History Of Evinrude Outboard Motors

Ole Evinrude photo courtesy www.lawnboy.com

Ole Evinrude, inventor and entrepreneur, founded an industry and managed a thriving company while remaining one of America's most honest and generous

Evinrude was born on a farm outside of Christiana, Norway.  One of his earliest memories was his family's emigration to America when he was five (1882): he spent
almost the entire trip in the ship's engine room.  The family settled in Cambridge, Wisconsin, where the young Evinrude abandoned grade school early --- because it was
too easy.

Evinrude much preferred working with farm tools and machinery, first around his father's property, then as an apprentice and laborer in factories all over the Midwest,
including Chicago and Pittsburgh.  A tireless worker, Evinrude allowed himself only one indulgence: a subscription to a mechanics magazine.  In the 1890s, Evinrude first
read about the internal combustion engine, already being used in Germany experimentally to power the "horseless carriage."

Returning to Wisconsin at the age of 23 (1900), Evinrude opened a pattern-making shop.  In his spare time he built his own horseless carriages, which he road tested in
town --- much to the astonishment and dismay of his fellow Milwaukeeans.  Evinrude soon won fame as an engineer and eccentric, but found success more elusive.

The manager of Evinrude's modest office was a young neighbor, Bess Cary.  In 1906, he and she were engaged.  During a picnic on an island that summer, Evinrude
made a 5-mile roundtrip by rowboat in 90-degree heat, to fetch his beloved some ice cream.  Though he was a powerful man, and far from lazy, Evinrude realized en
route that an automobile was not the only vehicle that could benefit from a gasoline engine.

Cary and Evinrude were married in 1906.  In 1907, Evinrude founded Evinrude Motors in Milwaukee. The firm immediately began to develop its first outboard motor, a
one-cylinder, 1.5 hp (1.1 kW) model, which became an instant success upon its introduction in 1909.

The next summer saw the first field tests of Evinrude's outboard motor, a 1 1/2 horsepower, 62-pound iron engine that his new wife said looked like a coffee grinder.
Despite this initial skepticism, Bess became Evinrude's ad executive; and over the next two years, thanks to Mr. Evinrude's refinements and Mrs.  Evinrude's publicity
("Don't Row! Throw the Oars Away!"), the motors were a great success.

Although other inventors had experimented with the outboard motor as early as 1896, Evinrude's was the first commercial success.  In 1911, he earned a patent
(#1,001,260; "Marine Propulsion System") and formed a business partnership with a tugboat magnate named Chris Meyer.  The Evinrudes literally wore themselves out
producing and promoting their engines, and in 1914 were forced to sell their business interests to Meyer, in order to take a vacation.  Having promised not to work in the
field for five years, Evinrude toured the US instead, with his wife and their young son, Ralph.

When the five years were up, the Evinrudes returned to Milwaukee.  Evinrude, who had not been idle, thought it only fair to offer Meyer his revolutionary new invention:
a twin-cylinder, 3-horsepower, 48-pound, aluminum outboard motor.  Meyer declined, so in 1921 he and Bessie formed the ELTO Outboard Motor Company (ELTO
standing for Evinrude's Light Twin Outboard) which forced Evinrude's new company into competition with the first company he had founded.  This new outboard
engine was also very successful, but Evinrude never stopped improving his motors, and his company's market share increased.  However for years, they jockeyed for
position, as a contender, Johnson Motors (est. 1922), a specialist in inboard motors and speedboats, took the lead in the industry.

In 1929 the ELTO company merged with the original Evinrude company & a three-way merger with Johnson formed Outboard Marine Corporation, with Evinrude the
president of this new company.  Later then in 1929, on October 28th, the stock market crashed, and the Great Depression began. Evinrude's company survived only
from sale to sale; but even in these hard times, Ole Evinrude never lost his optimism and generosity.  Like a real-life George Bailey, he would shyly slip friends and
employees cash, to help them through hard times.

Meanwhile, Evinrude and his staff had developed more industry firsts: the electric starter, the folding shaft, the 40-horsepower "Big Four."  In fact, OMC began to
expand, producing, for example, "Evinrude Lawn-Boy" power lawnmowers (1932).

In 1933, Bess Evinrude died.  Her husband was crushed, and himself died the next year.  His son Ralph, who had left college to join the company in 1927, took over as
President of Outboard Motor Corporation.  He oversaw OMC's acquisition of Johnson Motors in 1935, and restructured the corporation based on the "consolidated competition" of its
divisions (just as Chevrolet, Buick and Oldsmobile compete).  OMC remains the undisputed leader of the outboard motor industry today.

