JIM WYNNE

Boating - - MOTORHEAD -

While Ole Ev­in­rude — and later Carl Kiekhae­fer of Mer­cury — brought re­cre­ational boat­ing to the masses with out­board power in the 1930s, ’40s and ’50s, an in­dus­try ex­ec­u­tive and rac­ing en­thu­si­ast changed the game again with his pop­u­lar­iza­tion of the stern­drive, also known as the in­board/out­board. Iron­i­cally, Wynne was work­ing for Kiekhae­fer when he helped de­velop the first stern­drive en­gine. Ac­cord­ing to Mer­cury’s own his­tory, Wynne worked for Mer­cury from 1953 un­til 1958. It was there that Wynne worked in se­cret on the de­sign of the stern­drive, un­der the di­rec­tion of the fa­mous Mer­cury ex­ec­u­tive Charles Strang, who ac­tu­ally first con­ceived of the idea in 1948. Kiekhae­fer had orig­i­nally re­jected the con­cept, so Strang worked on it with Wynne in se­cret. In 1958, Wynne left Mer­cury and be­gan assembling a stern­drive pro­to­type out of out­board parts in his garage in Mi­ami. Later, Wynne trav­eled to Swe­den to present the idea di­rectly to Volvo Penta’s pres­i­dent, who liked it enough to reach a li­cens­ing agree­ment with him.

At the New York Boat Show in 1959, Wynne pub­licly in­tro­duced the first Volvo Penta Aqua­matic stern­drive, paired with an 80 hp en­gine block. An en­thu­si­as­tic boat racer, Wynne also worked with Don Aronow to help build what even­tu­ally be­came the ven­er­a­ble Donzi Sweet 16. Mer­cury joined the party in 1961, and stern­drives started win­ning over boaters. Over the next decade, boat-rac­ing en­thu­si­asts be­gan to phase out out­board power in fa­vor of stern­drive ap­pli­ca­tions be­cause the de­sign al­lowed builders to mount big­ger, more pow­er­ful en­gine blocks di­rectly into the hull and cou­ple them with the drive. In terms of horse­power, out­boards at the time just couldn’t com­pete. Soon gaso­line stern­drive ap­pli­ca­tions be­came syn­ony­mous with boats, from the fam­ily run­about up to the mid­size cruiser, and rac­ing would never look back.

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