Rhythm is Our Business…Business is doing swell: Captain Jones Vintage Outboard Restoration

Since January 2011 I  have been given the opportunity by three young men from Ramsey Brothers Restorations to move my outboard motor restoration shop into their facility.  The new location would offer me more room than my garage, a pain tbooth, and a large bay with an electric crane with which I could lift big outboards without breaking my back.  Not that I panned to go into business.  It is a hobby for me, but now a self sustaining hobby.  I even started a website at restoredoutboard.com.  Please check it out.  There are photos and info about work being done in the facility.

Big motor, big crane.

12 x 12 paint booth

So now as word has spread that there is a guy who works on old outboard motors as a hobby, many folks with vintage boats have begun to show up for help with their old outboard motors.  Most require a simple tune up, some a major overhaul.  Where is this going lead?  I just don’t know.  But in between working on helping others get their motors going, I have gotten to restore several for myself.  Here’s a few from the months past.

One of the first motors to be restored in my new digs was this 1937 Johnson PO-37 was purchased for 50 bucks on E bay. It was totally locked up...but...

After buying this 1937 Johnson PO-37 22hp outboard on E bay for 50 bucks, I spent twice that to drive from Toledo to Erie, PA to pick it up.  She was tied up and not serviceable.  I wasn’t sure she would be more than just a showpiece for my office at the new shop.  But after my friend Scott Parish came to lend a hand, we were able to use heat and penetrating oil to get her freed up.  We took the block down and everything inside was like new.  She did have a cracked cylinder, but another AOMC member found out I needed a good cylinder and sent me four of them to choose from.  A complete gasket set was purchased and she was rebuilt and repainted.  I still love to just see her on her stand when I walk in my office.  She looks so majestic.  OH!  Yes she does run now!!

After a bit of elbow grease and a full mechanical rebuild, including new piston rings, gaskets and seals and the cosmetic restoration, this old Sea Horse is ready to go for another 70+ years!!

I had the chance to do a little 3hp outboard for a customers grandson.  Very satisfying to see the results below.

This little 1953 Johnson JW 3hp motor was to be used as the first motor for a customers grandson.

Grandfather and Grandson with their restored outboard motor

Perhaps the best part of restoring vintage outboards is summed up in this photo.  A young man getting his rite of passage into freedom and responsibility.

The new Captain with his trusty little Johnson on the maiden voyage for a lifetime of memories.

Ironically, one of the very first jobs I was contracted to do was for a man who was in the Ramsey’s shop the day they met with me to test my interest in partnering with them.  This guy had a rather scrubby little Thompson lapstrake runabout he wanted to use on a no-wake-lake/electric only…no gas motors lake he lived on.  In fact this is a housing development built around and old quarry.  The fellow wanted something more vintage and unique than a pontoon, the prevailing vessel on his lake.  So the Ramsey’s were discussing the project while I stood by quietly.  As I listened…horror or horrors this guy aimed to put a little electric outboard motor on the back of his cute little Thompson.  It was more than I could bear the thought of!!
So being the quiet shy type, I blurted out…”You’re kidding!  why the hell would you do that?  It’ll look stupid!”
Following the eternal deafening silence of me breaking into the Ramsey’s sales pitch…all eyes on me know…me looking for a boat to crawl under…this fellow asked what I thought he should do.
I meekly said ” Well I dunno, but I’d be damned if i’d put some silly looking electric thing on the back of this boat.  Why don’t you gut an old Big Twin and stick an electric golf cart motor under the hood?”  Everyone looked at each other and then back at me.  The guy said “Can you do that?”
“I dunno” says I.
“Well get me some numbers and let me know!” says he!
After conferring with my friend Scott of Fort Wayne again, we both did research and found such things had been done before.  We discussed it over several months.  I had junk parts that were not worthy of a gasoline motor laying around.  So we set out to built an electric motor that was period correct for his boat.  So here tis!

