Mercedes V8 & V12 Big Block Conversions

Discussion in 'DIY Marinizing' started by ATMHC, Jul 5, 2007.

  1. ATMHC
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    ATMHC Junior Member

    I've been dreaming of building a replica of one of the classic 1930's style mahogany runabouts (26' to 32') powered by a beautifully polished big Mercedes 6.9 Litre V8 or one of the newer Mercedes 6 Litre V12 gas engines. The 6.9's are dry sump motors that are virtually indestructible. They produce a huge amount of smooth & reliable horsepower and torque, and are surprisingly inexpensive to come by. The V12's are smoother still, & with polished valve covers & 6 pipes coming out of each side, would be reminiscent of the old Packard & Kermath V12's used in the speedboats of yesteryear.

    Has anyone heard of any German companies offering marinizing kits for any of these engines ???

    I can't be the first lunatic to think of this... If anyone has had any experience doing this or has any constructive ideas at all I'd love to hear them.
     
    Last edited: Jul 6, 2007
  2. FAST FRED
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    FAST FRED Senior Member

    marinizing kits for any of these engines ???

    Very little is needed to marinize an engine. The exhaust can be dry and asbestos (or better) wrapped . A keel cooler will handle the cooling loads with minor drag.


    But "cheap" Mercedes? How?


    FF
     
  3. charmc
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    charmc Senior Member

    You can buy used Mercedes Benz engines here:

    hartsautoparts.com/mercedes/Engine.html (URL no longer exists)
     
  4. ATMHC
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    ATMHC Junior Member

    Reply to Fast Fred:

    The big block gas V8's made by Mercedes for the 600 series limousines, known as M-100 engines were made from the 60's in 6.3 litre size and then in the 70's in 6.9 litre size. Roughly 1800 6.9 sedans were sold in the USA, many of which are now considered junk because of bad body rust problems which are simply too expensive to properly fix in relation to the market value of the cars. The car also suffered from a complex hydro-pneumatic suspension system which often cost owners several thousand dollars to repair & replace.. that factor, plus their rather poor gas mileage, has created a rather large supply of these cars on the market & they can therefore be bought pretty cheap... I have 3 at the moment, one that I drive occasionally, one nice rust free example that I'm planning to restore (the paint is faded pretty badly from being outside in Arizona) and another rust free parts car that I bought for under a thousand dollars... Over the years I've owned about 6 or 7 of these cars, and I've never had a motor failure, even in cars with well over 100,000 miles on the clock. This is largely due to the fact that these engines employ dry sump lubrication systems. Due to the superior lubrication afforded by those systems, these engines simply never wear out. Another reason for their long life is the fact that they were designed to propel a huge limo at speeds of 125mph, and consequently, in a standard Mercedes sedan, which weighs considerably less than the limo, they really are ever called upon to work very hard... A 6.9 sedan is truly a 140 - 150mph car...easily capable of cruising with 4 or 5 passengers at 125mph for extended periods, if you can find a place to do that legally... 9 times out of 10, if you get a 6.9 with anywhere between 100 to 150,000 miles on it, all you would have to do to insure that it will run smoothly for another 100,000 plus miles is replace the timing chain and the timing chain tensioners, (plus other belts, hoses, water pump, etc...) While I've never experienced a 6.9 engine failure, I have heard that a badly stretched or broken timing chain is usually responsible for their failure on the rare occasions that they do fail... If you do not understand why the dry sump feature insures their long life, send me an eMail with your telephone # & I'll call you to explain it... too long to type & explain here...

    I understand the marinizing process insofar as the exhaust and cooling is concerned, although I wonder how big a keel cooler would have to be to cool such a big beast of an engine, and especially how one would go about installing one in the belly of an antique wooden speedboat... Since the boat wouldn't be used much, I was thinking that direct salt water cooling would be OK as long as the cooling system was flushed out with fresh water after each use.

    What I don't know about is mating the engine up to a proper marine transmission, and, as the fuel injection system on these engines is a bit complex, I'd love to find out if anyone makes a manifold capable of converting these engine to carbueration... I think a polished block with four big dual throat Weber carbs on top would really look great and probably, with the help of a free flow exhaust system, increase their power output by a good margin... I suspect that there must be high performance accessory companies in Germany, similar to our Edelbrock etc, that make high performance goodies for these big engines... I have no idea how to find out who they are and where they are however...

    If you've never experienced the performance of a Mercedes 6.3 or 6.9 I highly recommend them.. As a toy used only occasionally their fuel consumption should not be a problem. With their enormous torque, they would also make a great vehicle to use to tow an antique speedboat on its trailer.
     
  5. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    The Mercedes 450 SEL 6.9 produce in the 1975 was my dream car. Never could afford one.
     
  6. mydauphin
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    Marinizing Engine

    AS someone said...
    Marineizing exhaust, cooling, etc... not problem

    Custom hookup to marine transmission capable of handling torque. Perhaps if you got one with a standard transmission ma be it could be adapted.

    May be you can get older model with simpler computer that handled just basic ignition and fuel control.

