Quicksilver’s Crate Engine Program: Past, Present, And The Future

When we first started reporting on Quicksilver Products’ crate engine program, we asked the question: Can A Boat Motor Help Save Grassroots Racing? Three years later and we decided to take inventory and see if Quicksilver Products, a branch of Mercury Marine, had made any strides in grassroots circle track racing.

As it turns out, much has changed for both Quicksilver and dirt circle track racing. While the racing world has been dealing with a year-long struggle against a global pandemic, Quicksilver has been branching out steadily.

Hot Quicksilver Products Started

Things started innocently enough a few years ago when two hobby sports crossed paths routinely. “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.”

Mercury Marine’s involvement in dirt track racing goes back to the 1950s in NASCAR. This is Buck Baker’s 1956 NASCAR Championship Mercury Marine car. Photo from wikipedia.org.

With that, Quicksilver Products was born. Keeping the needs of their potential, dirt track customers in mind, Quicksilver developed a pair of circle track crate engines. “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.”

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. These engines have gained wide acceptance in the dirt track community today.

The Quicksilver crate engine on display at the 2019 PRI Show.

Why Racing Needs A Budget Engine

As any race team can attest, the cost of grassroots racing has gone up, making it tougher for the low-budget teams to stay in the game. “Many teams are mowed down by the high cost and frequency of engine rebuilds,” says Horak.

Estimates range from $500 to $10,000 a year for expensive rebuilds that drive up the cost. According to Horak, much of this is due to the poor durability of parts. Cast iron engines are simply not being produced at the same level as in the past, and cars from Detroit are not coming from the factory equipped with cast iron engines anymore. Racers cannot simply go to the junkyard and find a cast iron engine block for their next engine build as easily as they could a decade ago.

“We took a look at engines in general, and going to aluminum engines adds cost,” said Horak. Grassroots racers chose to stay with iron engines for budgetary reasons. Boat and dirt track sports are “similar industries with similar challenges,” he asserted. Like boating enthusiasts, dirt-track car owners are not only hurt by the high cost of fuels, but also the high cost of rebuilding aluminum engines – which are often two or three times the cost of an iron-block rebuild.

The crate engine being installed in Jeff Hunt’s street stock for initial testing.

How It Turned Out And What is Next?

“We knew 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.”

This proved to be true as the factory-sealed crate engines started finding homes in street stock series. For sheer economic practices, race teams found the new source of engines very practical. 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.

Politics Slowed The Growth

As is often the case, track politics came into play as some engine builders and larger teams tried to downplay the abilities of the new crate engines. When it became apparent these engines could compete, and most often win against the custom-built crate engines, race teams voted with their dollars and Quicksilver engines gained acceptance from the grassroots racers.

Offering a crate engine to the dirt track market has done well for Quicksilver Products. They now have a Factory Street Stock with their name as the primary sponsor of the series and have been integrated into a couple of limited late model series in the Southeast.

The Quicksilver Street Stock series is not exclusive to Quicksilver Products either. Other manufacturers are welcome to compete in the series, although they rarely win. This year’s top nine finishers in the series’ point standings were equipped with Quicksilver engines. The message is clear: If you want to pay less for a crate engine and have a better shot at finishing well, Quicksilver was the way to go.

Sprint Car legend Cory Kruseman tested the Quicksilver crate engine in one of his cars in mid-2020.

Horak was proud to tell us that other series were involved in testing their popular 357 CT crate engine in Sprint Cars and other open-wheel series. Horak was reluctant to provide details but assured us that testing was not limited to dirt tracks or any specific series.

More Information

We’ve been privileged to witness the journey of Quicksilver Products’ entry into the dirt track market and their success. We’ve also been blessed to present some of the company’s racing history in feature stories like this one: Quicksilver and Mercury Marine’s Heritage In Dirt Track Racing. We were also able to report on some of the recent test sessions in the open-wheel series: OneDirt’s View On A Future Grassroots Sprint Car Series.

To find out more, or to follow the progression of the Quicksilver Product’s into new series, follow them online www.quicksilver-products.com.

Article Sources

About the author

Bobby Kimbrough

Bobby grew up in the heart of Illinois, becoming an avid dirt track race fan which has developed into a life long passion. Taking a break from the Midwest dirt tracks to fight evil doers in the world, he completed a full 21 year career in the Marine Corps.
Read My Articles