of thinking may soon be changing.

Mercury and its Quicksilver brand are now beginning to make a splash in the dirt track market. Their reason for the expansion is quite interesting.

“We’ve been making engines for marine use that are designed to be both affordable and durable for several decades,” notes Mike Horak, who is the Power Train Director for Mercury Marine. “Over the past few years we’ve had more and more of our boat clientele telling us that they also are dirt racers, and that they are always looking for affordable engines that are dependable.”

Horak goes on to say, “Their demand and our ability to meet that demand is really what got this ball rolling.”

With the needs of their potential, dirt track customers in mind, Quicksilver began developing a pair of circle track crate engines a little over a year ago.

“Honestly the technology of what we are already making versus what the dirt track market is pursuing is not that much different, so the progress of designing and building the motors went pretty quickly,” comments Horak. “On the marine side we have a different, design perspective. We design for durability and torque production. As it turns out there’s a lot of lower-budget, dirt track racers looking for these exact specs.”

Quicksilver 383CT Engine

The Quicksilver 383 CT engine is prepared to go in Jeff Hunt’s car.

By early 2016 Mercury had a pair of Quicksilver Crate Engines ready to tackle the dirt. Their first piece was a 357 CT engine, which is comparable to a 350hp GM crate engine. The second motor was a 383 CT power plant, which falls in between a 350 hp and 400 hp GM crate engine in terms of performance.

With the engines ready to hit the track, the next task was to find drivers, who might be interested in dropping the experimental engines in their hot rods.

Another member of the Mercury team joined the fray to tackle this aspect of the process.

“I spent many a Friday night at Dixieland Speedway in Elizabeth City, North Carolina,” recounts Jay Murphy, who is an Engine Sales Specialist with Mercury. “I thought that this place would be a perfect, testing ground for these new engines.”

During a late April, practice session at Dixieland Speedway Murphy took note of a very clean #57 entry in the Super Street division. He ultimately made the decision to approach the driver to see if there was an interest in participating in the program.

This decision by Murphy led him to meet Virginia Beach, Virginia’s Jeff Hunt. While Murphy knew that the soon-to-be, 53-year-old Hunt had a sharp race car, there was one important fact that he didn’t initially know.

“A few minutes into talking to Jeff [Hunt], and he mentions to me that 2016 will be his rookie season in dirt track racing,” laughs Murphy.

Hunt told Murphy that his only experience in a full-sized car was almost 20 years ago in an Enduro.

“Some R&D programs might have thought that a rookie wouldn’t be the best fit, but for us it was a perfect situation,” states Murphy. “We knew that Jeff was looking for a dependable motor that would allow him to focus on making laps and getting experience, rather than worrying about whether or not the motor would run.”

For Hunt it was a great opportunity to test Quicksilver’s 383 CT Crate Engine in his hot rod.

“I was honored to have Jay [Murphy] approach me about the program, and I’ll be honest that I figured he would lose interest pretty quick when he found out it was my first year, but thankfully he didn’t,” recounts Hunt.

With one driver locked into the program, Murphy needed to find a driver, who would like to run the Quicksilver 357 CT Crate Engine. As fate would have it, that driver would actually find him in late May.

Quicksilver 383CT Engine 1
“We had blown up a motor that only had 10 laps on it in the season opener,” Hertford, North Carolina racer, Ed Lane painfully remembers. “I honestly thought we might be out of racing until late in the season, but then a friend of a friend tells me that I should call this guy named Jay Murphy. The guy tells me that this Murphy fellow might have a great opportunity for me.”

With some reluctance Lane ultimately decided to call Murphy, and what he heard almost seemed too far-fetched to believe.

“If there was ever a situation where something sounded too good to be true, then this was it,” laughs Lane. “I mean this guy tells me that he’ll provide me with a motor for my car, and all I have to do is run it regularly and give him feedback. Jay swore to me that there were no catches to it, so I decided to give it a shot. I can honestly say it’s the best decision I made in a long time.”

With both drivers competing in the Super Street class at Dixieland Speedway, it gave Quicksilver a chance to see how the different engines responded to different conditions.

Hunt had to make a few modifications to his race car before he could hit the track. While the CT 383 comes stock with a 4-barrel carburetor, track rules only allow a 2 barrel. As a result, Hunt replaced the 4-barrel, intake manifold with a 2-barrel intake. In addition, a common Holley 2-barrel carburetor was implemented.

For Hunt he felt like he had plenty of power to be competitive, but just needed better setups and improved driving styles to contend for wins.

“We ran the full season, and for the most part we ran around the 5th position, but we did have a 2nd and a 3rd-place finish along the way,” remembers Hunt. “For a newcomer competing against guys that have as much as 15 years’ experience, this engine had plenty of power. In fact, my biggest challenge was getting all the power down to the track, but late in the season I figured out some setup changes with springs that made a major difference.”

Meanwhile for the 48-year-old Hunt – who has more than 30 years of racing experience – there were a few different conclusions drawn from his experience with the lesser-powerful 357 CT Crate Engine.

“With this 357 CT engine I found that most nights you are going to be around a 5th-place car,” says Hunt. “It’s going to be hard to beat the guys, who are running the custom-built, $12,000 engines. On the same token though if you are looking to have an engine that is durable, dependable, and will provide you with the opportunity to race at a fraction of the cost, then this Quicksilver 357 CT will suit you just fine.”

