IN JUST OVER a year since its introduction, the Caterpillar 3412 has become a popular choice among large-boat owners. The reason is as simple as a cliche' - this powerplant's combination of speed, efficiency, and reliability. 

With 1,649 cid, the four-stroke, 12-cylinder Cat delivers a conservatively rated 1,000-hp at 2100 rpm. Coming in at 4,950 pounds, this gives the big Cat a power-to-weight ratio of just 4.95 pounds per horsepower, extremely favorable for high speed applications such as long-range tournament sportfishermen like the 58 Golden Egg.

Actually, the 58 is the second Egg Harbor company boat to feature 3412s. The previous Honey Bear, a 60' Egg, campaigned the Caterpillars for two years while fishing the tournament trail from New Jersey to St. Thomas. 

In addition to a likable power-to-weight ratio, the physical dimensions of the 3412 are particularly attractive. At 4'3"h x 4'w x 6'1" l (less gear), the 3412 is relatively compact, and, as in the case of the 58, it allows for better use of space and clearer access to other machinery.

Mechanically, the engine has a direct-injection fuel system that has proven to be efficient, reliable, and adjustment free. Three-ring pistons aid efficiency as well. During our test, we recorded top speeds of over 36 mph with fuel consumption at 96.6 gph, an impressive figure for this much power. Throttle back to a more conservative 1800 rpm and the fuel consumption drops to 77.6 gph. At that setting you're cruising at 31 mph, enabling you to scout for water surface temperature breaks at the tip of the Hudson Canyon less than 2 1/2 hours after clearing the sea buoy off Manasquan Inlet, New Jersey.

Other noteworthy mechanical features include dual turbocharges that enable the engine to respond quickly, hydra-mechanical governor, single-stage air intakes with dry silencers and foam-type fillers, low-profile engine-mounted heat exchanger, front-mounted raw-water pump, transmission cooler, and a fully balanced crankshaft that helps the 3412 run smoothly with minimal vibration. Spin-on lube and fuel filters are standard along with a priming and transfer pump. Out test boat also had a remote panel with start/stop switches, hour meter, oil and fuel pressure gauges, coolant temp, and tachometer. One option I recommend is the coolant-level alarm switch. With this device, a sudden drop in coolant level, due to a leaking hose or a loose clamp, for example, will immediately trigger the alarm and alert the operator before the level gets so low that it causes damage to the engine from overheating.

There's always room for more power in any boat, and the 3412 with its conservative rating relates well to this demand. Further, Cat's power-to-spare specifications have attracted interest not only from production boatbuilders, but also from the US Coast Guard. In an effort to reduce operating costs, the federal agency has recently decided to repower 43 of their 82' patrol boats with 3412 Cats rated at 750-hp at 1800 rpm.