Looks like a big twin on the outside...BUT...

So this was my first foray into vintage outboard restoration.  Making a vintage outboard modern.  Ugh!  Not exactly what I’d hoped for as a vintage outboard job.

Looks like a big twin on the outside...BUT...

So since moving into the new shop and having adequate shop facilities to perform almost any task from major and complete mechanical and cosmetic restorations to simple tune ups on vintage outboard motors, here are a few more pics for your review.

A sea of Johnson Holiday Bronze from 1956 and 1957.

Happy Customer Steve Shaltry with his '56 Johnson Javelin and a matching 7.5hp

One mans box full of trash...

A couple of neighborhood fellows showed up at the door one day I happened to be around holding this box of “parts”!  They offered them to me after finding them in a basement they were cleaning out.  I asked how much and they said “Nuthin’!  We knew you were working on motors in here and thought you might be able to use the parts!”

As luck would have it, I began sifting through the box and realized fairly quickly someone had methodically disassembled this Johnson TD-20 and cleaned it.  After two hours of reassembly, she was back in a bucket of water and running again.

Judging by her condition, not a dent in the tank…etc, I would say she was of very low hours, well taken care of, and maintained.  Lots of compression and she runs pretty well!

is another man's outboard motor. This one given to me by some local men who found it in a box while cleaning out a basement!! Yup! It runs again!

We were asked to set up a display at the Toledo Antique and Classic Boat Show this year.  So many lovely boats of every shape and size.  Many of my motors were hung on the runabouts at the show.  What a thrill and honor it is to see your work being displayed!

We were asked to set up a display at the Toledo Antique and Classic Boat Show this year. The two 1956 Johnson 15hp motors were an eye catching before and after display.

This 1955 Johnson RD-17 was converted to electric start and placed on a 1955 Lyman runabout. The boat and motor won a prize in its class!

Yet another 25hp Johnson, this time an earlier RD-16 with Electric start on its new craft.

Steve Shaltry and Sonny Clark brought this Century Imperial Sportsman back from a crumbling hulk. The 1956 Johnson Javelin was repainted by me and Steve did his own mechanical work.

So this is what has been going on to keep me from updating the blog.  My next post I hope to begin a series on how to do a full restoration from start to finish.  All to often I hear people complain about the price of a full mechanical and cosmetic restoration, but if you look at the balance sheet and the reliability of a properly restored motor as compared with a similar motor of comparable horsepower, the $$ is in my favor.  Besides…these motors have real style!

Stay tuned!


6 Responses to “Rhythm is Our Business…Business is doing swell: Captain Jones Vintage Outboard Restoration”

  1. May 1, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    hi thanks very much, have a seahorse a lot like this in the bottom of this article, sd15, can get model # if necessary…. it is almost new and it is running, the actual owner is trying to valuate it….also he is wondering about the ports around the inner part of the prop, the prop is hollow cast and the cooling water is ejected via the ports in the prop, i think they are 3, around each fin……thanks again….bill

    • 2 conductorjonz
      May 1, 2012 at 10:30 pm

      Hi Bill!

      The ports/slots in the propeller provide a way for the cooling water to exit the motor via a hole BEHIND the propeller. This motor uses a Vacuum pressure cooling system. Here’s how it works!

      After the motor is started you MUST get moving fairly fast to cause water to be scooped up via an intake behind the prop. The water is forced up into the water tube and then the water jacket of the power head, then back down to the lower unit where it exits through those holes. Some of the warmed water may recirculate…in theory. Once the motor is primed the water continues to flow via siphon-type action. After priming you can slow down and the motor should run nice and warm. However…IF you life the motor out of the water, you must re-prime the cooling system as described as the suction is now broken when the lower unit was out of the water. As long as the lower unit stays in the water, the water inside has nowhere to go and stays there, so priming will not be needed upon restarting the motor.

      There is no water pump on this motor.

