VW DIESELS FITTED: V8 race car legend Russell Ingall’s reborn Riviera M400.SO what’s a nice Holden, Ford, Nissan, BMW guy doing putting VW diesels in his boat? You have to ask Russell Ingall, the V8 race car legend otherwise known as the Enforcer.
Having bought a dilapidated Riviera M400 for a song earlier this year, Ingall began the search for replacement engines as part of a major refurbishment project.
These aren’t just any old diesels – they’re a marinised version of the free-spirited 4.2-litre TDI 370hp engines that Audi uses in its Q7 among others. Of course, the German marque also owns Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche and Bentley nowadays.
Ingall bought them through Mercury Marine, with whom he has a family relationship stretching back to his father’s powerboat racing days in the 1960s.
In fact, the race ace is no stranger to water despite spending more time in car cabins than boat cockpits and doubling, currently, as both competitor and commentator (for Fox). His bio is littered with a plethora of skiboats, Maritimo cruisers, Sea Rays and Rivieras – including a previous M400.
With an empty dock at the bottom of his Gold Coast garden, he began searching for large centre-cockpit design of the Boston Whaler ilk. The prices soon made his eyes water, which turned his attention back to the popular pre-GFC 40-footer built by Riv.
Its low-slung cabin would fit beneath road bridges and its legs could be lifted to navigate the Gold Coast Broadwater’s sinister shallows. The cockpit, while shy of a centre-cockpit, was easily spacious enough for lazy lunches afloat.
He found an M400 in Sydney.“I made a ridiculous offer for the boat and I got it,” Ingall says.
While the project was expected to take a couple of months it took twice as long, partly because Ingall is a perfectionist. First job was removing the old Mercruiser petrol engines.New bearers were made for the VW diesels and they slotted in with little fuss – even the petrol tanks could be used for diesel. The engineroom was spruced up and the topsides given a lick of metallic silver paint.It looks as good as gold in the photos and Ingall is rapt, having spent around half the cost of a new boat.
Bolted to the new diesels are a pair of Mercury Bravo 3 drives with dual props. The technology also brings the joy of Mercury’s Joystick Piloting system, putting berthing at your fingertips, and new electronic gauges.
“The diesel engines are incredibly impressive, which I knew they would be from driving my wife’s Q7,” he says.“They’ve taken the best of modern European car technology – rather than a truck-based platform – and adapted it for the marine environment, so you have engines which have a far better power-to-weight ratio and are seriously durable.”
The reborn M400 has a top speed of 34 knots at 4150rpm, with both engines combined using around 160 litres of fuel an hour … way below what the petrol powerplants used. Cruising at 25 knots and 3200rpm, the fuel consumption drops to 100 litres per hour. That’s pretty well on par with the current breed of 40 footers.
“For me, it confirms you don’t have to spend big money on a new boat,” Ingall said.