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Crusader Engines 50th Anniversary

But the story of how the Crusader Marine engines come into being way is as interesting as how they've managed to stay in business for so many years.

A few years ago Crusader Marine celebrated its 50th anniversary. The fact that the engine builder has not only survived but thrived for that long should come as no surprise. That's because for more than a half century Crusader has enjoyed an enviable reputation for building premium inboards, engines that delivered horsepower and reliability.

Back in the halcyon days of the 50's speedboat racing on the Great Lakes bubbled red hot. One of the high profile aficionados was a local Detroit Cadillac dealer named Cal Canal. Canal was one of those stereotypical guys with 30-weight oil running in his veins. He loved fast cars, fast boats, and powerful engines. It was only a matter of time before the already successful entrepreneur tooled up to build his own brand of marine engines.

Just as predictable, because he was a Cadillac dealer, the first inboards built were founded upon a big, Cadillac V-8 block. Seemingly overnight marinized Caddy V-8s began to power a flotilla of homebuilt hydroplane race boats, classic wooden runabouts and even a sprinkling of sailboats. From day one those brawny engines enjoyed a reputation for reliability and performance. So naturally it follows production boat builders all across the country began to order Crusader crate motors by the truckload.

Then in 1972 Canal sold his beloved Crusader to Thermo-Electronics, a Fortune 500 holding company that specialized in high technology. For the next three decades Crusader continued to grow, adding production and to its roster of boat builders. During the late 1980s the marine industry endured a struggling economy. Yet in spite of the gloom and doom Crusader continued to march. In fact, the company expanded by purchasing the Chris-Craft's engine division.

Then came the early '90s when the merger of small boat companies and big marine engine corporations dominated the playing field. Competition was fierce and Crusader's market share declined. In 1998 Pleasurecraft Marine Engine Company purchased Crusader. This synergistic melding of the engineering and production talents of the two already successful companies created an entity keenly focused on the production and support of its gas inboard engines.

Fast forward to 2005 and we find Crusader building engines for eight of the 10 largest powerboat manufacturers in the world. For the current model year Crusader offers boat builders and repower clients five different gasoline injected and electronically controlled inboards. Its Crusader Captain's Choice line of V-6s and V-8s ranges from 275 horsepower to 425 hp. For the budget conscious there's also a Classic series of engines including a carbureted 300 hp model, a eminently popular choice for repowering. Without argument, at least some of the secret of the success behind these inboards is Crusader's marinization of General Motor's Vortec long block, replete with a MEFI-4 black box.

MEFI is GM's fourth generation multi-port fuel injection system. Working in harmony with GM's world class Electronically Fired Ignition, Crusader engines boast a number of enviable personality traits including instant starting, smooth idling, strong performance and miserly fuel economy. Also worthy of note are Crusader's Fuel Control Cell (FCC) and its Aqua-Cooler that insure adequate fuel flow without fuel starvation or vapor lock. Engines come fitted with one or the other, depending on the model. Integral to Crusader's venerable reputation are its engine's bulletproof personality.

Key features include an oversized, stainless-steel water pump that flows a copious volume of coolant. A standard item freshwater cooling system cools the entire block and also the exhaust risers. Because it's closed cooling, brackish or saltwater never contacts the block and heads interior passages. Forget about corrosion. Engine and transmission oil cooler is oversized and heavy duty. Service points are designed for easy accessibility, which means in the unlikely even if there is a problem with the fuel pump, starter and ignition relays, thermostat housing or the alternator, your service technician won't be using blue language and handling you an inflated labor bill. GM's serpentine alternator and water pump drive belt boasts extreme long life, yet it too is easily changed when the time comes. Similarly, a worn water pump impeller can be swapped without the hassle and expense of removing and disassembling the entire pump.

Finally, Chuck Thurman, president of the Pleasurecraft Engine Group, says, "Besides premium engines, what'll carry us into the future is the way we add value for both the builder and the boat owner. That and our reputation for customer satisfaction.