      These are great old motors and will run until the end of time if treated correctly. Lots of oil mixed with the gas. I would use one that has been gone over thoroughly for nearly any application. Only issue is no neutral or reverse.

      Good luck!


  2. 3 Cobourg-Kid
    September 5, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    Hi Greg

    Many years ago I inherited my Grandfather’s 1937 9.2 hp Evinrude Light Four which I promptly put into long term storage deep in the dark recesses of my parents garage.

    Recently my mom and dad moved into a retirement home and my sister and I we were faced with the staggering task of moving 54 years of “stuff” out of their house so that the property could be sold. Not surprisingly, on re-discovery of this “gem” (some applied more salty terms) I could not let the neglected old outboard go, so after some serious reflection I eventually decided to drag the light -four 150 miles home.

    The evinrude is complete but will need a full overhaul. Finding parts will in many cases be difficult, but possibly the biggest challenge will be “un-denting” the severely banged-up on-board fuel tank. During his many fishing trips my granddad must have dropped that dang tank on every rock between Barrie and North Bay!

    Feeling some guilt for not getting around to this project for 25 years I recently began to troll the web to see how other folks had solved the dented tank dilemma and soon learned that there is not much about 1937 evinrude restoration out there let alone any methodology for fixing light-four fuel tanks . Initially I came accross one video in which the problem (on an old elto)had been solved by chopping the bottom out of the tank and then coaxing the dents out using a big hammer. After rejecting this approach as being a little too destructive I subsequently stumbled on to your December 2010 post explaining a non-destructive method that you developed to revive a badly dented outboard tank that had been thrown into the ground by a Tornado. In comparison the old light-four tank looks like it has been slammed by multiple tornado’s so it is a bit more of a challenge but I much prefer your no cut approach and will try it out soon.

    On a more general note it’s nice to find a blog that is obviously written straight from the hart. Your writing is allways clear, compelling, sometimes funny (loved the piece on registering boats and motors in Ohio!), sometimes eloquently sad and always insightful. Your resourcefulness and ingenuity in solving restoration problems is also extraordinary … highly impressive!

    Before I close,… your December 2011 post outlined how you had converted an 1950s evinrude light twin (oddly I once had one of these) from gas to electric . You even provided a teaser photo showing the finished “electo-rude”. For those of us left suspended by this cliffhanger (and I suspect there are many), could you please end the agony and post something explaining how you actually accomplished this quantum leap of re-engineering.

    All the best


    • 4 conductorjonz
      November 28, 2012 at 11:15 am

      Stephen! Thanks for the kind words. I’d gotten away from the blog for a while. Your post got me thinking I’d better get back to it, and today I finally did!

      For your tank, the aluminum on those old tanks is thick and tough. The old alternating HOT-n-COLD method may work using flame and dry ice is effective From extremely hot to extremely cold makes the aluminum contract and the dents will come out with some patience. However recently I tried the CUT-n-BEAT method, and wasn’t to thrilled with the end result. Oh well. Maybe I need to spend more time on it.

      Okay! The Electric Big Twin was launched and worked better than I had hoped. We cruised about 5 to 7 miles and hour and the owner later reported he got much enjoyment at watching the stares of other property owners who watched him cruise by. You see…her lives on an ELECTRIC ONLY lake…so this threw many property owners into a frenzy!

      Thanks again!

  3. 5 charles letts
    June 18, 2019 at 10:41 am

    my name is charles letts and i have a 1958 johnson sea horse out board motor and im looking to sell it but im not sure what i should ask for it . And it’s 5.5 horse power and everything is orignail on this motor

    • 6 conductorjonz
      August 16, 2019 at 8:41 am

      Depends on area your in, condition, and finding the right buyer.

      I traded a prop for one recently. A bronze prop, but I didn’t need it anymore. I restored the 5.5. And may sell it for 300 to 500 bucks. Nice running motors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: