Archive for July, 2009

30
Jul
09

1955 Johnson RD-17: An old 25 horse “Stretches it’s legs”…

A member of the Antique Outboard Collectors group offered me this little gem, knowing I have a love of these old Johnson’s.  They’re easy to work on and fun to run, plenty of parts that are relatively cheap too.

This motor was behind one of the man’s two pole barns that are filled with every kind of outboard imaginable.  He just didn’t have interest in resurrecting “another old Johnson”.

I wanted to bead-blast and repaint this old girl, but not sure I’d care to now.  The motor has had all the usual stuff done for a major tune up.  IE; new coils, condensers, points, a new water pump impeller, head gasket, and the lower unit was rebuilt.

1955 Johnson RD-17 25hp outboard.

1955 Johnson RD-17 25hp outboard.

After finishing it up and testing it in a 55 gallon lake, I really wanted to sell it.  I dragged it all the way to the AMOCI meet in Constantine, MI…and never got a nibble.  Too bad such a fine motor isn’t in demand.

As it didn’t sell, she was placed on my 1955 Feather Craft Vagabond for sea trials, and performed quite well…for a while.

The carb linkage was stiff, she belched and burped at anything less than idle…regardless of how the carb needles were set, and the throttle linkage kept coming apart…leaving the motor to idle down and stop running.

After climbing over the divider of the Vagabond to get to the motor for on-the-spot repairs a dozen times, I couldn’t understand why Johnson would make a “friction fit” linkage for the throttle.  Well…it didn’t used to be that way!

Upon arriving home and consulting the manual, this linkage should have had a clip to hold the linkage parts together.  A trip to John Fisher’s Marina was in order, and sure enough an old Evinrude Big Twin was laying in the weeds and had the exact clip that was needed.  Mr. Fisher was kind enough to “donate” it to the cause.

When I arrived home and installed the clip, and looked things over, I found the cam follower roller that follows the cam on the ignition plate had been broken in half and disentigrated.  A new one was installed, and we went back out to sea.

The old girl ran great all day long!

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After running down river to Toledo’s waterfront, I headed back toward Perrysburg and Maumee where I found a few jet skis who were eager to play in my wake.  The tables were turned…much to their surprise.

The Feather Craft is very agile, and with the addition of Smart Tabs from Nauticus (http://www.nauticusinc.com/smart_tabsSX.htm) the Vagabond is also very smooth in the water.  So I started chasing the jet skis.  Jumping over their wake and spinning in tight circles, following (not too closely) and generally the 3 of us performed a nice Water Ballet.  The jet ski crowd seemed surprised to see a big old aluminum boat playing with them at their own game.

I will have more to say about Nauticus Smart Tabs later, but I want to make sure I’ve got a real grasp of them.

However, back to the motor…I suppose I’ll sell it as there is too much “big iron” in our storage now.  Still, it’s very nice to see a 54 year old motor run again.  And run well.

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12
Jul
09

Feather Craft Vagabond Part Twelve: Across home plate…

As far as I’m concerned the Feather Craft Vagabond is pretty well finished.  I’ve taken it out on a shake down cruise and it leaked a bit.  Added a bilge pump and other necessary electrical equipment.

I was somewhat disappointed that it rode like a stagecoach.  A little chop goes a long way with this boat.  However, while at the AMOCI Constantine Swap meet this past weekend, a fellow was kind enough to set my carb needles on the Johnson Javelin while I drove.  He also decided to trim the motor a bit.  this made a big difference.  The carb was just barely off the “sweet spot”, so correcting this added some extra rpm’s and a bit more speed for planning off.  The trim on the motor also helped add some speed and made the boat ride better.

On Saturday evening my fellow Feather Craft owner Kokoken and I went to his cottage on Klinger Lake and ran our respective boats through the paces.  Ken and I chased each other around the lake for a while, and even snapped a few photos of each other while zipping by one another.  Ken also changed my opinion on this boat.

While we were out “playing”, I realized how fast and responsive these Vagabond’s are.  Very agile!

Here are a few photos from our water ballet.

Boys and their toys.

Boys and their toys.

 

Our aluminum beauties basking in the sun at Klinger Lake.

Our aluminum beauties basking in the sun at Klinger Lake.

 

Kokoken's Evinrude Lark had just a little more speed than my Johnson Javelin.  Ken is taking the lead.

Kokoken's Evinrude Lark had just a little more speed than my Johnson Javelin. Ken is taking the lead.

 

As Ken made a nice tight turn Many of the other boaters looked a bit nervous.  Some had expressions on their faces like a bubble dancer with a slow leak.

As Ken made a nice tight turn Many of the other boaters looked a bit nervous. Some had expressions on their faces like a bubble dancer with a slow leak.

