Here is an update on my 23’ Lancer inboard project and the 427 motor modifications. This is a classic Lancer hull designed by Jim Wynne, the series has a strong following and I believe the 23 Lancers will really gain in popularity as years pass by. They are great performing boats and they are pretty hefty too. Original power was always from small block GM power in the 230 to 235 horsepower range, through a 1.5:1 gear reduction, spinning a 15 x 15 cupped RH prop.
CC never put the 427 in this particular version of the 23 hull, but they did put it in the 23 Commander and Italian Monte Carlo, the latter being a rebadged Commander for the Italian market and both sharing essentially the same hull but using V-drive instead of the inboard with prop pocket.
My boat arrived on the premises without a motor and complete windshield. There was no motor box, no rear seats, most all the wood side panels and ALL of the vinyl was bad. Essentially I started with a raw fiberglass hull that needed a lot of patching.
Since I had a pair of 427 motors sitting in my shop since 2001, I thought about using one in the Lancer. Those motors are laden with iron and more suitable for a cruiser than a Lancer runabout. Many things began working on me, including the fact that I am a dyed in the wool Ford guy because my Grandfather had a small town ford dealership in Pennsylvania when I was a kid, was Ford’s MAN OF THE YEAR in 1957 for the Cleveland Region. Then I attended the 2010 Bay Harbor Vintage Car and Boat Show, had the absolute pleasure of hanging out with Tom Flood, Diana Webb, and serving as a judge at the boat show with them, and I wrote a report about the event that Bill Basler was kind enough to publish in the BRASS BELL following the event. Naturally there were fabulous boats there everywhere and Chris Craft boats swept the event, winning more awards than any other brand as we would expect due to the quality of the boats and the sheer numbers Chris Craft produced. There were some Gravettes and Hackers that won too, naturally. However…..drum roll please…….I did see two 23’ fiberglass Lancer Inboard hulls that had been converted to the gentleman racer format. Both of these converted Lancers had big block power sitting in the engine bay and here are the photos of those installations. Naturally, seeing THIS started me thinking more seriously about using a big block Ford motor in the same Lancer hull, but keeping the hull and interior of the boat in stock form.
Here is a 454 GM motor sitting in one of the Bay Harbor converted 23’ Lancer hulls.
Here is a 426B Chrysler motor sitting in the other converted 23’ Lancer hull.
Once I saw these motors the decision was made to go ahead with the 427 installation, after all it was already a Chris Craft motor. As I got into looking at the setup more closely it became apparent that the 2.5:1 gear reduction Paragon transmission would not work. I sourced a 72C Borg Warner Velvet Drive with a 1.5:1 ratio, the C version of this transmission is rated for higher horsepower ratings, although the smaller version has been used successfully in racing, I did not want to take any chances with the transmission. I also had two complete pairs of aluminum exhaust manifolds and risers I purchased years ago (for my 427 powered Commander) before I realized how different the Chris Craft cooling system was. As a result they sat in boxes, but NOW there was a chance to use them.
The ends of the risers had to be cut off in order to open them up for 427 exhaust duty, and the entire exhaust system was opened up to 4” diameter pipes.
The 427 is an industrial motor, although the block is fairly light weight for a motor this size due to the NASCAR and Le-Mans racing pedigree of the 427, the industrial versions did get a little thicker cylinder walls as I understand it and this is good for boat owners. However, all the iron CC bolted onto these motors is what makes them so heavy. Weight in a cruiser is more tolerable than in a runabout, so reduction of weight = free speed. That iron intake weighs 80 pounds, I know because I weighed it. The aluminum replacement weighs less than 25 pounds. The idea was to remove as much weight as possible and increase the power in reasonable ways.
Chris Craft 427 motors come with two different cylinder heads. The 1968 version of the 427 has smaller “acceleration” ports that were supposedly used for emissions purposes, and since I have both sets of heads I researched the issue very carefully because I naturally wanted to use the best one for the job. Cylinder heads contain a lot of horsepower, but most of the time that power is realized in the upper rpm bands. In the end, the rpm range of this motor (not to exceed 4500 , perhaps a blast to 5000 on occasion) just would not warrant changing from one head to another, as the FE wedge head design is a good one from the start and just fine in this rpm band. Incidentally, the Shelby GT 500 KR uses the same cylinder head I am using here.
An aluminum Edelbrock Performer RPM intake manifold was used instead of the standard Edelbrock Performer version because it offered better breathing without giving up much or anything on the torque side. If this motor was going into a cruiser I would have used the base Performer because rpm is limited to 4000 on a cruiser for engine longevity reasons and the stock Performer intakes work fine in that range.
The exhaust logs and risers were drilled and tapped to a larger ¾” NPT size to promote better flow characteristics and to assure the motor would never overheat due to limited water flow.
Rather than bolt the very heavy water filled brass circulation pump onto the front of this aluminum intake manifold, I chose to eliminate it all together and let the sea water pump do the job. The sea water pump is rated at 35 GPM and the circulation pump is rated at 65, but the input and outflow is still regulated by the sea water pump. In the old days when the 427 was raced in Southern California they did not even use a thermostat, they just ran the water in and out and that was it. On this system I sourced some old speed equipment from none other than Steve McElroy (who raced 427 motors back then). This is the splitter that bolts to the front of the intake rather than the big heavy brass circulation pump Chris Craft used on the industrial motor design. I milled the back of the splitter to also accept a thermostat. My system brings water in from the sea water pump through the pan mounted oil cooler, then through the transmission cooler and into the rear, and hottest, portion of the exhaust log, forward to the same point of entry into the block as on the stock Chris Craft motor. This system does not have the two way circuit down and back inside the exhaust log like the standard Chris Craft system. Once in the block there is still a constant but intentionally small flow out the two small hoses on the front of the intake manifold, supplemented by full flow of hot water once the thermostat gets warm enough to open everything up. Feeding the exhaust logs from the rear to forward also assures they will always be full of water, avoiding a potential melt down if they happened to drain down. The system is still pressurized to the same level with a pair of 2-psi Chris Craft pressure regulator valves, so the priority feed goes to the motor at all times and once the system exceeds 2-psi it begins dumping excess water directly into the riser and out the tailpipes.
At this time the transmission is being mated up to the motor, final hoses and wires are being finished up, and I will be posting a video of the test run for everyone to see. An Edelbrock #1409 carb rated at 600-cfm is still plenty big for the needs of this motor, and I actually sold a perfectly good new-in-the-box 750 in order to bump down to the 600, because it would work better. Bigger is not always better. The history of the motor include a recent rebuild with Keith Black forged pistons, so the compression and displacement are slightly higher than stock. I am anxious to do the water testing and prop selections on this project. Speed projections for this boat are more along the lines of what Jim Wynne would have liked when he designed this 24-degree deadrise deep V hull. We’ll see how it goes. A boy has to have a hobby!