A Nose For Speed
Custom Marine Coaxes More Speed
from Mere Sport Master Gearcase
We previously worked with and wrote about Titus Grisham and his Custom Marine & Welding shop, derailing how he dared to take a Sawzall to a brand-new Mercury Racing Sport Master gearcase in his continuing quest for tnore speed. Tirus cur the factory-cast nosecone off the front of the unit before our disbe lieving eyes, then proved to us that, by doing so and installing his own nosecone, the 'Master became a better-handling, easier-steering and (most important to most bassboaters) faster unit to boot. We saw Grisham's excellent work first-hand, and then watched as it out performed a stock Sport Master on a 90-plus mph Allison basser.
This time around, Titus teamed with Stroker Boats. We gathered in central Florida on a picture-per fect day -80 degrees, dry winter air and flat water with just a slight breeze to ripple the surface. We had 100-mph water for testing, for sure, and we needed it. Our day's agenda consisted of running a Stroker bassboat (rigged with a 2004 Mercury Racing 300X) outboard on back-to-back-to-back runs, under as identical conditions as possible, to record the speed and handling differences between three versions of the Sport Master gearcase. Our baseline unit was stock,as issued by Mere Racing. With a 14&1/2" x 32" Mercury Racing Lightning ET propeller bolted to the propshaft, we took to the ramp and launched for our first runs.
BASELINE: STOCK UNIT
This Sroker hull is not one you'd want co run up against in a top-end speed battle; our first back-to-back runs netted average GPS and Stalker radar recorded speeds of 104.1 mph at 6600 rpm. All tests, by the way,were conducted with two aboard and a half-tank of fuel. Our test driver noted that his boat was difficult to hold on the pad and balance at top speed with the stock Sport Master. Holeshot times averaged 6.08 seconds from a dead in-gear idle speed to 30 mph. Lower midrange (40-60 mph) acceleration times averaged a very quick 4.69 seconds, with upper midrange (60-80 mph) averages falling in the 6.65-sec ond range. The stock Sport Master carried the boat very well until speeds slipped past 100 mph; at that point, bow hunting and balance became major challenges in keeping the boat straight and obtaining consistent cop speeds.
TITUS MOD UNIT
Titus offers a basic modification to the stock "Sporty" chat he calls the Titus Mod. For $300 plus shipping, he carefully profiles then "works" the bottom of the bullet, skeg and built-in torque rab. What exactly does he do to make the stock case faster? Titus isn't telling. It's his time and experimentation that goes into this mod, and he prefers to keep his tricks to himself. I don't blame him; after all, it's his living. On this rig, the Titus case produced a whopping 3.1 more miles per hour using che same propeller and setup; however, we were about to raise the Merc a half-inch higher on the transom than we could with the stock Sporty and still obtain excellent lift as well as water pressure. That's cheap speed, folks; just $100 for each additional mile per hour. Handling was markedly better, too. Our driver noted that the Titus case was much easier to drive and handle at top speed; the result is a. more consistent 107.2 mph @ 6800 rpm, still spinning the same 32" pitch Lightning ET propeller. However, it had a tendency to fall flat immedi ately after planing, and required more trim to get the bow to "pop" at lower midrange speeds. The numbers don't lie, though, and the Titus case was clearly quicker from 0-30 mph (6.02 seconds}and 40-60 mph (4.25 seconds) and ever-so-slightly quicker from 60-80 mph (6.45 seconds). A nice fearure of the Tirus mod is that the unit's appearance can still look stock; since nothing is cut off or bonded on, the finish can remain unpainted if desired, and the result is that the unit appears stock to all but the most knowledgeable Sport Master experts.
Titus' latest top speed experiment is a variation on the unit we first reviewed back in 2005. In this procedure, Titus cuts off the stock Sporty nosecone and welds on his own, spending hours carefully hand blending the transition. Again, the real proprietary secrets won't be revealed here, but suffice it to say that the X Case is a Sport Master just as a Nextel Cup racer is a stock car. The water inlets are highly modified as is the skeg, torque cab and bullet profile. Even the position of the cone is altered relative to the centerline of the propshaft. Titus also adds what he calls a "blended hydrofoil" to the anti-ventilation plate; essentially, this is a planing aid that's welded on and blended to become part of the gearcase, as opposed to the typical ugly bole-on units available commercially. The foil aids holeshot, to be sure, but Titus also found that altering the aft two inches of the plate slightly increased top speed. This case is considerably more expensive; the cone and other mods total $600, and adding in $125 for the hydrofoil, the total becomes $725 plus shipping. Yow! Does it work? The radar gun revealed an increase of 1.2 mph over the Titus Mod unit for a maxed-out 108.4 mph @ 6900 rpm. However, our reported the handling improved dramatically, with a flatter, more conservative attack angle at speeds over 70 mph. The need to balance the boat precariously was dramatically reduced; overall, the package was a much better ride, and felt much safer. The engine height ended up another half-inch higher than with the Titus case, and a full inch higher than with the stock Sporty. The X Case must be painted to cover the extensive welding and body work. The good news here is that Titus can custom paint yours, even to march your boat or engine if desired -or any color you wish. Many drag racers choose wild finishes, bur most agree that a specific custom touch can add a tad more performance - finishing the lower half of the bullet and the skeg (those parts still in the water at ultra-high speeds) in flat black or grey primer, then wee-sanded with automotive sandpaper to create a smooth but slightly broken finish. Breaking the smooth finish with finger-grit sandpa per helps break the water's surface tension on the gearcase, allowing it to pass through the water faster. Titus' paint work is excellent; our test gearcase looked like it came from Merc's factory.
If you have a boat like our test Stroker -one that's capable of very high speeds - then a Titus gearcase job is well worth the investment if your desire is more speed. Of course, the trade-off is the initial dollars spent, plus the angst you'll experience if you nick it up on a stump or at the launch ramp. Otherwise,Titus' mods don't reduce gearcase life expectancy one bit. The improvement in handling and, as a result, overall safety is measurable, as is the increase in speed. When a boat is already running speeds over 90 mph, every mile per hour gain usually comes at great cost relative to the initial investment. It's not often that gains come thls cheaply -again, relatively speaking. While your boat may not see the same increases we saw on this Stroker combo, it's highly likely you will see improvement. The only way to be sure is to try it. However, there are a few cautions before you unbolt your unit and box it up.
1) Call Grisham and discuss your situation in explicit detail. Be specific regarding your boat and engine make, model, year; your use patterns (cruising, top speed, etc); your boating conditions (calm or rough water, rivers or lake's, etc); your boats typical setup (including weight, passengers, current setback, best propeller, etc); finally, your current performance results (speed, rpm, propeller dimensions, engine height, gearcase configuration, etc). Titus can then evaluate your setup and make his recommendations.
2) If your not familiar with removing a gearcase, have a professional do it for you - and re-install it when it returns
3) Be extra careful when packing your gearcase for shipment. Yours truly like to build a rigid box from pine and plywood, and secure the lower unit completely and carefully inside. When you ship it, insur eit heavily for possible damage. Track it on it's way to Grisham's shop and when he ships it back. A good Sporty complete is worth $5,000+ new, and a solid $2,000+ on the used market.
4) Don't try and have the mods done at the height of the boating season. You'll be disappointed in the turn around time. That's not a slam against Titus; he's busy all summer just like anyone else in the marine industry. Do your homework in the off-season, and you'll be ready to go come spring.