By David Kennedy
Diesel engines are at their best when the conditions they have to perform in are at their worst. They thrive on hard work, heavy loads, and continuous use-so it's no surprise that diesels are the powerplant of choice in the trucking, mining, and marine worlds. Traditionally, diesel-powered boats (less than 50 feet in length) use engines based on over-the-road diesels that you're likely familiar with. In fact, almost all the big-name diesel engine manufacturers offer marinized versions of their popular truck engines to propel or generate electricity for boats. The one notable exception to this rule is International.
MARINE DIESEL ENGINES
Caterpillar alone sells more than 15 different marinized diesel engines. John Deere also configures most of its farm implement engines for ocean-going use. Cummins partners with MerCruiser (on engines less than 15.0L) to offer its inline diesel engines for boats, and it seems like nearly every boat we've seen has a Cummins Onan generator. It would be fair to say that, in most cases, a diesel engine manufacturer will prove out a new engine architecture in heavy-duty trucks first. And then once all the bugs are worked out, that engine will be upgraded to handle the rigors of marine use. Manufacturers can also use the marine industry to extend the lifespan of an engine, because after it's no longer cost-effective to upgrade an engine to the latest on-highway emissions standards, boat builders can still install them (due to slightly less restrictive emissions laws and get a proven diesel package).
GALE BANKS, LAND AND SEA
Banks Power is a brand known throughout the diesel industry, but it may come as a surprise to some of you that Gale Banks has had an equally long career in the marine engine world. Granted, much of his company's boating background is with twin·turbocharged big-block race engines, but Banks' gas and diesel designs have also found their way into some very specialized engines for the Navy.
In 2002, Banks developed a 5.9L Cummins engine fitted with twin turbos, an air-to-water intercooler, and a compacted·graphite iron block for a SEAL Team fast-attack boat. This 700hp marine engine was built at the same time as Banks' Bonneville-record-setting Cummins-powered Dodge Dakota. The technology sharing between the landspeed racing program and the marine engine developed for the SEAL Team led to performance parts like the Banks Big Hoss intake manifold for the common-rail Cummins.
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