Younger enthusiasts may not recognize the Mercury Marine or Mercury Racing names, but in the 1990s, Mercury Marine made a name for itself in car circles. It became the official engine supplier for the Chevrolet C4 Corvette ZR-1. That car used a 5.7-liter dual-overhead cam LT5 V-8 engine that produced 375 horsepower, and the entire engine was built with Mercury Marine's expertise.

Now, the company longs to return to its old status as it eyes up a return to the car business on a grander scale, according to Automotive News (subscription required). Mercury Marine has long focused on high-performance boat engines, but recently began to dabble in car engines once again. Last year, the company debuted its SB4 7.0-liter V-8 engine. Based on a General Motors LS block with a DOHC layout, it makes 750 horsepower. The crate engine is designed especially for pre-1968 muscle cars, according to the company.

But, Mercury Marine will also sell customers a 9.0-liter DOHC twin-turbo V-8 engine if 750 hp isn't enough. The larger QC4 crate engine produces 1,350 hp.

Mercury Marine has reportedly come to the conclusion that its boat business is "only going to get so big," which means it must expand into new segments if it wants to grow. The automotive sector is a natural fit.

"We have the talent and we have the engineering expertise for high-performance automotive," David Foulkes, chief technology officer for Mercury's parent company, Brunswick Corp, said. "We're trying to leverage our capabilities into these other markets."

Thus far, however, the crate engine business has been small. Mercury Marine hopes it continues to grow as it places more emphasis on the market. As for GM? It hasn't had any conversations with Mercury Marine about once again buying Corvette engines from them.

However, Rick Mackie, senior marketing manager for Mercury Racing, acknowledged rumors of a mid-engine Corvette that may have a DOHC, four-valves-per-cylinder engine layout. He thinks it would play well with Mercury Marine's experience and believes a future conversation certainly isn't off the table.