In the 1960s the name was changed to Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC) and was a maker of Evinrude and Johnson boat motors and many different brands of boats.  They also owned several lines of boats such as Chris Craft, Lowe Boats, Princecraft, Four Winns, SeaSwirl, Stratos, and Javelin. OMC was also a parent company to Ryan, which made lawn mowers.  OMC sold 100,000 motors in 2000 and had one third of the outboard market.  OMC filed for bankruptcy 22 December 2000 and laid off 7,000 employees.  They announced
they would no longer warranty their product.  This left many owners in limbo wondering if the future owner would warranty their products as the future owner is not legally liable but could as a sign of goodwill.

The names Johnson and Evinrude were won by bid in February 2001 by Bombardier Recreational Products and the boat division by Genmar Corporation of
Minnesota.  At the 2001 Miami Boat Show they both said they would do their best to support dealers and warranties.  The former OMC plant #2 in Waukegan, Illinois
is now a United States Environmental Protection Agency superfund cleanup site funded by taxpayers.

In 2003, after Bombardier (a Canadian based company) acquired the Evinrude and Johnson Outboards brands, the questionable FICHT technology was replaced by E-TEC direct injection. This improved fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, oil usage, noise levels, and maintenance needs. This is due in part by a pin point oiling system which only applies oil to
the necessary components, unlike the original two stroke motors.

Evinrude E-TEC was the first outboard engine technology to win the American Environmental Protection Agency 2004 Clean Air Excellence Award, which recognizes
low emission levels.  It is also recognized as acceptable for use by the European Union.  When compared to a similar 2004 four-stroke engine, carbon monoxide
emissions with Evinrude E-TEC are typically 30 to 50 percent lower; and at idle are lower by a factor of 50 to 100 times.  In addition, Evinrude E-TEC emits 30 to 40
percent less total particulate matter on a weight basis than a similar “ultra-low emissions” four-stroke outboard. Furthermore, oxides of nitrogen and hydrocarbon
emissions for Evinrude E-TEC are similar to, if not lower than, a four-stroke outboard.  There are no oil changes with this engine, as well as no belts, and no valve or
throttle linkage adjustments.  This makes Evinrude E-TEC engines easier to own than comparable four-stroke engines. In addition, numerous advancements combine to
create the Evinrude E-TEC quiet signature sound including an exclusive idle air bypass circuit.

Today all Evinrude motors are built and assembled in Sturtevant, Wisconsin, south of Milwaukee.

1877 Ole Evinrude born April 19, 1877 in Oslo, Norway
1882 Evinrude family moves to American and settles in Cambridge, Wisconsin
1905 Cameron Waterman invents and files patent application for a Boat-Propelling Device
1906 after Ole made a 5-mile roundtrip by rowboat he formed his idea for a practical boat motor
1907 the first field tests of Evinrude's outboard motor, a 1 1/2 horsepower, 62-pound iron engine
1907 U.S. Patent No. 851,389 issued April 23, assigned to Waterman Marine Motor Co.
1910 Ole filed patent application for Marine Propulsion Mechanism on September 10
1911 Ole formed a business partnership with a tugboat magnate named Chris Meyer
1911 U.S. Patent No. 1,001,260 issued August 22, assigned to Evinrude Motor Co,
1914 Ole sells his half interest in Evinrude Motor Co to Meyer, in order to take a vacation
1919 Ole designs a twin-cylinder, 3-horsepower, 48-pound, aluminum outboard motor.
1919 Ole forms "Elto" Company to compete with the Meyer's Evinrude Company
1922 Johnson Motors established, specialist in inboard motors and speedboats
1929 a three-way merger formed Outboard Marine Corporation, Evinrude reacquired his first company
1932 OMC began to expand, producing, for example, "Evinrude Lawn-Boy" power lawnmowers
1934 Ole Evinrude passed away (1 year after his wife) and his son Ralph inherited the presidency
1936, OMC renamed Outboard Marine & Manufacturing Company after acquiring Johnson Outboards
2003, Bombardier acquired the Evinrude and Johnson Outboards brands thru bankruptcy proceedings

Thus, Ole Evinrude's legacy survives, in the outboard motors used by recreational boaters, fishermen, and even the military (from World War II to Desert Storm).
Evinrude won many awards for his work; but even more importantly, his career proves that hard work and a kind heart need not be incompatible with success.


This article is a composite put together from internet information.


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