you'll find the Frequently Asked Questions encountered by our resident
outboard expert, Captain Newt England.
is my old outboard worth?
This is the most common question that I hear and the toughest to answer;
the sad truth is probably not that much. This is because there are literally
millions of them around.
- In the
1940’s, 50’s and 60’s were was a huge boom in recreational
boating – millions and millions of outboards were manufactured.
Most outboards are only used periodically - they never get enough hours
to wear them out. And outboards are easily stored in the rafters of
a garage or boathouse and people tend to hang on to them regardless
if they run or not.
most cases boats and outboards are basically toys. Since only a small
portion of people spending their disposable income on boats are interested
in a 40 or 50 (or more) year old outboard, there is a pretty limited
market for old outboards.
sum it up, a large supply, small demand, not really a necessity, simply
put; they are just not that valuable.
the best tool available is Peter Hunn’s OLD
OUTBOARD BOOK. You could also try keeping an eye on e-bay auctions
of similar motors but this can be unreliable since the prices for a
given outboard have been known to fluctuate widely day to day and week
any valuation would depend on the condition of the motor. All too often
a motor that looks nice on the outside can have major issues on the
inside. Many times it can take a trained professional to assess the
condition and repairs needed to put an old outboard back on the water.
At $55+ per hour, it doesn’t take much time to exceed the value
of most motors from the 1940’s and up.
there are some very old motors and some very rare motors that are worth
a lot relative to the average Elgin, Scott Atwater or Johnson TN-26
– unfortunately those outboards don’t turn up that often.
Not to Do
outboard buying 101
should I pay to buy an old outboard?
old outboards is a fun and AFFORDABLE hobby. To keep it that way
it is important to not create a false sense of value for old outboards,
lest the hobby go the way of Cabbage Patch Kids or Beenie Babies!
market find or
away, don't walk!!!
Let's look at a semi-real story to see an all too often scenario for
newcomers in the old outboard collecting world, (names have been changed
to protect the innocent but the parts are actual retail prices for parts
is at a yard sale and spies an old outboard in the corner of the
garage next to a long dormant roto-tiller and lawn mower. The outboard
is a little banged up and has been well used and loved with a few
dings, scratches and most of the decals missing. He falls in love
with the cool styling and the couple of graphics still clinging
to the old motor. The old-timer holding the sale relates to him
all the fish he caught out with that motor, how his son (now an
interior decorator in NY City... don’t ask) had learned to
run a boat with it back when Ike was President. "After all,
how many of them can be left out there" says the old-timer.
Thinking he has found a once in a lifetime opportunity, Jack decides
to pay the curmudgeon’s asking price of $150 and heads home
pleased as punch with his new find.
the motor on a sawhorse in the garage, Jack does a little on-line
research and finds that the motor is 1953 Poseidon Piranha 5
1/2hp. Unfortunately the fuel in the tank was best used before
October 11th 1961 and is now the consistency of molasses and
even worse in the carburetor - boy does it smell bad! Jack aced
shop in back in high school and knows his way around small horsepower
engines pretty well; he even still has his textbook SMALL GAS
ENGINES by Al Roth. A little more poking on the outboard and
he learns that the coils in the magneto have cracked, the points
are blackened nubs, the condensers test poorly and the spark
plug wires were ingested by Ralph the rat. After some consideration
(and a little dreaming) it strikes Jack that having the rubber
tiller grip and new decals would probably make great finishing
online research leads Jack to Phyllis’s Poseidon Parts Palace
specializing in new, used and remanufactured parts for his outboard
motor. Phyllis’s father Phillip worked on the Poseidon production
line and she has done a great job almost single-handedly keeping
people putting along with these fine kickers. A few emails and Jack
is in luck that Phyllis has all the parts. She also suggests that
he replace the waterpump impeller and get a carb kit that can deal
with the new reformulated fuels in his state. Here is a breakdown
of the cost for the parts Jack ordered:
Plug Wire $8.00
New reproduction rubber tiller grip $25.00
Carb kit $22.00
Reproduction acetate decals $32.50
including shipping & handling $174.00
gets the parts and, in a week or two, has his Poseidon Piranha 5
1/2 running like new. He is understandably pleased at having brought
it back to life and is really glad that Phyllis suggested he get
the impeller since the old one had turned to dust! He tallies the
additional costs of carb cleaner, spark plugs and some fasteners
at about $20, bringing his total investment to $344.00. (This does
not include the cost of baby-sitting, dinner & a movie for Jack
and his wife Jill, to keep the peace at home. Jill is feeling a
little put-out at all the time he has spent in the garage since
the "rare & valuable" Poseidon Piranha came into their
is sobering for poor Jack the night a few weeks later when he logs
on to an on-line auction and sees his same model motor fully restored
bringing a maximum bid of $225.50. Alas, things get worse for Jack
when he brings Jill and sons Jim and Jerry to an Antique Outboard
Club meet and sees scores of running Poseidon Piranha 5 1/2's, Poseidon
Perch 7 1/2's and even a couple of the unusual Poseidon Pickerel
12's. Jack knows things at home are going to be rough when Jill
says: “Last one left out there, yea, right... How much have
you spent on that thing??!!!”
the main character in this story finds out, he really doesn't know
jack about old outboards!
