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By Staff Writer
Even when his company’s first aluminum-block V-10s were bolted into a Skater 32 catamaran, Ilmor Engineering president Paul Ray knew that for his company to succeed in the marine industry, it had to have engines in mainstream boats. So it should come as no surprise that Ilmor is now supplying engines for legendary recreational boatbuilder MasterCraft.
“It’s the next phase of our growth into the marine marketplace. From Day One, we knew we wanted to expand and grow in the marine marketplace as the opportunities struck,” said Ray.
The company now has the opportunity to realize its full potential with the opening of a new manufacturing facility in Mooresville, N.C., to complement its headquarters in Plymouth, Mich. The Michigan location is home to Ilmor High Performance LLC, while Ilmor Marine will be based in Moorseville. Ron Brown is the president of the new entity, which currently employs 25 people and will expand as the demand grows.
The new 50,000 square-foot factory that opened in June was customized to Ilmor’s specifications and Ray calls the facility “very modern, bright and airy.” In true Ilmor style, the company invested heavily in an employee-friendly environment. For example, the paint booth is fully robotic, which limits workers’ exposure to breathing harmful fumes or vapors. Multiple parts can be loaded onto the line and be automatically fed through the booth. Freshwater and saltwater parts are color-coded based on their intended use while all intake-system components are finished in charcoal gray before they wind up in the infra-red drying oven.
Ray said the Mooresville facility is capable of producing 15,000 engines in a single shift and that it currently is operating at about 10 percent capacity currently.
After years of producing the aluminum-block V-10 engines that start life as a Chrysler automotive mill, Ilmor’s mainstream marine engines are based on General Motors V-8 blocks. The company is building a 320-hp version of a 350-cid engine, a 375-hp 6.0-liter and a 430-hp 6.2 liter. All the motors can be set up for stern drive or inboard applications.
Initially Ilmor will be concentrating on inboards because until June of 2011, the company’s only mainstream customer is MasterCraft Boats of Vonore, Tenn. Ilmor and MasterCraft have worked cooperatively in product development of the new motors for three years.
The two parties came together through a mutual business partner, auto racing legend Roger Penske. He at one time had an ownership interest in MasterCraft. He has since relinquished it, but Penske still maintains a relationship with the company. Because of Ilmor’s involvement building engines for the various factions of open-wheel auto racing in this country for the last decade, the engine manufacturer also enjoyed a longstanding relationship with Penske.
“The door was open through Roger, but we pretty much had to convince MasterCraft that we were the right company for them,” said Ray.
On a side note, Ilmor just announced a five-year deal with General Motors to build Indy Car engines through 2012. When Ilmor first started 26 years ago, the company partnered with, you guessed it, GM.
Ray said that as Ilmor Marine continues to grow, he hopes the company can follow up its high-performance Indy drive with a low-cost high-volume drive for mainstream boats. The expansion of Ilmor Marine is a natural one and the company is taking the right approach with small steps in this economy.
“To be in the marine industry, you have to be in the whole marine industry,” he said. “We hope to see the Ilmor name in cruisers and dayboats in the not-too distant future.”
Staff Writer for See Dealer Cost™
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