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I have had occasion to deal with Pathfinder Marine in the past - my last two boats have had VW Rabbit diesel marine conversions - and though sometimes difficult to get a hold of, they are very knowledgable, helpful and service was very good ( had parts Montreal to Vancouver in 2 days ).

Don't know (or care, really) what bobbarn's beef is, but as usual there's another side to the story. Oh - and btw.. these are great engines, inexpensive parts, smooth running, plenty of power if a tad noisy.
 

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I've owned two boats with marinized VW engines (and still have one). I don't think the magnesium issue is a seriously valid concern... fires on diesel engines - or boats for that matter - are rare enough.

As for the engine it seems to me that the tens of thousands Rabbits around the world getting 2-300 K miles on them without issue is testament enough to the toughness and durability of the core power. With a worldwide base, I reckon basic engine parts are more widely available than any Yanmar/Volvo/ etc source. Certainly parts are cheaper and quicker to access. The marinized parts (RWP, manifold/reservoir, gearboxes) are mainstream brands like Perkins or Jabsco or Sherwood, Hurth and as such are little different from the rest.

The aluminium head calls for caution and a studious avoidance of overheating, but at 4 cyl, 40+ HP and relatively light weight it makes for a pretty nice reliable engine. A bit noisy compared to some, but careful path treatment can eliminate or minimize a lot of that. As with any installation, vibration issues often create more noise than the engine itself.

I believe my boat sat on the market for some time because of the engine.. and for that, I'm grateful. On our previous boat we did a complete rebuild top to bottom for no more than $2500.... price that out for a 4 cyl Volvo or Yanmar.... Some years ago a friend was out of pocket $3400 by the time he fixed/replaced the cylinder head on a 8 hp 1 cyl Bukh.
 

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Our experience is quite different... We have a relatively chunky prop on an 11,500 lb boat and with 42 HP can push the boat to a little over 7 knots. We usually run at 6.4 and about 17-1800 rpm. In our summer we are plagued with light to no winds in many areas and we are often required to motor for hours on end. On our previous boat with the same engine, but much larger displacement we operated it similarly but at higher rpms. At no time did we overheat due to loading.. and that's now going on 17 years with two different marinized VWs.

The aluminum head contributes to the engine's relatively light weight and as long as you keep the cooling system properly operating we've not found any issue with it whatsoever.

KH, you may well be correct about the original design mandate, but our experience is that this is as reliable an engine as you can have provided (like any others) you look after it. I was thrilled to find another.
 

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If I have to drop the RPMs every half hour or so then, as far as I'm concerned, the motor has serious problems..
Agreed... as as mentioned it's not something we've ever had to do.

Our first engine (actual Pathfinder conversion) eventually needed a rebuild after 15 years or so.. was very inexpensive compared to marine parts. The one we have now is a Brazilian conversion with some differences in layout and parts used, but in both cases the only time we've had issues has been with external, non VW parts like the exchanger, RW pump, fuel filters etc.

I'm not saying Yanmar, Volvo et al are bad engines.. all I'm saying is that the Pathfinders and their like are also not bad engines... and don't deserve the negative rep they appear to have.
 
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