Obsolete Outboards
by Max Wawrzyniak

Swap Meet II: The Sequel

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, Inc. (aomci.org). 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 is.

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 point.

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 something.

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.