    All things considered... not a fast or cheap project... but may be fun. What is weight of one of these engines...
     
  7. ATMHC
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    ATMHC Junior Member

    Reply to MYDAUPHIN

    The M-100 Mercedes engines ONLY came with automatic transmissions, and one generation of fuel injection components. Switching to carbueration is not absolutely required... In fact the engine would probably run smoother without it... but in order to maintain the visual appeal of a "race boat" under the hood so to speak, it would look cooler...

    These engines are not light.. I don't know the exact weight but a mechanic friend of mine assures me that they are no heavier than a big block Chevy V8 and probably much lighter than the old Packard V12's...
     
  8. mydauphin
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    mydauphin Senior Member

    Weight

    I thought these engines where Aluminum block and heads. I would think they are lighter than Chevy. You need to know weight to know how to mount engine and where. Also exact HP and torque figures are good to setup tranny and prop. I dont think Auto transmission would last long. But worth a try... for fun. A 23 foot boat is marginal with 2 engines this size. I would go with single engine with Levi Drive or Duo-prop
     
  9. ATMHC
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    ATMHC Junior Member

    Re: Weight

    Mercedes didn't switch to Aluminum blocks until the 80's, the M-100 big blocks were cast iron.

    If anyone's interested, there's an excellent website all about the old Mercedes big block engines:

    http://www.m-100.cc/

    Frankly I'm surprised that these haven't already found there way into the high performance boating arena. They are far superior to their American big block cousins which still reply on push rods rather than the overhead cam design of the Mercedes. With proper maintenance they virtually last forever, and I believe that you could probably get an easy 600-700 horsepower out of them if you were sufficiently motivated...
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2007
  10. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    The boating industry's not one to adopt anything different with regards to power, not without a fight. The standard gas engines that just about everyone uses - 4cyl 3.0, 6cyl 4.3, 8cyl 5.0, 8cyl 5.7, 8cyl 7.4- are all ancient designs, that have been in use more or less forever (at least from my perspective at the younger end of the boatowners' scale). They work, spare parts are everywhere, so why bother digging out something new and different that might be better, but isn't an absolute 100% certainty? This is the philosophy that keeps new and possibly better options out of the mainstream.
    As to the big Mercedes motor:
    The engine might be able to handle boat-type loading conditions with relatively few mods- I'm not that familiar with it. But being in an enclosed environment (the bilge of a boat) it will need to have proper marine flame arrestors, spark-proof starter/alternator/other electrics, etc. or there's a good chance you'll blow the engine fifty feet in the air when you turn the key after it's been sitting for a while.
     
  11. ATMHC
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    ATMHC Junior Member

    Reply to Marshmat;

    I didn't mean that I expected the big block Mercedes to make a serious dent in the performance boat market.. but rather that I was surprised that those few lunatics out there with unlimited funds, who put Ferrari & Lamborghini engines in their boats, haven't tried these because by comparison to the Italian exotica, they are very cheap indeed. They also put out far more torque.

    Mercedes, through it's MTU division, already has a big chunk of the market for Marine diesels from roughly 800 to 12,000hp. I'm surprised that they haven't gone into the smaller end of the marine diesel market with the excellent 6 cylinder CDI car diesels they make as a starting point. Mercedes makes a really small state of the art 1.7 litre (102 cubic inch) diesel for some of the really small cars that they sell outside of this country. That small diesel is so good that it's already been converted (by a company called Theilert) for use in airplanes, in fact you can buy 4 seat twin engine turbo diesel that outperforms the best twin gasoline engined counterpart for less than half the cost & with operational costs of considerably less than half per mile flown. If you want to see it, here's a link.

    Go to: http://www.diamondair.com and select the DA42 Twin Star

    Volkswagen is now marketing it's automotive CDI V6 diesel to the marine marketplace, and I suspect others will follow..

    As to whether or not it's a 100% certainty that the overhead cam Mercedes engines are vastly superior to the outdated pushrod V-8's that Detroit is still pumping out, that's easy... It's 110% certain... One of my neighbors drives a 1984 500SEL Mercedes that he bought new and it currently has close to 400,000 miles on the clock with no major engine repairs ever... Did you ever see a Cadillac on the road with more than 150,000 miles on it that has not had an engine rebuild ?
     
  12. Ike
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    Ike Senior Member

    Yes you would have to do some marinizing. As was said, a flame arrestor, the alternator and starter would have to be igntion protected, the wiring and hoses would all have to be replaced with stuff that meets Coast Guard standards. Even the fuel pump would have to be changed. Perhaps this is why no one has ever done it.

    However, if it was in a completely open boat, that is the engine is sitting out in the open, about the only thing you would have to install is a flame arrestor or some sort of ram air induction that would direct backfires away from the interior and passengers. It would be one hell of a ride.
     
  13. Northwester
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    Northwester Junior Member

    Be careful as......

    Almost everything about a marinized gasoline engine is different from their land based cousins.

