The Old Outboard Book

The Old Outboard Book

by Peter Hunn


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The Old Outboard Book by Peter Hunn

"Incredible amount of detail about all those kickers from the past, including an appendix with comprehensive model-year information."

"This book is the one to buy if you are interested in collecting antique outboard motors."

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780071383097
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing
Publication date: 05/16/2002
Edition description: REV
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 378,659
Product dimensions: 7.60(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Peter Hunn began collecting old outboards after receiving a 1928 Johnson for his tenth birthday, and since then he has acquired several hundred. Hunn is a outboard curator for the Thousand Islands Antique Boat Museum and is a regular contributor to Antique Outboarder magazine. The former owner of two upstate New York radio stations, he currently teaches communication studies at the State University of New York, Oswego.

Read an Excerpt

The Old Outboard Book

By Peter Hunn

The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

Copyright © 2002International Marine
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-07-138309-7



Outboard Motor Pioneers

Sometime in 1960, the Johnson Outboard Company ran a small advertisement picturing a pistol-toting, bikini-clad woman in bare feet and cowboy hat. A surrealistic "marshal's star" frivolously pinned to the top of her swimsuit centered attention on the fact that Johnson was seriously looking for old outboard motors. That ad, promoting "The Great Sea Horse Trackdown," has been an old outboard collector's nightmare ever since.

Although Johnson was indeed searching for some of its vintage products, many of the engines sought were extremely rare. Should one possess such a rig, one was supposed to cart the motor to the nearest Johnson Sea Horse dealer for model and serial number verification. A 25-or-fewer-word statement why Johnsons were the most dependable brand also had to be composed. Only then could the owner be registered for a chance to win a new Johnson outboard.

That exclusive contest quickly took its place in portable marine propulsion history as the "Free Outboard" story and spread through the country faster than a rumor of a bathroom tissue shortage.

Of course, that contest is long gone, and today many might consider those 1960 prize motors to be antiques. Nevertheless a few folks remain completely convinced that they can trade their "old," salt-scored, early-seventies fishin' engine for a new boat-motor-trailer-tackle-box combo if they simply "write the factory" to come pick up their classic outboard.

While these incidents prove aggravating for old outboard enthusiasts trying reasonably to pry a rusty kicker from some guy's damp basement, they do serve to raise a question pertinent to the beginning of this book: Specifically, just how old is an old outboard motor?

Many custom laws define antique as 100 years old or older. Since outboards were first invented a little over a century ago, few are truly antique, in that sense of the word. However, all the outboards in this book qualify as "objects of a period earlier than the present," and in this sense are antiques. Some kicker collectors make a distinction between antique and old, drawing the line at 1950, after which post-World War II technology rapidly made itself evident in the outboard industry. No collector questions the antique status of the very first outboards.

The granddaddy of U.S.-built outboard motors is the 1896 American, with reversible prop and mesh-gear lower unit steering. A single ancient picture is all that's left of the American Motor Company, a Long Island firm said to have produced some 25 of these vintage kickers. Referring to this historic outboard, the May 1916 Rudder magazine reported that "a present day [1916 outboard] manufacturer says that the spiral springs or fins attached to the cylinder were alright as ornaments, but didn't cool. One other essential difference between this old-timer and the modern [1916] outfits was that the [1896 American] didn't run."

The 1887 Harthan

In 1887 S. Emerson Harthan of Worcester, Massachusetts received a patent for "his self-contained steam motor (with 4-bladed propeller) that could be completely detached from the stern" of a small boat.

Reportedly, though the plans looked interesting, the inventor eventually decided his steam outboard would fall into a category no more glorious than that of "confounded contraption" and elected to leave it on the drawing board While this book focuses primarily on gasoline-powered outboards produced in the United States, Mr. Harthan's patent is mentioned because it "prevent[ed] anyone else from getting full protection" for any subsequent outboard motor.

The 1896 American

The earliest documentation of an American gasoline-powered outboard motor describes a small 1896 line of detachable rowboat engines from the American Motor Company of Long Island City, New York.