There are several helpful things I have learned over the years that
are a great help to know in the buying of old outboards:
Know as much about the particular motor you are buying as possible.
Joining the AOMCI and getting some books on the hobby (Like the
can go a long way to educating you on the worth of old motors. Knowing
how many were made, how serviceable and how much interest there
is in a motor are really the keys to knowing its value.
You should know what the motor looked like when it was new and if
it came with any extra items like tools, manual(s), a remote fuel
tank and any other miscellaneous parts. Is anything broken or is
the motor missing parts, cowls, handles, knobs, etc…? I know
of several cases where you can purchase a complete motor for less
than the cost of the cowls on their own!
Try to evaluate as much as possible about a motor when you are looking
at it. A verbal history from the seller is fine but it doesn’t
come close to being as trustworthy as a compression test or thorough
mechanical evaluation. A motor that is offered at 1/3 less than
others you have seen of the same model, but needs hundreds of dollars
in parts, is no bargain
basic knowledge of the cost for parts to service or restore a motor
can be a great help in determining value. It is fair to assume that
any old motor will need the same parts as indicated in the story
above. Depending on the model, year and other factors, some of these
parts may cost less and some a great deal more. (And some parts
may not be available at all!) It is sad to say but there are some
brands from the 40’s and 50’s with so little value today
(even running) that a modest investment in parts will exceed their
current value in mint condition. That is not to say you shouldn’t
try to work on one of these (some of them are personal favorites
of mine) but just be sure you know what you are getting into.
very common issue relating to value can be the seller’s sentimental
feelings for the outboard. He or she could recall the thrill of
purchasing the motor new in 1955, add to that all the fun and memories
associated with it over the years and soon the mind of the seller
has vastly inflated its value.
value is not transferable…period, end of story. The memories
of good times on the water with an outboard stay with the seller
- you will have to make your own! No mater how much fun was had
in the past, the fact is it doesn’t make any particular motor
worth one iota more than any other.
auctions like ebay and others are a great resource for information,
but BE CAREFUL! Most members of the AOMCI agree that the costs of
items on-line do not reflect the true value of a given old outboard.
The argument against this thinking is that of free market economics
– an auction, by its very nature, inherently dictates the
value of any item. The counter argument is that one or two people
with a unique motivation, that are uninformed or with money burning
a hole in their pocket, can determine the price of an auction. Like
it or not, it is a fact that every day outboards (and related items)
are sold on-line that many of us in the hobby have been challenged
to give away!
there are some items that on-line auctions have LOWERED the value
on. Previously, outboards from the like of Martin, Bendix and Lauson
were thought to be extremely rare. The significant number of them
that turn up on-line has shown that they are not all that uncommon
and their values have actually decreased (in many cases).
short, on-line auctions are an interesting tool but you should not
place a significant amount of emphasis on the values displayed there.
And when you factor in that you can’t examine the motor, can’t
look the seller in the eye and will probably need to ship the motor,
my feeling is you can probably do better elsewhere.
Be wary of shipping costs if this is a requirement of sale. Unless
you live in a very remote location, it is more than likely you can
find almost any old outboard a lot closer to home. Horror stories
of things lost, broken or damaged in transit are very common.
The best plan of action if you want to get involved with old outboards
is to come up with a solid game plan for what you want to do. To start,
get a copy of the OLD
and join the AOMCI. Attend a few meets, talk to folks and get an idea
of what you are getting into. Pass up the first few “bargains”
you see - hold onto your money. Go ahead and get a name and phone number,
you can always call the seller back later when you have learned more.
some time researching the motor you would like to buy before you take
the plunge. Find out what will be required to restore the motor, how
easy parts are to find and how serviceable the motor is. As nifty as
they are, don’t start off wanting the unobtainable Waterman Porto
or something as complex and difficult to service as an automatic transmission
Mercury or Bail-a-Matic Scott Atwater – it could be biting off
more than you want to chew!
you have all the information on-hand regarding the motor you want, you
are well prepared to haggle with the flea market vendor, yard sale proprietor
or person who placed the classified ad you responded to. Show them the
value page in the OLD
relate to them the cost of the parts you will need and insure them that
they will get to keep all their wonderful sentimental memories. Pass
on any motor that you feel is too pricey, give the seller your number
or get theirs and try them a month or two later. I guarantee that if
you bide your time the right motor at a good deal will find you!
own recommendations of outboards for newcomers to the hobby are
most of the 2 to 25hp Johnsons from the 1930’s, 40’s
and 50’s. Evinrudes from the 30’s are good but most
of the motors from the 1940 up through 1953 have carburetors that
can be challenging to service. Smaller Mercurys (and their cousins
the Wizard) from the 40’s and early 50’s are also good,
though the 10hp versions have become very pricey lately. Almost
all of these motors can be obtained for less than $100 (in some
cases free!) and are easy to get parts for, repair information on
and are intuitively constructed.
you have cut your teeth on a few of these solid motors and have made
some friends & connections in the club, then you should branch out
into the motors YOU LIKE. Don’t collect a brand just because others
do, follow your own feelings and instincts - if you like Elgin’s
but everyone else is collecting Mercury’s don’t feel you
need to go with the pack. A collection of outboards you enjoy is far
more fulfilling than keeping up with the whims & fancies of others.
do I get parts for my old outboard?
