BAM Marine is the Industries #1 Transmission builder, and that didn’t happen overnight, it came with a legacy of experience. One of the best parts of leading Powerboat Nation is I realize just how fortunate I am to live in a place that is surrounded by so much experience, the guys who pioneered the innovations and advancement of the Powerboating world. For those that may not know the man and the brains behind BAM Marine and their transmissions it is, Marc Berman. Marc has been around this industry a long time, his innovations run deep and I don’t believe I can capture a fraction of the stuff he has done and I doubt he can remember all of the cool stuff and innovative marvels that have come from his shop. Through his network of friendships and longtime relationships in the Power Boating world he has accumulated a treasure trove of information, knowledge and experience that we are just beginning to tap into. The more we talk the more I learn and the more he begins to remember. Here’s a quick recap on my latest sit down with the man himself.
PBN: Marc would it be fair to say that you’re practically a pioneer to this sport you’ve been involved for how long?
Marc : I’ve been a boater since 1965. Jim Gaffrig (the guy that started Gaffrig Mufflers and Speedo’s) and I ran an offshore race boat in 1967. I opened my first business in 1971 and have been involved in the marine industry for a living ever since. In 1975 I moved to downtown Chicago where I became a Mercury dealer and owned a marina for almost 20 years. While at the marina I got to see first hand why products were failing and I really learned how to build engines, do boat rigging and caught the racing offshore bug. Then I moved to Florida in 1995 and re-booted per say so that in 1997 I started my present business. So this has really been my life.
PBN: So that marine experience lead you to become somewhat of an inventor of sorts right? I mean that’s what gave you the experience it took to make improvements to stock products right?
Marc: Yes that’s correct back in the day for example I developed a number of products for my own boats that went on to inspire actual production parts. For example I did fresh water cooling on my Cigarette back in 1982, Gaffrig & I invented the first switchable mufflers, I had built some 1000HP engines in 1990 or so that ran on 89 octane , I even did 1400HP on 89 in 1996. Beyond engines I had designed first all stainless steering cylinders in 1980. I sold a few sets to Bob Latham when he was just starting out then. Gosh I have been involved in so many aspects of the industry that it might sound like I’m bragging lol but its the truth.
PBN: So you have been the primary transmission sponsor to practically every race team and OEM transmission supplier to the likes of even Mercury racing for a number of years. Why or what do you think brought those people to you? What made BAM the choice?
Marc: I think there were (and are) a couple of reasons. The main one is that our stuff works, and we earned a reputation for that. I was fortunate to know many of the people that became our customers from my time at the Marina and my racing. The other is the way we run the business.Integrity means a lot to me personally, and that is the way we operate.
PBN: There has been a lot of evolution in the transmission market in the years of late. We’ve seen you unveil some really high horsepower applications like the 1500 series of trans. Is the engine power just growing so fast that it really has come down to someone like you to solve getting that power to the water?
Marc: The power that today’s engines produce was only a dream a few years ago. There has been an attempt by a major player in the industry to come up with a transmission that can handle these new engines, but results have been mixed. The hi-performance transmission stuff is still new to them, and in my opinion I don’t think they have the experience it takes. And experience is the one thing you cannot replace. Yes,I think we have good shot at coming up with something that will work for these mega-motors.
PBN: Do you just sell new transmissions or what is the scope of work BAM marine is involved in?
Marc: On the transmission side we also do rebuilds and upgrades to existing units, both ours and other manufacturers. On the other side we are a full line Mercury/Mercruiser Platinum dealer.We have one of the largest inventories of genuine Mercury Marine parts in the country and our website MercruiserParts.com has become a favorite. In addition we have a complete drive & fabrication shop.
PBN: From the looks of things there is quite a bit of equipment here. Is all of the manufacturing and assembly of your product done here at your facility? How does that affect the quality of your end product?
Marc: Yes,we build the transmissions right here. We have a complete machine shop and make almost all of our components in house. We have built special fixtures to QC the parts we don’t make ourselves. This really gives us a handle on our quality control. Each of our transmissions is tested on our digital transmission dyno before shipping which really helps our reliability. We build each transmission like we were building an engine, there is a build sheet showing every dimension & clearance. Our stuff is clean & de-burred when we assemble it. Even though we do a lot of transmissions there is no mass production around here. These days we no longer build engines, but we still have all the equipment and have used our engine dyno to test some new transmission designs.
PBN: Marc thanks for the insight even I learned a few things. I’m looking forward to coming back and getting a good insight into what’s inside one of the super duty transmissions so we can share that with our members, thanks again for the support!
Marc also shared these classic pics with us!