Swapping motors, and a few fish tales

Woody Quiram of Star Lake, Minnesota was pretty happy with the outboard motor swap in Little Falls on April 14. Only an hour-and-a-half into the event and he’d already sold five motors, and bought one. He was watching new arrivals and hoping a 1957 3 HP Johnson would show up. That would make his day.     “I’m working on two for parades this summer and need one more.” He was willing to pay top dollar if he could find one. Like many at the event of the Gopher Chapter of the Antique Outboard Motor Club, his hobby of collecting and restoring the motors, though consuming, didn’t have to be costly. “It’s a relatively cheap hobby to get into. I pick ‘em up and pass ‘em on.” Bob Noel of Brooklyn Park, a five year member in the club, only has five motors in his personal collection. “My wife has 50 purses,” he said, rationalizing his growing penchant for buying motors. He came to the swap with friend Will Byler from Apple Valley who had a trailer full of motors and parts and a membership of about 20 years in the club. The Gopher Chapter has about 100 members from all over Minnesota and a few from Wisconsin. They get together 8-10 times a year to swap motors and parts as well as tales of fishing and boat racing. The April gathering was held at the Minnesota Fishing Museum in Little Falls. It was the perfect setting with fishing history mingling with food and talk of attributes of particular motors and always the quest for more. “It’s a win win situation for the museum and for the Gopher Chapter,” said MaryAnn Reischl who along with husband Bruce has been a member for about eight years. She was in charge of several electric roasters heating the food they’d dig into later. She pointed out the wooden awards to be given to the owners who brought motors for display: best original (in original un-restored condition), best restored, best boat and motor combo, people’s choice, and oldest outboard. MaryAnn’s husband was the shoo-in for oldest outboard. His 1912 Evinrude was the uncontested oldest of the day though there was a little discussion as to when Evinrude started making the motors. Ben Dittmar of Oak Grove has been collecting motors since he was 7. His dad owned Lake Maps, a company that made small plastic coated maps of lakes and he grew up motoring around the state’s lakes. “Evinrude started making prototypes in 1908-09,” he said. “They started making the motors in 1910.” Dittmar owns a 1913 Evinrude and was a little envious of the metal label, serial number 7130, still attached to Reischl’s motor. “There’s quite a bit of difference between a 1912 and a 1913,” he said and even without a label or serial number those differences make dating the motors fairly easy to the practiced eye. The 1913 has a magneto ignition that wasn’t invented in 1912. “Modern boats have a battery box with a toggle switch. These old motors used a lantern battery and a vibrating Model T coil or buzz box. That’s where the word ‘tune-up’ comes from. Henry Ford came up with the term for tuning the buzz boxes to the same pitch.” These days, tuning relies on an amp gauge. Other differences in the older motors: the 1910, 1911, 1912 and 1913 have small gas caps whereas the 1914 has larger ones. The early flywheel didn’t have holes whereas the 1912 does.  “I’ll trade my 1913 for this one,” Dittmar offered to Reischl who didn’t take him up on the offer. Dittmar would have added it to his collection of 250 motors while Reischl will keep it in his of 150. Reischl was also a good candidate for the best boat and motor combo award with the old Evinrude attached to a wooden 1949 Cokato. “The boat was cut in three pieces,” he explained of his project to restore the boat.         “Someone was going to make one of those boat shelf display units out of it. It took three months to put it back together. And, it floats,” he said with some satisfaction. This kind of swapping and chatter epitomize the mission of the Gopher Chapter which grew out of the National Antique Outboard Club which started in about 1958, paused for a few years and then got on firm ground in 1965. That club got too big and in about 1968 Ronald Johnson (Aitkin), Robert Brodigan (Twin Cities) and Bob Peterson (White Bear Lake) formed the Twin Cities Chapter which became known as the Gopher Chapter. Both Johnson and Peterson were at the April 14 event in Little Falls. Both are boat racers and count the racing engines among their favorites. “I’m 80 and still going 100 (mph),” said Peterson. John Stasieluk, Twin Cities, is the chapter’s current president with Murry Langer, Owatonna, serving as the treasurer. Bob Peterson will host the next swap on May 5 in his back yard in White Bear Lake. He said it’s easy to start collecting outboard motors. “You can get an old motor for $10 at a garage sale.” They don’t have to run and the swappers are often on the lookout for parts to rebuild other motors. Most everyone agreed that the Tomahawk, Wisconsin mini-national four-day swap is the best event around. That event, to be held the first part of August, spreads out on an abandoned airstrip. For more information, check out www.aomci-mngopher.org. Brainerd also has an antique outboard motor club, the Minnesota North Star Chapter www.aomci-northstarchapter.piczo.

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