Try the links section or Webvertize ad at the AOMCI
web site, even better is to join the AOMCI and place an ad in the
club newsletter. Also, believe it or not, many Evinrude/Johnson (OMC)
parts are still available from your local Bombardier dealer! Unfortunately,
I have found that most Mercury dealers think a motor from 1990 is too
old to get parts for…. I recommend OldMercs.com
if you need parts for an old Merc, the information on their website
is an excellent tool.
are a few people who have small businesses specializing in particular
makes of old outboards; Martin, Scott-Atwater and Chris-Craft are just
a few. They can be found in the links section of the AOMCI web site.
Lastly, a good NAPA or other auto parts store should have access to
the Sierra Marine catalog listing thousands of common consumable outboard
parts like coils, carb kits, gaskets, etc… While original equipment
(o.e.) parts are preferable to aftermarket, many of these aftermarket
parts are pretty good but don’t automatically assume that the
aftermarket parts will be less expensive than the same o.e. part. A
little research can pay off handsomely when shopping for old outboard
type of gas/oil should I use in my old outboard?
Fact: For an old outboard you do not need to worry
that leaded gas is no longer available. Marine fuel sold from the 1930’s
through the 1960’s was called “Marine White” and was,
in fact, unleaded gas. There are a lot of debates over what octane to
use; a quality 87 octane is typically fine.
A major issue for the old outboard is the use of ethanol or MTBE as
an additive in modern fuels. Essentially alcohol, these additives are
really trouble for the rubber parts in the fuel system. If you have
any fuel system parts made of black neoprene rubber, (fuel line, carburetor
float bowl gasket, needle tip, fuel valve packing, etc..), the alcohol
will dissolve them. Problems from a plugged fuel line to fuel dripping
everywhere are the result.
the only option to remedy the problem of reformulated fuels is to replace
all the rubber components with ones that are able to cope with the new
A quality name brand 2-stoke oil is recommended. For water
cooled outboards use TCW-3 from Johnson/Evinrude, Mercury
or Yamaha. For air cooled motors a quality
TC rated oil is best.
are there two types of two stroke oils?
There can be a temperature difference of as much as 100 degrees between
water cooled and air cooled outboards.
2) Water cooled motors typically exhaust into the water, air cooled
motors into the air. Each creates unique issues for water cleanliness
and minimal smoke.
of these reasons requires extensive differences in the formulation of
the oils, dispersants and other factors. Be sure to use the correct
oil for your 2-stroke application.
IMPORTANT: Never use modern oil intended for a 4-stroke
car in 2-stroke equipment – it will destroy it. Years
ago, before detergents were in 4-cycle oil and before good 2-stroke
oils were developed, this may have been okay - today it is unacceptable.
a few dollars more for a good oil is a small price to pay to prevent
major mechanical issues.
The ratio of oil to gas is different for almost every outboard manufacturer and even from one model to another. Most motors manufactured before 1960 require at least ½ pint per gallon of gas with some needing ¾ (or more) of a pint per gallon. If your motor still has the decal with its recommended mix, follow those guidelines using modern 2-stroke oil. Again DO NOT use automotive oils (even if the original decal says so) they were different from what is available today.
In many cases this may seem like a lot of oil, and your motor may be a little smoky when running, but that's just how it is. Adding to the confusion is that many modern dealerships and mechanics often tell people it's fine to run a lighter mix. But remember, they are in the business of selling NEW MOTORS not preserving old ones. More oil does no harm - but too little can be devastating.
Whenever one is in doubt about what the ratio should be for a particular motor, posting the question on the AOMCI Ask A Member board will often yield an answer.
Safe Boating At All Times
Owning and operating a boat is a serious business and the Yankee Chapter of the AOMCI encourages safety at all times. At our meets it is the responsibility of all boat owners to be sure their craft is legally registered, insured and has all safety equipment as required by law. (And common sense!) All boaters must be sure they understand and obey the law out on the water, different states and waterways have different requirements. Since safety is a concern for all recreational boaters, the wearing of life jackets is recommended for all individuals and is required by law in many states for children 12 years of age and under. Laws may also require children 12 and under to wear life jackets on docks and other areas.
When boating, please act responsibly and obey all rules of the road and local laws regarding speed, horsepower and noise limitations. Please be sure that all equipment is operated in a safe and respectful manner. The consumption of alcoholic beverages at all AOMCI functions is strictly prohibited.
If you are interested in learning more about being a safe boater visit the US Power Squadron and look into their boating safety classes. You can also learn about each of the New England states safe boater requirements at the following links:
Massachusetts Boating Education Program
Maine Boating Regulations
New Hampshire Department of Safety
RI Boating Fishing Hunting
Chapter: Making Waves With Old Outboards