Obsolete Outboards  

by Max Wawrzyniak - St Louis, Missouri - USA


Oh, My Aching Back!

A few months ago a reader posted the following question on Duckworks:

"...Max, I work on my boat alone, I want to remove a 35hp Johnson from the boat and I don't have a lift or hoist. My work area, the garage, ceiling doesn't have exposed beams, hence no hoist attachment point. Is there a simple safe way for me to remove my engine from the transom?..."

My suggestion was to make-up a tripod arangment from lumber for liiting the engine if he could not find someone to help him. The 35hp and 40 hp OMC (Johnson, Evinrude, and Gale) outboards of the late '50s/ early '60s are the biggest outboards that I usually deal with, and depending upon exactly which model one has (long-shaft, short-shaft, electric or manual start, etc.) these can weigh anywhere between 100 lbs and 140 lbs.

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The 1949 Evinrude "Speedtwin" 22 hp wieghs about 125 lbs and is a hand-full to handle due to it's odd shape not to mention the weight. Although many of the later "Big Twin" engines have a lifting ring incorporated into the recoil starter, for this engine I had to make-up a simple rope sling.

I often hear people refer to these old outboards as "heavy old outboards." The truth, however, is that older outboards are almost always LIGHTER than new ones. The reason is simply that newer outboards have more "features" and more soundproofing and that all adds weight. Older outboards are often "bulkier" than the new ones, but almost never are they heavier.

Still, that's a lot of weight for one person to handle: I have "man-handled" these engines in the past but it certainly is not a good idea for the average person (and I am about as "average" as it gets.) For someone who only has one or two of these engines, the best route is probably to con a neighbor or relative to help. For someone like me, however, with dozens of these things lying around, the answer was a mobile hydraulic boom.

Resembling the "cherry picker" lifts used by mechanics for lifiting automotive engines but built much lighter, these lifts are used in hospitals for moving patients around. I really don't know the actual name of these things but if you have ever been to a hospital you have certainly seen them. I currently have (2) of the things and could not find a weight capacity listed on either but they have proven more than adequate for the task of moving 140 lb outboards from boat transons to storage stands and so forth. A hydraulic cylinder raises the boom and a release valve lowers it, and being mounted on wheels the lift is easily moved about the shop. The "legs" upon which the wheels are mounted can be spread wide or narrow as the situation requires, and the mast and boom assembly is removable from the base, allowing the two sections to be stored leaning in a corner or hung on a wall where they will occupy no floor space.

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These lifts make moving big outboards around the shop darn easy. I even used one to help hold the side panels of my AF4 when I was building it.

I bought my first one several years ago at a "thrift store" (Goodwill). The cost was $40.00 which I felt was much more reasonable than back surgery. I had not recalled seeing too many more of these lifts for sale since then, and while contemplating writing this column was not sure that I might be sending people off in search of an item that is difficult to locate.

A couple months ago, however, I was driving home from an antique outboard swap meet in Western Missouri and happened upon a garage sale in a small town with one of these lifts sitting out near the curb. The gentleman wanted $50.00 for it but I was able to talk him down to $40.00 and bought it. A better negotiator might have been able to get it cheaper; a fellow outboard collector has one that he claims he bought for $20.00 but all antique outboard collectors get a big "kick" out of claiming to have bought something cheaper than you have.

Then over the Thanksgiving weekend I was up in Alton, Illinois USA running in a race (results posted here, see # 67 ) and after crossing the finish line I was walking over to the race headquarters for the free doughnuts when I took a moment to look in a pawn shop. Right inside the front door was another one of these hydraulic lifts. I did not see a price tag on it and as I was worried about missing out on the free doughnuts I did not hang around to get a price. The point is that these things are around if you want one and the cost is not all that great. You might even find some "non-boat" uses for the thing and when it is not in use it breaks-down for storage.

Although I usually don't bother with the lifts for something like the 15 or 18 hp outboards, when it comes to the "big Twins" @ 100 lbs or more, the only thing easier than rigging a rope sling and pumping the hydraulic cylinder is telling someone else to do it.

By the way, I really don't need (2) of these things. If someone in or near the St. Louis MO USA area wants the better one of the (2) I have, it's available at my cost of $40.00

Happy Motor'n

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