(Reprinted with permission from www.hydrostream.org)

THE ULTIMATE GEARCASE MODIFICATIONS

By Dave Casper           4/2/05

 

Just 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 with.

I 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 Gran Prix International (GPI), he made arrangements to get me a new J&J gearcase. Unfortunately, due to turnaround 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.

About 4 weeks later the gearcase showed up and it was truly a work of art with the exception that FedEx had dropped it on the point of the skeg and bent it! After some phone calls back and forth with Titus, FedEx came to pick it up for return to be repaired. FedEx then proceeded to lose it! After many more phone calls on Titus’s part, the gearcase was found and eventually it made its way back to his shop in Alabama. I should also mention that FedEx initially declined the insurance claim until they found out that I had taken pictures of the damage when it arrived. Lesson: document any damage claims. Once the 2 claims inspections were done, Titus was able to repair the damage and ship it back out to me.

 

My CLE with custom nosecone by Titus

 

 

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.

 

Depressed water inlet holes

 

 

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.

 

Here is the stock Sportmaster.

The first step is to properly clean the case.

 

 

 

 

The cone is marked for cutting.

A portable electric bandsaw is used to cut the cone off.

 

 

 

 

A case without a cone.

Grinding the case to fit the cone.

 

 

 

 

The cone is prepared per customer request.

Examples of different water inlet configurations.

 

 

 

 

Here the cone gets tested for fit.

Proper alignment of the cone to the case is critical for optimum performance.

 

 

 

 

A full perimeter weld is used – not just a tack weld. This is more secure and helps prevent potential problems.

The case is being prepared for filler and painting.

 

 

 

 

Filler being applied to the cone-case joint. Note the notched cone height – this application is for a 15” mid section.

Primered finish being prepared for paint.

 

 

 

 

 

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.  

 

The finished gearcase.

 

 

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.

 

Note the custom engraved “GPI” logo on the transfer tube cover. Note also the turned down cavitation plate edges.

 

 

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 �.

 

Honda 225 4 stroke with turned down cavitation plate edges.

 

 

So how much do these modifications cost? A standard nosecone on a stock case without the torque tab  will vary plus shipping. A welded on or fiberglass torque tab is no charge 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.

There 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 disappointed! 

Titus Grisham
Custom Marine & Welding
451 Locke 6 Rd
Killen, Alabama, 35645
(256) 272-0500

www.low-h2o.com 

For professional high performance engine building, repair, and boat rigging, call: 

 

UPDATE 9/8/05 : 

After putting some hours on my boat this summer I can report back on the performance of my Titus Grisham modified CLE gearcase. In a word: impressive! Because I no longer have my JC’s modified gearcase or the Mod VP case that Randy Pierson let me borrow, I was not able to do a back to back test between them. However, I can certainly report my comparative impression.

The first thing I checked was the water pressure. I was somewhat concerned that, with only the two water inlet holes, how much pressure would I get? At the upper throttle/speed range I was getting about 20 psi which is in the safe range.

The next observation is about the handling. With the custom Mod VP gearcase I last had on my engine I was experiencing blowout in the lower 80’s. With my new gearcase I did not experience any blowout. I also found that with the Titus Grisham gearcase I had less chine walking than with either of the other two cases. Another thing I noticed was that the boat seemed to need less engine trim to get the bow up to its proper attitude.

As for top speed, I did not try to get as much speed out of it as I possibly could, but I can report that I gained 2 mph over the JC’s gearcase without really trying. I’ll take an easy 2 mph any day with more most certainly to be had!

So, did I find any disadvantages to Titus’s gearcase? No. I can honestly say the gearcase has exceeded my expectations for its handling and performance. It is also most likely the nicest looking, best built case you will ever see. And, I can report that so far the paint finish is holding up perfectly.

So again, if you want the ultimate gearcase modification – CALL TITUS!