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Hi, fellas. I've been lurking here for about a week now, just seeing what I could dig up. I like to bow fish in the south Louisiana marsh, and it's time for a new rig, so I'm looking into going the airboat route. I'm not yet sure on how I'm gonna do this. Heck, I'm not sure when I'll even be able to get started (my other extra-curricular activity, jeepin', takes all of my money)! But I'm starting out with a Vortec 350 short block... so I figure step one would be to complete the motor. I found a marine (USCG approved) carb to put on it, but other than that, is there anything different I need to do to rig this motor for an airboat (as opposed to for a car)?


Welcome to the site!

Private message waterthunder for some "top secret" cam info on that engine! You'll be glad you did. Once you get the boat goin you might just give up the jeep thing :lol:

I have to agree with Basketcase on this one. Once I got into airboating I sold my Jeep to fund my airboat upgrades. JEEP...Just Empty Every Pocket...airboats can have this effect too if you try to go at it on your own without asking the do's and dont's. I could have had two airboats for what it cost me to learn what works and doesn't work!
Hence my post. I see people do it with jeeps all the time. I've got axles, motors, transmissions, transfer cases, driveshafts, bumpers, doors, tops... all kinds of crap sitting around. The list goes on. I was actually looking into getting a new boat for bowfishing, and was sort of leaning towards airboats. Then this vortec 350 popped up at my 4x4 clubs forum. It was a good deal but I didn't have any reason to buy it... at least until I convinced myself I needed an airboat. :D

Thanks for the welcome though.
Questions Questions and more Questions-ask em all, Lots or good info is only a question away. Lots of good people here to answer them all. At least thats what I did and I put together a mighty fine first boat, or at least I think so.
You may want to think about getting a gear box or belt drive for that vortec 350. I'm not thrilled with my direct drive 350, but mine's a much older (& beat up) motor.

Adjustable pitch prop is the way of the now and future.

Think about side-by-side two seater, so you have room for a nice deck and cargo room up front.

Classic & Floral City both have great online catalogs that will educate you A LOT.

Classic has one you can download in pdf format that is a little fatter that what's online.



The Airboat Trader has TONS of used stuff.... it's a great resource but difficult to wade thru till you get up to speed about what you are lookin' at.


And don't forget about the Classifieds we have right here on Southern Airboat!

The search link at the top of this page works wonders. Try it out, but feel free to ask anyway in your own words.

Click the AirboatDirectory.com link in the upper right of any page here. It'll open a door that you'll have a hard time getting shut again - there is so much information out there.

And SafRick is right. Questions!!!!!!! There is no such thing as a stupid question when it comes to learning something. There is probably over 1000 (combined) years worth of airboating experience here on these pages!!!!!!

(Rick - we ought to find out exactly how many years worth of cumulative experience is here... that'd make a good bullet point for the site!!!)

Welcome to the gang rgunn. Are you by chance a guy I used to know years ago in the Orlando Area... Ray Gunn? (no joke, that was his name!!!) If so, you were manager of a popular bar/restaurant - I was a member of one of your bands, and the guy who phoned you in the middle of a Friday happy hour, asking for "Anna Borshun". Aparantly, you went thru and asked every bartender and a lot of customers... "Have you seen Anna Borshun?" LOL :lol: :lol: :lol:

Hah. :D Nope, my name's Robie. We have a bowfishing charter setup about a month out, mainly so I can check up on their boat and rigging. I'll have to get some pictures to post up.

I am only 1 hour from you, I have been looking to take someone bow fishing that is equipped to do it. I want to try it out before investing into the gear. I also have many friends around here with different types of boats you can look at. PM me if your interested and I’ll give you my number.

kb27_99":b5c77ab0 said:

I am only 1 hour from you, I have been looking to take someone bow fishing that is equipped to do it. I want to try it out before investing into the gear. I also have many friends around here with different types of boats you can look at. PM me if your interested and I’ll give you my number.


We are by no means professionals, but I'd be glad to try and set something up. Where abouts is new iberia? My geography skills are somewhat lacking. We fish out of Dulac, just south of houma near cocodrie. With our current setup, we're kind of hit or miss. We don't have the boat to go out in search of clear water. If we find clear water near the camp, we shoot 'em. If we can't find the clear water, we go back to the camp and drink beer. :D
When we charter, we go with these guys. Here's a recent pic from their photo album. It's hard to beat slingin' arrows at big reds. I've never bowfished fresh water, but from what I can tell, it's mainly carp. They toss 'em after the hunt. I want to fill the fridge and chow down.


