Automotive Oddities: Chevy Avalanche 2500

2500-3

 

If your into cars (well trucks I guess) you likely know that GM offered 2500 versions of the Suburban and Yukon XL. Most of these heavy duty people haulers were bought by government fleets for everything from security to Fire and Police command cars. Whats a little less known is that the open backed Suburban better known as the Avalanche also had a 3/4 ton 2500 version during it’s first generation.

Oddly, enough the first (and possibly only) one of these I have seen in person was actually the first Avalanche I ever saw in person. Back at the time of its release I was working at a marina, and we were having some grounds work done and the owner of the landscaping company showed up in a brand new Avalanche 2500, towing a Bobcat skid steer of all things. I remember  walking up to it thinking that’s an odd load for a new fangled truckUV to be towing. Then I saw the 8 lug wheels and made a mental note to crack open AOL and look it up at home that night. Even thou it’s often ridiculous that mass market auto makers go down a rabbit hole trying to find buyers for niche produc2500-1ts they would have been more profitable without, as a car guy I love the wake of oddities it leaves behind.

So what did ordering a 2500 get you over a 1500 Avalanche? Well mostly it got you an open bed Suburban 2500. GM was nice enough to give you a Big-block V8 the vortec 8100 (8.1 liter displacement) standard on the 2500 where as it was an option on the Suburban (the 6.0 was standard). It also gave you a slightly less cushy ride with leaf sprigs swapped in for the standard coils. You also got a full floating rear axle and of course those cool 8 lug wheels. The frames were also different the 2500 closer to the pickups then the normal Suburban/Avalanche setup.

Now why would you order this? My guess is Chevy was targeting the RV and big boat crowd with this one. Unlike the 2500 suburban with it’s somewhat automatic government orders the avalanche had little use in fleets (thou I have seen a few in fire dept livery). It could however tow 12,000 pounds with the optional 4.10 gear-set and 10,000 with the 3.70 gear-set. Making it the perfect truck for towing your fountain executioner or that tag along toy hauler to the desert. It was also likely one of the last big block sedans you will eversee.

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New London Water Taxi Update

New-London-1

New London Water Taxi Update – Seems I was a little behind on the news. looks like a operator for the ferry was chosen last week. Maybe I can try the service out this summer while visiting the Thames Yacht club.

Here is the story from The Day

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OMC Quiet Rider, a unique idea rides again.

 

OMC Quiet RIder

OMC Quiet Rider

If you go walking thru a boat show today you will see a number of new boats with outboards hidden behind covers. The Searay 370  is one of the best known example of this. With Twin Mercury outboards hidden under fiberglass cowlings forward of the transom, it looks like a sleek express cruiser with a secret.

mercury

mercury

Of course this idea isn’t new. People have been trying to hide outboards basically since outboards were invented.  You will notice a small addition to the Mercury in the Searay above, a fresh air vent to keep the engine well fed with clean air. I have seen this in a few homemade wooden boats and a handful of modified sailboats thou of course without the nicely molded OEM cowl.

Why you might ask do people want to hide their shiny expensive outboard. Well for one lots of people don’t like the look of them hanging off the rear of the boat. They also tend to handle differently then inboard boats due to both their prop design and extreme aft placement. By moving them forward you can use them better for pivoting while docking etc. They also tend to quiet the outboard down.

Why not just install a stern drive? Several reasons. One for most of the past few decades stern drives used automotive engine blocks as their bases. While this works well in certain marine applications it does not normally perform as well as an engine designed for the specific task (note we now are seeing new marine specific sterndrive engine blocks again). The design also requires some packaging tradeoffs such as the large amount of space forward of the transom and the fact that you have introduced complexity with two ninety degree drive shaft changes as well as a CV joint and transom sealing issues.

Sunbird 190 (OMC photo)

Sunbird 190 (OMC photo)

On to the title. In 1991 OMC came up with the OMC quiet rider with 90hp, 115hp and 150 hp power heads. While at first the concept looks much like the conventional outboard slapped in a well, OMC actually seems to have spent quite  bit of time and energy developing it. You can tell by the name quiet rider that the main idea was sound proofing. This was based on a 2 stroke V4 OMC (V6 for the 150) power head which, while a very rugged engine, are not the quietest power plants around. To hush things down a fiberglass enclosure was added over the engine but they also sealed the cowl much more tightly now that air was coming thru a ducted hose rather then inlets in the cowl. the result was greatly reduced noise level in the boat. Noise levels behind the boat were similar to the regular out board as the opening rear of the transom was maintained to keep the boat an outboard in the eyes of the USCG etc as well as allowing for exhaust to exit.

The cowl was not only designed to fit better it also was more form fitting to allow for the smallest possible enclosure while still allowing for the motor to fully tilt. The designers also moved the pivot point of the out board lower then normal to accomplish the low cowl height. The motor now pivots on two brackets on either side of the transom notch rather then on the steering tube assembly which is bolted to the transom as with most outboards.

These pivot brackets were bolted into stringers that were located on either side of the transom notch. On the other side of the pivot bracket were two aluminum tubes on which the actual outboard was hung. With the force now directed into the stringers the outboard had a much more secure mounting and the engineers could better isolate the NVH then they could on a boat with a standard transom.