While the racers made careful notes of how these new, low-cost engines performed, Dixieland Speedway owner, Red Swain also paid close attention.

“It’s no big secret that tracks across the country have struggled over the past several years,” noted Swain, who has operated the facility for 35 seasons. “A big part of the problem is that a lot of guys just can’t afford to race anymore, so as track owners we are all very receptive to anything that can allow more people to affordably race.”

Swain was impressed by what he saw in the first year of competition for the Quicksilver Crate Engines. In fact, he is already evaluating how he might further implement them as a motor option in other divisions in 2017.

“We already allow a crate option in our Late Model division, and this year we allowed the Quicksilver engines in our Super Street division,” comments Swain. “We haven’t locked anything in stone yet for next year, but we are considering allowing the crate engines in other divisions as well. At the end of the day we just want to give as many racers as possible the chance to be able to participate.”

The crate engine options aren’t the only place that Swain has looked to save money for his racers.

“Sometimes racers don’t initially like rule changes because it costs them more money up front, but in the long run it saves them considerably,” states Swain. “An example is our track allowing the Bert and Brinn transmissions. Initially guys spend a little more money, but most of them now realize that it’s far cheaper and simpler than having to replace the stock pieces later.”

Quicksilver
With the Quicksilver 357 CT and 383 CT engines there’s a considerable cost savings on the front end. As previously stated, some of the custom-built engines in the Super Street division at Dixieland Speedway can cost as much as $12,000.

In the United States the suggested MSRP for the Quicksilver 357 CT engine is $3,743.75, while the MSRP for the Quicksilver 383 CT engine is $4,993.75.

“I can tell you I had a whole lot more than $3,800 invested in my engine that only made it 10 laps,” comments Lane. “Again there are more powerful engines available, but they come at a much higher price. This 357 CT gives you a lot to work with. I’m definitely interested in trying the Quicksilver 383 CT down the road to see how much difference it makes.”

For Hunt the price tag is a no-brainer, especially for a beginner.

“It’s plain and simple the way to go if you are limited on funds and want to make your money count for the most,” says Hunt. “The dependability of the Quicksilver engine far outweighs me building a questionable one that may or not make it more than a race or two.”

While right now the power plants in the race cars piloted by Hunt and Lane are the only Quicksilver CT engines on the track, Jay Murphy has received a lot of interest from other racers.

“It’s really exciting because while this is still a work in progress, we’ve had so much interest expressed already by other racers,” comments Murphy. “In fact I had one racer call me just this week and tell me that he didn’t quite have the money yet, but he planned to replace his custom-built engine with a Quicksilver CT engine for 2017.”

Mercury’s Mike Horak is quick to manage expectations with the growth in popularity of the Quicksilver CT engines.

“We know that initially we might get laughed at as the new kid on the block, but as changes in manufacturing make the price tags of other engines – both crate and custom – increase over the next few years, I think a lot of people will start to gain interest in what we are trying to do here. We definitely aren’t in the market to compete with or replace high-end engines in top-tier divisions. We are simply in the market to provide racers in lower divisions with cost-effective and durable engines that can keep them on the track. Equally important, we want to offer these alternatives to help tracks stay open.”

Racers will likely find it interesting that these factory-sealed engines may be ordered through any of the more than 8,000 Mercury/Quicksilver dealers around the country. The engines are shipped in a reusable container, so that if there is an issue with the engine at any point, they can be shipped back to the factory in the same container. A credit – based on age and engine type – is issued and a new motor is shipped back to the customer.

For those, who believe in recycling and repurposing they will also be happy to hear that Mercury operates on this same philosophy. In fact, Mercury has an entire remanufacturing division. Several of these motors are made from repurposed, cast-iron blocks – which prevents core shifting and reduces costs. The repurposed blocks are dressed with new parts that include pistons, springs, cam shafts, valves, bearings, etc.

Hunt finished third in the final Super Street standings at Dixieland Speedway, while Lane finished 10th, despite missing five nights of racing at the beginning of the season.

Hunt looks forward to his sophomore season in 2017.

“We’ve learned so much this season, and I’ve got a much better grasp on driving and setting up the car. With this motor in the car I have no doubt that we can win races next year.”

For Lane, he looks forward to moving into the crew chief role in 2017 as his 16-year-old son, Treavor takes over driving duties.

“I wanted to spend most of this season feeling out the car with this new motor in it, and from what I’ve seen I now know we have a quality piece for my son to make the transition from Go-Karts to full-sized cars,” said Lane. “This engine gives a new racer everything and more that he needs to be competitive.”

Mercury’s endeavor into dirt track racing with its Quicksilver Crate Engines is clearly still in its infancy, but there is definite promise in the direction of their program.

Jay Murphy best sums up the company’s ultimate goal.

“Our biggest goal with our new engine program is to get as many people as possible into racing by offering lower-cost options.”

For more information on these new engines from Quicksilver, please visit www.quicksilver-products.com.


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  • don foster says:
    October 6, 2016 at 7:34 pm

    I am interested in more info for our wissota modified and Midwest mod classes.I am a mercury dealer in Canada.Don Foster

    Reply

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