I have mentioned many times that, in my opinion (and I always
have one), one of the best places for a NOO (Novice Obsolete
Outboarder) to learn about old outboards and their repair, and
to purchase old outboards and related parts, is at one of the
many swap meets sponsored by the Antique Outboard Motor club,
They have a swap meet schedule posted on their website, and
there are meets year-round, all around the USA and in a few
other countries. Membership is not required in order to attend,
but membership does bring you a quarterly paper magazine, and
newsletters for those months without a magazine.
Although there usually is no admission charge, often there
is a "donation jar" if food is being served.
On the other hand, I consider e-bay to be a rather poor place
for someone who is not throughly familiar with old outboards
to purchase engines. The element of convenience offered by on-line
ordering and payment often leads to prices that are at the "high-end"
(or beyond) of what I believe to be fair-market value, Then
there is the very limited knowledge availble as to the exact
condition of an engine. Most sellers state that they know little
about what they are selling, and if the buyer knows even less
about what he (or she) is buying, there is bound to be trouble.
About the best example that I can give for not buying engines
on ebay is that I know several outboard collectors who finance
their hobby by buying stuff at swap meets and then reselling
it at a profit on ebay. The "cheap power" seeker should
take the hint and buy where the resellers buy.
Lastly, I believe that one is likely to get an honest appraisal
of the condition of an engine from a collector, and in any event,
if will not be hard to find another collector there who will
give you an honest appraisal of another's engine.
There is a annual swap meet held about 6 miles from my home
on the first Saturday of December. As with many of the smaller
swap meets, it is held at a collector's home, and is usually
attended by about 25 to 30 people. There are larger swap meets,
usually held in parks or larger tracts of private land. About
the largest swap meet of the old outboard world is held early
each August in Tomahawk, WI. The swap meet is set-up along an
unused airport runway, and I have seen that runway almost full
of outboards and related items. If you intend to attend that
meet, and do not make your reservations for accomodations at
least 6 months early, expect to "bunk" a ways out
of town, as this swap meet is one of the largest events of the
year in Tomahawk.
I took a few photos of what was offered for sale at my local
swap meet. It is impossible to predict what people will bring
to sell at these things, but it is always interesting to see,
even if you do not buy anything. I did not buy anything at this
meet, which was my goal; I buy too much of this stuff as it
Would you buy an old outboard
from this mean-looking SOB?
(Strange Outboard Boatman)
The weather was cool but clear;
people set-up their "wares" for sale in the gentleman's
garage and on the driveway and even in the front yard. Not the
biggest turn-out this meet has had, but it is impossible to
predict who will show-up and what they will bring to sell.
On the left is a nice-looking,
mid-50's Mercury 5.9 hp with neutral clutch and 180-degree steering
for reverse. Priced at $225.00, it is maybe a bit pricey for
the "cheap-power" seeker. Plus it is not the easiest
of engines to work on, and I am of the opinion that the lower
unit is weaker than it should be. To the right is a late-40's
Johnson 5 hp model TD-20, priced at $40.00 These are decent
engines that have a rather strange carburetor but once one figures
that out, they generally run well. The only new part available
for the TD-20's is a reproduction water pump impeller. Still,
TD-20's are commonly seen, and with a "parts" engine
or two, a solid TD-20 could be kept running for a long time.
Still, I recommend looking for something newer.
The engines on the stands are
Mercury Mark 20's from the early to mid-50's (16 to 20 hp, depending
upon the exact year and on who is doing the talking). These
engines use a pressurized fuel tank which is very difficult
to find; much more so than an OMC pressure tank. They can be
converted to use fuel pumps, but in my opionion, they suffer
from a common malady of '50s Mercurys; they have weak lower
units. Plus, at $225.00/ $250.00 each, they are a bit pricey
for the cheap power guys. Engine laying on the floor is a 5
hp Mercury of similiar vintage, again with a weak lower unit
design. Mercury over-did the effort to stream-line their lower
units, in my view.
These are both Mid-40's Mercurys,
6 hp (silver) and 3 hp (gold). They have both been repainted
in colors similiar to their original colors, but new decals
have not been fitted. Note that the gold-colored one is missing
a piece of cowling that covers the front of the carb. (the silver
one has it). Also note that the gold one had the optional recoil
starter while the silver one had the standard rope sheave for
starting. The gold one was actually sold by Western Auto as
a "Wizard" while the silver one was sold under the
Mercury name. These mid-40's Western Auto Wizards were virtually
direct copies of the standard Mercurys. Later Wizards were were
also made by Mercury, up until about 1958, but were not just
re-labled standard Mercury models. Parts are difficult to come
by, complicated by the fact that Mercury, being a rather small
operation at the time, "outsourced" a lot of the parts.
For example, the 6hp had, at various times trough the '40s,
magnetos made by Bendix and Eiseman, and maybe a third company.
Not good cheap-power candidates, but neat little engines.
This very-early 50's 4-cylinder
Mercury was the highest-priced engine to sell at the meet; $800.00
These early 4-cylinder Mercurys are very much in demand by collectors.
With such high prices, virtually no new parts available, no
electric start, and no neutral and no reverse, I consider these
40+ hp engines to less than desireable from a cheap-power stand
Hidden behind the $800.00 Mercury
was a Zip-lock bag containing (4) OMC pressure tank fuel line
connectors for $20.00 each. The other engine is a Neptune or
A very-early 10 hp Johnson with
full gear shift; probably a '49 or a '50. The 10 was OMC's first
production engine with the full gearshift, and the 10 went through
many changes between it's introduction in 1949, and 1955, which
is the earliest year that I would recommend to the cheap power
guys. Early 10's are just a bit wierd. At $150.00, this example
had a pressure tank, but probably not the correct pressure tank
for that year outboard. That would only matter to a collector.
Racing stuff. You are looking
at about $2000.00-worth of lower unit and mid-section. Nothing
for us here.
Here's something kinda neat;
a mid-60's 3 hp "folding" Evinrude. It folds in half
and fits into a flimsy plastic carry case that is usually missing.
Priced at $295.00, it was almost 3 times the price of a non-folding
Evinrude 3 hp that is not that much more difficult to store.
OMC pressure tank with hose fitting
for $35.00 It did not find a new home at this swap meet. People
pay $100.00 and up for these things on ebay.
An Elgin. Elgins were made by
West Bend ( the pot and pan people) and sold by Sears. There
are Elgins at almost EVERY swap meet. This one was of interest
because it was one of the very earliest, about 1946. The guy
who brought this started it up (it is totally air-cooled) and
it ran well, but when he explained the he had to find a crankshaft
for it (the original was bad) along with some new bearings,
it sounded like more work to me than the motor was worth. But
old outboard guys LIKE to work on engines.
The left engine on the rack is
a 5 hp Gale Sea King, priced at $20.00 There was something wrong
with the shift arrangement, but not sure what. Jim Michalak,
who has learned the value of attending these swap meets, tried
to buy this engine for $10.00 but neither seller nor buyer would
compromise, so the engine went home with the guy who brought
it. That's a 5 hp green and silver Mercury; forget what it was
priced at, but know it was over $100.00
This is what your columnist brought
to sell, and sold about a third of it. After years of buying
loads of stuff at swap meets, I am now happy every time I leave
a swap meet with less stuff than I brought.