ULTIMATE GEARCASE MODIFICATIONS
By Dave Casper
about every hi-performance outboarder has probably heard of the JC’s
nosecone modification and it’s dominance in that market in terms of both
performance and quality. Knowledgeable boaters also probably know that JC
sold the gearcase modification side of his business to employee Jarron
“Tooter” Meredith of J&J Marine Repair several years ago. What most
boaters probably do not know however, is that Tooter sold the gearcase
business to Titus Grisham, who owns Custom Marine & Welding, in April
2004. The question of whether or not the quality of work has been retained
by Titus is sure to come up. I recently received a nosecone modified CLE
gearcase from Titus and I can report that from what I have seen and from
feedback I have received from others, there is nothing to worry about in
that area. In fact, the quality of workmanship has been taken to a higher
level and there are some interesting innovations that Titus has come up
previously had a stock Merc 200 gearcase with a JC’s/Tooter nosecone and
welded on torque tab. It was a beautiful gearcase with the enclosed
water-transfer tube. However, during the summer of 2003, after a limited
amount of use a crack developed above the top of the torque tab where the
skeg meets the housing – a potentially dangerous situation that can occur
with welded on torque tabs. When I contacted my engine builder, Randy
Pierson from GPI International, he made arrangements to get me a new J&J
gearcase. Unfortunately, due to turn around times that were becoming
excessive, and developing questions on quality control, I never got the
gearcase. So, Randy sent me a custom Mod VP gearcase of his to use during
the summer of 2004. While it was a very nice case, its design did not agree
with my Vegas V with modified 225 ProMax and I suffered some blowout in the
lower 80’s. Randy advised me that we should go back to the slightly longer
gearcase design like I had before. It was at this point that he told me
about meeting Titus and his purchase of J&J’s gearcase business. He
also told me that he was very impressed with Titus’s work. After the
boating season ended, Randy sent Titus a CLE to have him modify for me. We
decided on the CLE because of its larger skeg and built in torque tab to
avoid the admittedly small chance of skeg cracks that result from welded on
torque tabs. Randy also said he was going to have some other “special”
things done to it.
The gearcase arrived and I held my breath as I opened the box and inspected it. Everything was in good shape and I was again very impressed with the quality of workmanship. My gearcase has an enclosed water-transfer tube on both sides for a very clean, custom look. The sides of the gearcase are nice and smooth where the cone meets the case with no signs of waviness. The paint had some small marks from where the packaging rubbed during shipment. I used a little polishing compound which took care of it and the paint finish is almost flawless. My gearcase came with two water inlet holes – one in the center and the other offset to the left (looking from behind the gearcase). The advantage to this is that the water flow to the high pressure side of the propeller is undisturbed as it passes around the gearcase. Titus reports that this setup is worth an extra 1-2 mph. Another interesting innovation that I had not heard of before is that the trailing edges of the water inlet holes are depressed. These depressions will prevent excessive water pressure at high speeds that could lead to water-transfer tube blowout, eventual cracking of the cone as well as burning of the paint. With warm weather coming I will be attaching the gearcase to the engine and will be able to test it out. I have no doubts that it will perform at least as well as my old JC’s case.
So how does Titus actually install his nosecones? One of his more popular and time consuming modifications is his “Sportmaster Mod”. For some boats the stock Sportmaster works fine, but for many, the shape of the nose is not ideal and there can be a huge performance improvement by installing an aftermarket nosecone. For this installation he has to cut off the stock nosecone and then fit his own. He has allowed me to show most of the steps involved in the process although some have been left out for proprietary reasons.
The lower portion of this gearcase was left as a primer finish. This slightly rougher finish provides better water flow and is actually slightly faster than a painted finish. Titus reports an average increase in speed of 2-3 MPH on a high performance boat – a very cheap way to gain a little speed.
I asked Titus if he had any recommendations
on how to keep the gearcase looking good. He said when storing the boat for
the winter in freezing temperatures that the gearcase should be removed and
stored in a warmer place. This will prevent cracks from forming in the
filler and paint and water then seeping in as a result of the different
alloys expanding at different rates. He also said that using a transom saver
while towing could cause problems with the paint weakening and eventually
coming off. To help prevent this from happening, use the type of transom
saver that has the plastic “V” that goes up against the case with a
towel or some other type of padding between the “V” and the case.
So what other interesting innovations has Titus come up with? Welded on torque tabs have often caused some controversy. While they can greatly improve a boat’s handling and speed, as mentioned earlier, they can also, as a result of the welding process and time, cause cracks in the skeg to appear. This can obviously be a potentially dangerous situation as a skeg breaking off at speed can cause a very serious accident. Titus has come up with a solution to eliminate this problem. He has developed and is offering fiberglass torque tabs. These tabs look and function identically to the welded on type without the downside of potential cracks. I asked Titus about the chances of one of these fiberglass tabs flying off. He said that so far the results have been excellent. In fact, Randy Pierson has been driving his Allison with a Merc 2.5 drag motor with one of these tabs. Randy has had the combination over 120 MPH with no problems reported. A comment Titus made that might be of interest to some Merc owners is that he has found the welded on torque tabs on the Torque Master gearcase are more likely to result in skeg cracks than the standard 200 gearcase. This is because of different alloys used in the two cases.
Titus came up with another worthwhile modification as a result of doing some experimentation with a Honda 225 4 stroke. The Honda is not real great in the torque department which causes the acceleration to suffer. He found a trick way of reducing the holeshot time. On their test boat the acceleration time for the big Honda was 8 seconds. Granted, this is a big, heavy engine and not the #1 choice for any drag racer, however, reduced acceleration times are always nice. Drag racers and others have always known that a “whale tail” aids in planning and reduces acceleration times. Titus took the standard cavitation plate and added slightly turned down edges. His test Honda went from an acceleration time of 8 seconds down to 3 ˝.
So how much do these modifications cost? A standard nosecone on a stock Mercury 200 case without the torque tab runs $425 plus shipping. A welded on or fiberglass torque tab is an additional $50 when combined with a nosecone. A CLE or Sportmaster mod is $600 plus shipping. The cavitation plate turndown runs $125 plus shipping. These prices include painting. The paint, by the way, is covered by a 1 year warranty against peeling off - not including abuse. For prices on a torque tab alone or other applications or combinations, give Titus a call.
are other shops out there that can install nosecones for less money, but if
you want the finest quality workmanship and performance improvements that
are second to none, Titus Grisham at Custom Marine & Welding is the only
place to go. You really need to see one of his gearcases to appreciate the
work he does. And besides his innovative fiberglass torque tabs and
cavitation plate mods, he has some more new ideas that will be available as
soon as the patent process is complete. Give Titus a call – you won’t be
professional high performance engine building, repair, and boat rigging,
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