Volvo Penta’s Aquamatic Sterndrive combined the best of two worlds. Following rigorous tests that included “jumping” over an island, it was ready to launch – forever changing the world of boating.
Jim Wynne was a boating innovator. As well as being a marine engineer and inventor, he was also a real maritime enthusiast, having crewed the world’s first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in an outboard-powered vessel in 1958.
At the time, the popular methods of propulsion in leisure boating were the outboard motor – which afforded great versatility but was exposed to the elements – and the inboard motor, often more powerful and protected by the vessel’s hull, but dependent on rudders and shafts. What if there were a way, he thought, to combine the benefits and strip away the disadvantages of both?
Thus, the Aquamatic – the world’s first commercial “inboard-outboard” or sterndrive motor – was born. It combined an inboard engine and an external propeller unit, giving boaters the best of both worlds. The engine itself was protected from the elements and could be of a higher horsepower than a maneuverable outboard motor, but the propeller unit itself could be steered directly and lifted out of the water in the shallows. Jim Wynne tried introducing the Aquamatic in the US but without success. It was only when he approached Volvo Penta that the wheels started turning.
Now, the solution was there – and it was time to test it. In a series of “torturous” test events in the waters outside of Sarasota, Florida, the Aquamatic literally jumped over an island eight times, drove over a sandbank 22 times, and scraped through a bed of sharp oysters four times. And to finish off the two-day tests, they drove at 30 knots straight on to a beach – going a further 18 meters before stopping. So, how did the Aquamatic fare? A few paint scratches, that’s all.
The Aquamatic Sterndrive had its public debut at the New York Boat Show in 1959 and promptly revolutionized leisure boating. It was met with glowing praise and enthusiasm worldwide. One hundred sterndrives were sold during the show, and that was only the beginning. Aquamatic went on to play a significant part in Volvo Penta’s expansion over the next few decades – but more than anything else, it cemented the company’s reputation for providing safe, efficient and well-thought-through solutions to make boating easier and more enjoyable.
Further efficiency innovations followed. The DuoProp outdrive, where counter-rotating propellers sat together on the same shaft, increased fuel efficiency and provided better maneuvering, acceleration and handling when launched in 1982. Another revolution followed with the launch of the Inboard Performance System (IPS) in 2005, bringing the ease and efficiency of compact, hull-mounted, fully integrated pod drives out of the realm of superyachts and into smaller vessels. And years later the IPS got a game-changing joystick for even more control and peace of mind.
Stepping into the future, Volvo Penta’s innovations are set to make boating even more efficient, building on a tradition that stretches back decades. Keep a lookout at Volvo Penta for new milestones within sustainability, electrification, Boating as a Service, AI and digital experiences.