A late-nineteenth-century book, Gas, Gasoline and Oil Vapor Engines for Stationary, Marine, and Vehicle Motive Power, devoted four pages to the novel 4-cycle, air-cooled engines. The single-cylinder model featured a 3 ¼-inch bore, a 4-inch stroke, battery ignition, and 1 to 2 hp at 400 to 600 rpm. Also mentioned was a twin-cylinder version of the American. This may have been a pair of single-cylinder power plants mated to a common flywheel and drive shaft. The twin boasted exactly twice the smaller unit's power. On both models a remote fuel tank was standard. A simple carburetor was attached to the gas tank, and fuel vapor reached the crankcase via a flexible tube. Although primitive, the 1896 American outboard's basic layout would not be unrecognizable to present-day boaters.

Folks in antique outboard circles often quote 25 as a production figure for the American outboard motor. I am not certain where such a number originated and really wonder if any at all were ever produced. Respected outboard historian W.J. "Jim" Webb, once a top executive with the Evinrude Company, tried to track down additional information on the American. He discovered that the firm's building had passed into the hands of a movie company. No traces of the motors, or anyone with firsthand knowledge of the early outboard venture, have ever been located.

It is possible the American Motor Company's outboards (if produced) were not labeled American. In the same fashion that no General Motors car is called a General, the American outboard may have sported some other model name. To add to the mystery, a Detroit company produced an early (1913 to 1918) detachable rowboat motor. It, too, was known as the American.

The 1898 Miller

The name Harry Armenius Miller is inseparably linked to the glory days of the American race car scene. His cars, his unique carburetors, and, most notably, his 91-cubic-inch engines claimed many prestigious victories. In addition to automotive speed records, the Miller 91- and 151-cubic-inch power plants, when mounted in a speedboat, "were nearly invincible on water."

A Wisconsin native with a keen interest in machinery, Harry Miller traveled west, where he worked in a Los Angeles bicycle shop. A few years later he married and quickly took his wife to his hometown of Menomonie.

Shortly after his 1897 return to the Midwest, Harry built a special bicycle equipped with a single-cylinder motor. Some say this was America's first motorcycle. In any event no patents were ever requested.

Harry Miller usually stayed interested in a project only until a new one could be dreamed up. He mentioned to a few close friends that his ideas came from someone (in another world) telling him what to do.

In the summer of 1898 the spirit moved him and "he worked out a peculiar 4-cylinder [outboard] engine, clamped it to a rowboat, and showed his cronies how to enjoy their afternoons off." Although the motor apparently did what it was designed to do, Miller lost interest in the outboard and sought no patents. It is not known what became of the pioneer rig.

Miller's wife longed to return west, so shortly after the outboard incident, they headed to California The Golden State became home to other Miller projects including the manufacture of carbs, race engines, and cars, as well as what may have been the first aluminum pistons in the United States.

While it's evident that Harry Miller's circa 1898 outboard never went into any kind of mass production, the possibility that the previously mentioned 1896 American may not have, in fact, gotten off the drawing board, places Miller's as the first U.S. gasoline-powered outboard with a written record of actual operation. Interestingly, one eyewitness to the Miller outboard excursion could have been another young Wisconsin nat

Excerpted from The Old Outboard Book by Peter Hunn. Copyright © 2002 by International Marine. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

1. Outboard Motor Pioneers
2. Evinrude
3. Johnson
4. Kiekhaefer Brands
5. Private Brands
6. Where Have All the Old Outboards Gone?
7. Outboard Accessories
8. The Antique Outboard Motor Club
9. The Big List
10. The Back Rack
11. An Empire of Vintage Outboards
12. Price Guide and Rarity Rating
Appendix A. Model/Year Guide
Appendix B. Spark Plug Chart

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The Old Outboard Book 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Marko-IL More than 1 year ago
If you collect vintage outboard motors or just have an old one you want to run around, this one book will keep it running. The index at the back is a wealth of info regarding fuel/oil ratios, spark plug types, ect. Outboard motor books are scarce. There is another book out there, but it is more a glossy overview of general interest.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This edition of The Old Outboard Book adds to the second edition and really tries to satisfy the readers curiousity about the many makers and contractors of the old 'kickers'. Written like a story instead of a dry history, this book has much to offer the collector and the practicle motor restorer. If you want to know more about that motor to match your classic or antique boat, here's the book to turn to for information and some pricing advice as well.
Guest More than 1 year ago
If you own or have read the first or second edition of The Old Outboard Book you need this one too! Much new information on old outboards, especially those made in England and Austrailia. Full of Peter's easy to read style, packed with information! Nice section on how to find identity and age of an old outboard.