It all started in the early 50s. Back then, there were inboards and there were outboards. End of story. At least if it wasn’t for a man named Jim Wynne. As a marine engineer and a test driver, he saw how the outboards of the time had grown too clumsy to perform well. In those days, they peaked at about 70 horsepower, but weighing equal to the 150 horsepower outboards of today. They could no longer offer the advantages outboards used to have.
Outboard + inboard
So Jim got an idea. What if you could create a new kind of engine that would combine inboard performance with the maneuvering benefits of an outboard? He presented the idea to his boss, who surprisingly enough was not at all interested, stating “the outboard was the perfect propulsion for a boat and nothing else”. Luckily, history would prove him wrong.
In the garage
Jim, still convinced that his idea was worthwhile, continued the project in his garage. In March of 1958 his first prototype was finished, based on a BB70 Penta inboard. The test drive was as successful as he had hoped, even though it only lasted for five minutes…
A visit to Europe
But still Jim was on his own. In August the same year he visited Denmark, to prepare for the world’s first crossing of the Atlantic with an outboard engine. Jim took the opportunity to pay a short visit to Göteborg and present his idea to Harald Wiklund, manager of Volvo Penta. Harald immediately saw the potential of Jim’s invention, and the contract was signed only two days later.
From sketches to Aquamatic
Now the work started for Volvo Penta’s engineers, working day and night to transform Jim’s sketches to a working production drive. During the last days before Christmas, the first “real” Aquamatic was ready. It was quickly test driven in a barrel, painted and shipped to USA for the huge boat show in New York in January 1959.
Success in New York
The Aquamatic was an immediate and immense success, and boat customers and competitors were astonished by its remarkable performance. Over a thousand units were sold in the US alone during the first year. A new kind of propulsion system had been born – the Aquamatic sterndrive.
Since 1959 the sterndrive has continued to conquer the world. The technology has been further developed and refined, not least by Volvo Penta. In 1982 Duoprop was launched, improving the performance even further. And 2009 saw the launch of the joystick – yet another milestone in the history of Aquamatic, the world’s leading sterndrive system.