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Baudouin Marine Engines: A brief history

26th April 2016

Respected worldwide and renowned for their reliable, high quality and competitive range of marine diesel engines, Motors Baudouin has been in business for almost a hundred years and remains a premier choice for boat owners worldwide who are looking to retrofit or renew their engines.

The company was formed in 1918 by Charles Baudouin from his non-ferrous metal foundry in Marseille, France.

As a busy port in Southern France, Baudouin was ideally positioned for business when he began casting engineers and gearboxes for both leisure and fishing boats operating from the harbour. His original designs were simple and initially were made to order but it was clear that this expertise in casting was popular and Baudouin was soon upscaling production to manufacture greater quantities of his engines.

Innovative Design

By the 1920’s Moteurs Baudouin had fully integrated its designs into the industrial era and in 1921 the company launched a 7hp petrol engine complete with combined gearbox. The appetite in the marine industry swiftly fuelled the roll-out the following year of a full catalogue of designs covering a range of outputs from 3hp to 60hp. The O, T, Y and Z range of engines were still petrol fuelled but by the end of this decade the company introduced its first diesel engine to the market place and, despite the fact that the economic world stage was reeling from the crash of 1929, was a financial success for Moteurs Baudouin . The company was flourishing in the nautical industry, producing almost 13,000 engines and ranked in the top three suppliers worldwide for marine engine production.

Capitalising on their success, Baudouin followed up in 1930 with an innovative range of new diesel engines; the DB series. The product came in a range of versions including 2, 3, 4 and 6 cylinders across an output of 25hp to 90hp. The DB was the first of its kind to feature a rotation speed of 750rpm; almost doubling the previous limits of approximately 400rpm. With individual cylinder heads, maintenance cost and time was significantly reduced, as was stock management with spare parts being far simpler.

Post war years

During the Second World War, maritime technology was developing at an astonishing rate and Moteurs Baudouin consolidated their position as expert marine producers. The company began diversifying their product range and offered gearboxes, propellers and diesel generators alongside their popular engines.

The strategy worked well and Baudouin’s profits (and market share) continued to rise. The DK range, of which a few hundred are still in operation today, was launched to support the new drive. These robust and reliable engines featured a 140mm bore and delivered power from 40hp to 150hp. With over 22,000 of these engines manufactured in 2, 3, 4 and 6 cylinders versions, Baudouin’s business was booming.

By the late 1950’s the company, still at the forefront of marine engine development, had launched its V engine; the DV series. Available in 2, 6, 8 and 12V configurations the power available dramatically increased to 900hp and was offered with controllable pitch propellers. This increase in output afforded the company with access to new markets and, recognising the need for greater diversification, Baudouin innovated its customer service offering by opening a training centre for its users.

High performance

n 1963, the predecessor to the current range of engines was introduced to market; the turbocharged DP series could reach outputs of 800hp at 1800rpm. As well as being cutting-edge in design, these engines were far more compact than other offerings and Baudouin had the attention of the world’s markets. The equivalent of five and a half million hp was produced and installed globally; the company reports that most of these engines are still operating today.

The DF series, released in 1970, was designed with speed as its primary driver and was available in lightweight V4, 6 and 12 cylinder versions.

Moteurs Baudouin followed up in 1978 with the F11 high performance V6 and V12 engines opening up their market-share in the public sector and seeing their engines installed in navy vessels. By 1983 this partnership was further cemented with a special version of the F11 being designed to specifically meet the performance demands of the battle tank AMX10. This project lead to further development of their marine engines addressing the challenge of delivering greater power to weight ratio’s; the F120 was the result.

Focus on marine industry

As pleasure boating in this era reached new highs the company succeeded in their cross-market appeal and a version, based on the F120, was delivered to eager customers; the premium VTI. Maintaining their values of reliability and durability this range of engines was soon picked up on the sports markets and, in 1989, the catamaran Castello Gancia, driven by two 1100hp V12 BTI engines won best diesel propulsion class in the F1 European Offshore Championships.

Although the company continued to supply engines across other sectors it was the marine industry, the original development of Baudouin, which remained at the heart of the company’s success. By 1991 this was acknowledged by senior management and officially became the number one priority in terms of development objectives. A number of products were launched on the back of this revised strategy, including the M26 series, on board generators, auxiliary drives and gearboxes.

The M26 is still in production today and are installed internationally across a wide range of vessels. By the end of the turn of the century, export sales at Moteurs Baudouin had reached 70% and the company had begun to interest other parties.

Today & tomorrow

In 2009 the company, with its humble beginnings in the capital of France’s Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, was bought by the Weichai Power Company; the world’s third largest producer of diesel engines across marine, heavy vehicles and large industry sector. Within months, a brand new research and development centre was created at the headquarters of Moteurs Baudouin and followed up with a brand-new market offering; the M26.2. The new evolution of the successful M26 delivers greater performance outputs across a 102-450hp range whilst meeting the new environmental inland and shipping regulations.

The success of Moteurs Baudouin is no great surprise when you consider the endurance and reliability of its portfolio and, with the development opportunities available with the investment of Weichai, the future offerings are likely to continue their story with just as much optimism.

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