But as far as this motor is concerned, do any of the electrical components, alternator, ignition etc. need to be marine specific? Is there any point to fuel injection on the water? Jeep guys love FE cause there's no stalling at weird angles, but I don't see the deman in an airboat. Also, any recommendation on heads or intake manifolds? I'm trying to do this as cheap (read: painless) as possible. I've just been diggin' through summit and jegs catalogs looking for plain jane SBC parts, but as stated earlier, I want to make sure I don't need any "marine specific" parts before I start slingin' cash.

Marine parts are not necessary. The reason they are needed in boat applications are because gas vapors are heavier than air and you have the engines in and enclosed area. That could be harmful to your health if there was a spark in there. The marine carbs send the vent stack back into the venturi's so if the carb floods it puts the fuel in the engine not on the engine.
Airboat engines are out in the open even more than car engines so it is not such a problem.
Fuel injection is great. You will get lots of conflicting opinions on that here.
The downside of fuel injection is if something goes wrong your stuck. With a carb you have a chance to mabey get it going again.
I guess if you think about electronic ignition you got the same problems and no one is giong back to points.

There is a bunch of info on SBC builds I have been researching. You looking to go direct drive or reduction unit? Stick prop or composite? These are things you need to nail down before you start picking up engine parts. Just like anything else in the motorsports area all these things work together and you need to have at least a basic plan so everything will work well together.
Good Luck
Well, I haven't nailed down exactly how I want to do the build. I've been reading a lot of threads on here regarding props, motors, reduction units and the such. I would like to go DD, for economic reasons. But from what I can tell, I'll need a reduction unit. I've also read some good things on here about a sensenich (is that right?) Q series prop that is supposed to be good on noise and low end thrust. But (also, from what I can tell) a reduction unit is a must with these props. As they say, if you wanna play, you gotta pay. And I'm in no hurry to get this done. I want to do it right the first time and be done with it.

I've also been reading into hull design a little and am contemplating putting together my own hull. I know this will probably be the most difficult part of my build, so expect LOTS of questions to come. :D Are all of the hulls I'm seeing airboat specific, or are some just regular boat hulls? What's the main differece? I can see profile differences, and they make sense to me, but one thing I'm unclear on is the shape of the bottom of the hull and the use of jacks.

Anyway, I'm still a noob, but I'll get it figured out. Thanks for all of the response so far. I've learned quite a bit about some of the basics in the past couple of days.

Well, good news today. I haven't picked up the vortec 350 short block yet, and the guy I'm buying it from just called me, and he wants to sell me an older 350 complete out of an impala for the same price. So the search for heads and intake is over. That'll save about $700-$800.
Welcome aboard one of the most interesting and informitive forums around. Its good to see some more home boys getting on here. Enjoy and don't forget to post us some pics. Later, Cajun
Sorry I missed this post. The "Vortec" is really all about the heads themselves. The shortblock is basically worthless without the heads. Nothing wrong with the shortblock, but it's nothing special. It's only real attribute is that it's set up for OEM hydraulic roller cam/lifters, just like most post '80's era SBCs. Also, the later blocks are higher nickel content and tend to have less core-shift. But like I said B4...The heads are the key. A 96-up Vortec head is actually the best flowing production iron head GM SBC. It actually outflows the Bowtie and has been one of our trade secrets. So before you think that a complete longblock is a better deal, realize what your goals are, and what the complete engine has to offer. I hope I don't ruffle too many feathers, but a 350 small Chevy doesn't offer much. Of course we all know that they can easily make over 800HP in high-end trim, but that's when they use exotic parts, and they still don't make any torque. I.E. A NEXTEL Cup engine doesn't do much in an airboat.

It sounds like you have accepted the gearbox as a requirement (At least when running automotive power)...But if for some reason you don't....Realize that the only real way you will make torque below 3000rpm is through displacemenet/cubic inches.

Look at your goals first...Then your budget....Find the best compromise between them. And you will probably find that it incorporates a gearbox, and a well thought out engine both from a performance, and budget perspective. AKA Don't throw money at it....Educate yourself, and don't settle for anything that doesn't meet your criteria. There are plenty of people her to put you there. JMO

If budget is a consideration and you choose to go direct drive! Maby you should consider finding yourself a nice running 455 or Caddy, throw a timing chain and some new bearings at it and a fresh oil pump, perhaps pull the heads and at least decarbon it and fresh valve stem seals and lifters and go out and have fun. 8)
Thanks again for all of the responses guys. I'm here to learn about these things, and make the right decision before I get in too deep. I'm getting what I consider to be a pretty sweet deal on the 350, and if I can't make it work in an airboat, I'm sure I'll be able to find a use for it. I just picked up another jeep project that would be a good canidate for the motor. I'd like to have a pleasure boat just for cruising, but who knows, we'll see. I've taken on so many new projects here lately, I'm actually about to have to catalog all of my parts and figure out what goes where. :D