Obsolete Outboards
by Max Wawrzyniak

It's All Relative

I often hear (especially from Jim Michalak) about how much gasoline older outboards burn. My usual response is that the savings in the initial cost of an old outboard (over a new one) will buy a lot of gasoline.

For several years, I have been collecting all of the "paperwork" that I can find regarding old OMC outboards, such as parts manuals, service manuals, and service bulletins. These (some of which end-up posted to these columns) have proven to be valuable beyond their cost when it comes to dealing with these old engines.

Along with the technical paperwork comes an occasional gem, and I have posted one here; a 1961 promotional write-up concerning a 40 foot wooden Elco cruiser that was repowered with twin 75 hp Johnson outboards. Although repowering an older inboard boat with outboards is common now, it was something unusual back then.

The author points out that the outboards not only delivered higher speeds than the 135 hp gasoline inboards that they replaced, but burned less fuel as well.

However, a comparision of the quoted fuel consumption of these 1961 2-cycle outboards, when compared to modern 4-stroke or even fuel-injected 2-stoke outboards of similar horsepower, shows that the 40+ year-old engines sucked fuel big-time, even though they were a technological "leap ahead" over the boat's orignal power plants.


-Tests Show Ourboards Consume Less Gas-

Twin 75s Power 40 - Foot Converted Inboard

A Johnson adventure movie, stubborn determination and many hours of hard work combined to launch what is probably the world's largest outboard powered boat.

It all began near the end of the 1959 boating season when Henry Verrier of Coventry, Rhode Island, looked at his 40-foot Eico cabin cruiser with considerable dismay.

The boat was 11 years old and it's two 135 horsepower inboard engines were "good in their day, but their day was
over, " as Verrier put it. Replacing the big inboards would be too expensive, almost equal to the price of a new boat.

About that time, Verrier's friend, Tom Salzillo, was showing the Johnson movie, "Three For Adventure,'' to some relatives and friends. The film depicts the crossing of the Atlantic Ocean by three men in a 22-foot outboard cruiser with a pair of Johnson 50 h.p. motors.

Power Equals Inboards

After the movie, Verrier*s father-in-law, Leo Petreault, commented that outboard power equaled that of many inboard boats and ought to do just as good a job.

Salzillo, a Johnson Motors dealer in nearby Smithfield, R.I., knew the power of the V-75 h.p. engine and often thought there were many uses for this power plant beyond single installations on ski boats and cruisers. Why not apply twin V- 75 outboards with its 150 horses to move Verrier's 11,040-pound, 40-foot displacement-type hull?

On paper the plan looked good. Verrier and Salzillo talked to many knowledgeable people with the consensus usually being "in theory it should work, but in all practicality it never will."

But Verrier and Salzillo were stubborn and decided to go ahead. They had little to lose and much more to gain if they succeeded. They weren't engineers, but they weren't novices either, since both were in the marine business. Verrier owns the J & H Boat Builders of Coventry and Salzillo the Acme Marine & Supply Co. in Smithfield.

Twin Johnson V-75's power the 11,040 pound converted inboard boat with ease at speeds in excess of 20 m.p.h.

Began With Sketches

The Rhode Islanders began their project with sketches. Since neither of them were draftsmen, they spent many long winter nights laboring over the conversion plans,

The first major problem concerned the transom. The old Eico had a rounded transom. This meant building a square
section, cutting through and constructing a water-tight well. The outboards had to be installed with the motor mounts on square facing and proper drains had to be accompplished to eliminate the backwash.

Next came the controls. Conventional outboard controls were not made in long enough lengths. Inboard controls would not operate on outboards. To solve the problem they devised a unique linkage between the two types, which consumed most of their early summer evenings.

Steering presented another challenge. Eventually the steering was built with rods and linkage. The throttle and shift used the same system going back to a section just forward to the transom, where the rods were joined to the con- ventional outboard controls.

Many Long Hours

Making these adjustments and conversions may seem simple on paper, but they represented many hours of hard
work and spare time.

Finally in the first week of August, 1960, the day of launching came. The pair had planned to slip the big boat into the water quietly, but word leaked out and a fairly large crowd gathered. It consisted of the serious doubters who had come to jeer, the half-hearted doubters who had come to cheer, and the just normally curious.

As the twin Johnson 75's responded to the electric starting mechanism, the scepticism began to disappear. Within minutes it was all gone. When Verrier put his hand on the forward throttle, the big five and a half ton boat began to inch forward slowly. Gradually it picked up speed, then shoving the throttle fully forward the 40-foot cruiser responded with amazing alacrity. Within minutes it was headed out to Narragansett Bay.

Verrier and Salzillo put the boat through many tests that day. The first thing that surprised them was the speed of the converted craft. The boat moved at a top speed of 20 miles per hour as compared with their top inboard power-
ed speed of 18 m.p.h.

Use Less Fuel

But speed wasn't the only surprise. They had reasoned the outboard engines would be more costly to operate, but were amazed to discover the two Johnson 75s were burning only 14 gallons of fuel an hour. In the past, with two 135 h.p. inboard engines, the boat was using an average of 23 gallons at top speed.

Johnson dealer Tom Salzillo (center) makes a last minute check m the motor well of the converted 40-foot inboard boat, while Henry Verrier (right) explains to a friend how the stern of the craft was converted for use with two John son V-75s

The first day tests were conducted with 10x11 pitch propellers, which are standard on most Johnson 75 h.p. engines, but much too large for such a heavy boat. The motors turned over only 3400 revolutions per minute (r.p.m.) with these props, instead of the required 4500

A few days later, Verrier put on 9-inch props to bring the r.p.m. to 4000 and powered the boat to 21.5 miles per hour. Verrier has ordered special 8-inch props and figures these propellers should turn the engines the full 4500 r.p.m/s and produce a top speed of 23 m.p.h.

One test which had little scientific value, but certainly added to the pleasure of boating, was putting the boat onto a beach. This is rarely possible with inboards because of the deep draft of the props and rudder. With outboards, however, the only limiting factor is the draft of the hull itself.

Easy To Beach

The displacement hull of Verrier's boat is shallow enough to allow it to come within easy wading distance of any beach. The boat can rest in less than a foot of water at the bow, and 21/2 feet at the stern.

The final plus in the conversion to outboards was the increased space in the boat's cockpit.

Verrier, besides sampling the sweet taste of victory over doubtful friends' now has a boat that will allow him to cruise more economically in the future as well as eliminating for all time the necessity of facing expensive engine replacements before the end of the life of the boat itself.