The Quiet rider was never sold to other boat companies outside of the OMC brands. In the early 90’s OMC owned several in house brands. The first brand to introduce the Quiet Rider was Sunbird on their Eurosport line. I believe only a 19′ (190) and later 21′ (210) models wre made. There was also a 19′ Chris craft version (another brand owned by OMC) but I have never seen one in person. I seem to remember seeing a version of a Sunbrid Neptune walk around with a Quiet Rider, but no information on this seems forth coming on the web. In the end the Quiet Rider was cancelled in 1995 due to slow sales and some issues with certain models stalling and running poorly thanks to exhaust build up in the transom notch. Some see this as an OMC deadly sin, I look at it more as a engineering company trying to solve a problem in a unique way.

These boats are still around, in the past 3 years I have seen at least 3 Sunbirds with the Quiet rider system come up for sale here in Connecticut. Pricing is all over the map but must were advertised in the $2,500 range. Hopefully a few will survive as most parts are shared with other motors, but eventually there will be fewer and fewer as corrosion claims the custom aluminum bits that support the motor. Just another chapter in american boating history.

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New London Water Taxi update

New london water taxi

New London water taxi

Looks like New London has put out a call for operators for their water Taxi service. I hope some one makes a go of it. Seems like a really good idea for a city with such a large water front. Take a look at the offer here on Trade Only

 

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Car sales vs US population

Was reading an article by Jack Baruth over at TTAC the other day on the affordability of New cars to the middle class. Made a quick spread sheet of new car sales vs us population to give an idea of how it looks over time. Hard to pick out any really large long term trends but the high points to seem smaller then they used to be.

sales v pop

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Things I never knew existed Island Packet Power Yacht

Ip cruise

The Island Packet PY 41 is a unique semi displacement trawler based on the IP SP cruiser . The 41′ shares many traits with it’s motor sailor cousin including a ballasted keel that should make for a very seaworthy 41′. My favorite features are the excellent fuel economy per this Power and motor yacht article and the kid friendly 2nd stateroom. I also kind of like the forward cockpit as at anchor and dock hang out spot. I;m not sure how many were made but they seem pretty rare on the brokerage market.

I could easily picture this as a coastal cruiser for the family. Coming from a sailing family the odd for a powerboat layout seems pretty good to my eye. This would be awesome for week long adventures along the New England coast with short run times between interesting harbors. It would also make for a really nice Loop boat.

Layout

IP lines plan

Sailing version

IP sailing

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New boat for the fleet KINGFISHER III

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Another boat for the family fleet. My father picked up a 1960’s KingFisher  III sailboat off craigslist a month ago. Interestingly this is a Rhodes design  like my Mariner. We haven’t had a chance to get it out in the water yet but hopefully will get a little sailing time on the local lakes before winter sets in.

The Kingsfisher is a 12′ sloop, fiberglass with a molded deck and interior seating. The boat is in pretty good shape for the age and came with a trailer. The center board pendant needs replacing and the jib is missing but everything else seems to be in usable shape. The previous owner sailed it on a local lake for quite a while. Next year or over the winter we will look at having a jib made. I will provide some updates when we get it out sailing.

Here are a few links about Kingfishers.

Sailboat Data 

Restoration of a Kingfisher

Another owners site

 

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Dealer leaks at Allpar

forums-dodgeI have a bit of thing for Mopar’s I tend to cruise car forums under the name mopar4wd. Over the last 2 days a number of leaks have come out from a FCA dealer meeting in Vegas. It appears that a number of new performance cars are on the horizon. Most interesting to me is a Durnago SRT and a 300 HP Dart. Can’t wait to see how it all plays out. Here is a link to the discussion. Allpar

 

 

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Lithium Batteries

There is a lot of talk about lithium batteries for cruising boats these days. My guess is it will take another few years to shake out but eventually they will be common place.

forum clip

Anyways in the cruisers forum post above Link here you can see something interesting that I’ve been wondering about for a while.  Most people in the DIY world of boats seem to feel a lower charge voltage is better for LiPO4 batteries. The basic argument is that by avoiding the upper knee (say the last 5% of capacity or so) you will see less voltage drift between cells and less possibility of problems with your bank. This goes counter to a lot of the battery makers that seem to push for higher voltages. It also seems these higher voltages are based on controlled lab testing and theory rather than real world conditions. That’s not to say that higher voltages are bad in every case but it seems for simplicty and safety sake in a non engineered system (multiple charge sources and discharge sources that are constantly changing and evolving) it may be better stay on the low side. Of course time will tell, but at least there are signs that the real world crowd may have been at least a little right. As noted by T1 Terry Power stream technology seems to be indicated it is unnecessary for the most part to enter the upper charging knee with large format lifepo4 cells. Which would follow alot of the DIY logic out there. Interesting stuff.

 

Here is the link to the article on powerstreams site  

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New Site

cropped-OnATrailerHeader

While looking online today for a new (used boat) I found a Donzi Blackhawk. Which were cool 22′ Donzi classic with custom paint and a Mercruiser surface piercing twin prop counter rotating drive. I’ve always kind of wanted one but they are a little rich for my blood. I did a little search non them and I found a cool new site in the vain of BAT (bring a trailer). On A Trailer features cool small powerboats for sale around the country from classic fiberglass and wood boats to the plain unusual. I like it and will have to add it to my list of frequently visited sites. Check it out Here. 

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