Briggs & Stratton Vanguard Engines are superb for our application! We’ve used well over 1500 of the 22,23,31,33 & (mostly) the 35bhp engines in both big and small block sizes. They’re very reliable, air-cooled, economical, relatively light and well priced. Honestly cannot complain about them at all. We ndertake extensive modifications to them including full marinisation and removal of internal and external governor components. Video HERE if you’re interested!
But of course, when we came across the Subaru range of commercial engines we were interested and decided to look into it, after all – Subaru’s a pretty sexy name and I still miss my Impreza Sti which the wife forced me to sell (but that’s another story!) so the idea of as Scooby powered hovercraft was irresistable.
In the end, we imported a 40bhp Subaru motor from the USA as they’re not available in the UK. This was fitted to the first of the ‘beasts’ we supplied to The Clarkson, Hammond & May Live Show which Jeremy used to open the show in. We were certainly the first manufacturer to fit these engines, as we were the Big-Block Vanguard. We’re always open to try new products! Since then, we’ve built another two which has been interesting but how does it perform?
Quite well actually. It’s a bit lighter then the Vanguard 35bhp and slightly more powerful. maybe not quite as smooth in the mid-range and it does cost more of course, but overall the craft does gain a performance advantage – all things being equal. It feels slightly more maneovrable and in tests, seemed to be around two seconds quicker to 30 knots than the equivalent Vanguard and feels pretty lively. It doesn’t of course, equal the performance of our 50bhp ‘Rampage’ version of the Vanguard which is a real step up in performance! The 28bhp fuel injected engine – which we’d hoped would be an alternative for the smaller ‘Snapper’ hovercraft… Hmmm, less ure as it’s pretty big (as big as the 40bhp motor) due to the wide ‘V’ layourt of the twin cylinder engine. Fan data seems to suggest that it’s not quite the full ticket in bhp terms either. We’ll keep playing with it and report back in due course.
We’ve previously looked at the Kohler 40bhp motor which turned out to be less powerful than the 35bhp Vanguard, more expensive and heavier too. The Honda is a lovely engine but they don’t make anything bigger than 25bhp. Kawasaki do a superb looking 37bhp engine – but it’s only available as a vertical shaft, no use at all! And we steer away from water cooled engines for their weight, complexity and space requirements. Small hovercraft love air-cooled engines!
So – for now we’re making the Subaru available as an upgrade option. It costs considerably more for us to buy, import and fit them, but it’s genuinely a really nice engine with a great brand name. As standard, all British Hovercraft Company hovercraft will remain fitted with the frankly-still-awsome Briggs Vanguard engine.