I loved this photo, Ken didn't care for it much.  I love the color with the sun, man and machine, and the water.

I loved this photo, Ken didn't care for it much. I love the color with the sun, man and machine, and the water.

 

My turn to give'er a shot.  The old Vagabond looks like she's ready to take flight here.

My turn to give'er a shot. The old Vagabond looks like she's ready to take flight here. (Photo courtesy of Ken Humphries.)

 

Speeding over the water feels grand.

Speeding over the water feels grand.(Photo courtesy of Ken Humphries.)

 

 

 Gliding to a stop, the smile says it all. A Feather Craft Vagabond will float for another day.

Gliding to a stop, the smile says it all. A Feather Craft Vagabond will float for another day.

I’d like to thank the folks at http://www.feathercraft.net/ for providing insight and advice, as well as their great knowledge to help me complete the project.  Thanks to Ken for the great action photos and his hospitality at Klinger Lake, as well as his kindness in providing a windshield template and for being a good audience and host.

That’s enough about this old bucket of rivets.  I’ll be doing something about the AMOCI Super Swap Meet at Constantine, Michigan soon.  Lots of great old boats and motors.

In the meantime, we return your to our regular programming…

05
Jul
09

Feather Craft Vagabond Part Eleven: Rounding 3rd and heading for home…

Using the great Joe Nuxhall’s phrase, we’re “Rounding 3rd, and heading for home” with the 1955 Feather Craft Vagabond. 

Over the July 4th weekend the decks were finished and some electrical work done.  The decks turned our better than I thought they would.

The Helmsman position.

The Helmsman position.

 

The deck was installed in the passengers compartment.

The deck was installed in the passengers compartment.

As for the electrical system, the spotlight, horn, and navigation lights have also been wired to their respective switches.  The switches were installed on the dash, and the fuse panel installed on a brace hidden under the dash on the port side.
In keeping with the Lounge Lizard cool feel of these craft, I was able to procure a "Jetson Flying Saucer" anchor light for the stern.  Groovy man!

In keeping with the "Lounge Lizard" cool feel of these craft, I was able to procure a "Jetson Flying Saucer" anchor light for the stern. Groovy man!

A wiring harness for the vintage 1956 Johnson RJE-18 C “Javelin” outboard will have to be custom made.  Our Thompson had the wiring harness from the dash Start/Choke controls to the solenoid at the transom, but all of this will be made from scratch this time around.  However, the motor has been mounted and looks pretty swell hanging on the back of this boat!

 

Looking sweet hanging on the transom is my 1956 Johnson Javelin.  Like its sister on our Thompson, this motor was restored inside and out over the winter.  New pistons and rings, gasket set, bearings, seals, and that bronz prop at the bottom was found at a swap meet for 15 bucks. Sweet!

Looking sweet hanging on the transom is my 1956 Johnson Javelin. Like its sister on our Thompson, this motor was restored inside and out over the winter. New pistons and rings, gasket set, bearings, seals, and that bronze prop at the bottom was found at a swap meet for 15 bucks. Sweet!

Nothing can mistaken for the lines of a Feather Craft!  The use of “classic boat designs” from the glory days of boating were transfered into an aluminum vessel.  A sturdy, functional, yet stylish boat.  Many have said we are restoring a piece of art from another era by keeping these old beauties alive and floating.  Maybe, maybe not.  I think so.

The bow shot.  I used,as mentioned earlier posts, a bit of artistic license for the windshield.  The bow light replaced the original, and is a twin to the bow light on our Thompson.  Same is true of the horn which is a vintage Sparton vibrator horn made in Jackson Michigan. A very unique sound...and loud too. The spot light is also a vintage Unity S-6 that was rechromed by Chrome Masters of Nashville, TN.

The bow shot. I used,as mentioned earlier posts, a bit of artistic license for the windshield. The bow light replaced the original, and is a twin to the bow light on our Thompson. Same is true of the horn which is a vintage Sparton vibrator horn made in Jackson Michigan. A very unique sound...and loud too. The spot light is also a vintage Unity S-6 that was rechromed by Chrome Masters of Nashville, TN.

 

Sitting in the sun, she's looking pretty cool.  The trailer is original, made by Piper Brothers.

Sitting in the sun, she's looking pretty cool. The trailer is original, made by Piper Brothers.

Classic lines...indeed.

Classic lines...indeed.

Hopefully, if my jury duty doesn’t get in the way this week, I will be able to get the wiring for the motor done and finish the boat by next weekend.  If I can get a shake down run under our belt this week, I made take her to the AMOCI Super Swap Meet at Constantine, Michigan next weekend.
More to follow.  Stay tuned…