    Here's a short list of most everything that is different:

    -carburetors
    -crankshafts (usually forged)
    -cam shaft profiles
    -ignition advance method (centrifugal only)
    -ignition advance profile
    -exhaust manifolds
    -vapour/explosion proof starter, alternator, distributor
    -lower compression ratio
    -valves and valve seats
    -waterpump capacity and thermostat
    -frost plug and head gasket materials

    Even if you did find the a set of marine manifolds for your engine, you would likely suffer from major detonation/overheating/reliability problems without making a lot of modifications. Most auto engines are not designed for the severe/continuous duty cycle of marine service in a planing hull vessel. The conversion would probably work for a while in a small displacement hull where the power demands and loading of the engine are much lower.
     
  14. marshmat
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    marshmat Senior Member

    Good points, Northwester.
    An approach to modifying engines that may help to clarify matters is to look not at what type of vehicle the engine is propelling, but instead to look at what it will be expected to do with its output shaft. After all, it just sits there spinning a metal stick, not knowing or caring what that stick is connected to in the end.
    The spark-proof electric auxiliaries are mandatory for a boat, unless you like fireballs in your engine room.
    How much of the other mods are required depends on what the engine was originally built to do.
    A typical car engine's duty cycle is mostly loafing around at about 1/4 to 1/3 of max RPM, with most of the remaining time being idling. Only once every few minutes is it expected to come anywhere close to its rated power, and then only for ten seconds or so at a time. So although it's tuned to be able to produce that rated power if asked to, most of its internals are optimized to run reliably and efficiently at the low-speed cruise.
    Stick the engine in a boat, and it's now facing a completely different duty cycle. Now it's being asked to output 80% of full power on a constant basis. Hence why modifying a car engine for serious boat duty might involve beefing up the innards, changing cam and ignition, etc.
    But wait- look at a truck engine. Nobody expects a truck to accelerate like a bullet, but it has a hell of a lot of drag. Its engine is going to be running at near-maximum power on a regular basis, and its owner expects it to last for close to a million kilometres before finally kicking the bucket. Put it in a boat, and the duty cycle hasn't changed that much. Same deal with a car engine that was originally built with track/racing work in mind; it was originally engineered to run constantly at near-full power and it will be happy to do so. But try running a Windstar's V6 at WOT for eight hours and you'll have problems. It all depends on the duty cycle for which the engine was originally designed and built.
     

  15. ATMHC
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    ATMHC Junior Member

    Thanks to Marshmat & Northwester for their comments.. I'm sure that all of their points are valid.... Marshmat's comparison of a car engine to a truck engine actually applies very well to my original question, as the Mercedes 6.9 litre V8 has attributes of both.

    The big block Mercedes V8's (used in the Mercedes 600 Limo, the 6.3 & the 6.9 sedans) were originally designed to propel a 7,000 + pound car (the big limo) at speeds of 125 mph plus. These cars were in fact used for extreme high speed cruising on the German Autobahns which had no speed limits... In its final iteration, enlarged to 6.9 litres for use in the 450SEL 6.9 sedan, it produced enough power to propel this 4,500 lb car to 60mph in 7.4 seconds and a top speed of over 140mph. The engine produced over 400 lbs of torque.

    My experience over several long distance highway jaunts out west, where the car loafed along at 100mph at about 3,000 RPM, makes me think that given the proper marine specific modifications mentioned above, it would be ideally suited to powering a traditional narrow beam speedboat at cruising speeds in the 30 to 35 knot range, with the potential for significantly higher speeds if called for.... I was not thinking of using it in modern high performance boats where speeds are significantly higher.

    What you have to keep in mind in order to properly evaluate this is the extraordinary quality of this engine's design and the high tolerances to which it was built. These were hand built engines, made for the most expensive car in the world in the late 70's. The 6.9 engine option added 42% to the base price of the top of the line S Class sedan made back then... in today's dollars, it would probably be a $125-150,000 car.

    The dry sump lubrication system, holding 12.7 quarts of oil, insured that the engine was always properly lubricated, and the use of an oil cooler as standard equipment helped insure that the beast didn't overheat... Even with the oil cooler however, it didn't idle smoothly with the A/C running in downtown Phoenix traffic unless it was moving along... As long as air was entering the grill it was OK, but when it was stopped in bumper to bumper traffic, the temp guage went straight up real fast... even with the aux fan running.

    The only thing that really concerns me about using this engine in a boat is the cooling system.. since I doubt that there are stock fresh water cooling marine manifolds that can be bought off the shelf, my thought was to go with a simpler salt water cooling system which I think would be OK given the fact that the boat wouldn't be run very often, would be kept on a trailer in my barn when not in use, and would always be flushed out with fresh water after each use. Perhaps more complex a problem would be the choice of whether to try to use the original Bosch fuel injection system or switch to carbs...

    I'm still hoping that I'll find a marine performance equipment manufacturer in Germany who has already solved these problems and who has all the parts needed for the conversion for sale... If anyone reading this thread has any contacts in Germany, I'd appreciate it if you could pass this question along and post any replies you may receive..

    Thanks to all...
     
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