What would you say if I told you that there’s an outboard engine out there than can run on anything from gasoline to kerosene and be started without tools within a couple of minutes of being completely submerged underwater for a week? You’d call me crazy, right? Well I would have thought the same thing until this past February, when I saw an outboard engine made by Evinrude that does just that.
The bad news? You can’t buy one.
Evinrude's 55 MFE and 30 MFE engines (that stands for multi-fuel engine, by the way) were specially designed for U.S military Special Forces for use in remote locations. On the outside, there’s a durable wrap-around handle (used not only for lifting, but as a handhold for soldiers in the water to hold on before they’re dropped of at a location) and cool stealth-black coloring. Both models look as if they mean business, and it turns out they do. There’s even a 55-horspower jet version available, too. To the military, I mean.
So why in the heck would someone design an outboard to be submerged, anyway? “It’s common for special forces teams to sink their boats when they get close to their destination to avoid detection, so it’s crucial that the engines they’re using have the ability to be submerged and then quickly restarted,” an Evinrude representative at the Miami International Boat Show told me, adding, “Once the engine is out of the water, all they have to do is turn these two petcocks, pull on the starter cord a dozen or so times, close up the petcocks, and they’re good to go.”
Another cool feature is the engine’s ability to run on jet fuel, kerosene, gasoline, and yes, even diesel (for short periods). It’s all based on Evinrude’s two-stroke, two-cylinder E-TEC block, but incorporates some unique engineering to allow it to run on, well, just about anything combustible. That’s advantageous not only from a logistics standpoint (think about the nightmare of having to carry five different types of fuel aboard a carrier or amphibious ship), but also from a safety point of view; gas is way more volatile than either kerosene or jet fuel. A simple switch on the engine retunes the power head for the selected fuel type.
Now, truth be told, I did find some rumblings around the web of people buying these engines (our outboard guru even found them in a 2009 dealer price book), but every Evinrude representative I found at the Miami International Boat Show said, “Nope, we only sell them to the military.”
You might be able to justify owning one of these outboards if you lived in a post-apocalyptic world running low on fuel, much like the one depicted in the Mel Gibson movie "Mad Max.” You could go crabbing even if the only fuel left on earth was Jet-A. Or maybe you’re just clumsy and frequently drop your outboard overboard.
But no matter what you’d want to use it for, you’ll have to keep on waiting. Because Evinrude isn’t selling—at least not to you.