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1953 Five Horsepower Comparison

Here is a look at how the 1953 5 horsepower outboards compared. Outboards in this class were second only to the 10hp class in sales that year. Today some of these motors have become known as reliable fishing companions, others are coveted by collectors - in my opinion all are great outboards!

Data supplied from Abos BLUE BOOK 1957 Edition.

Make &
Model

Mercury
Mark 5

Scott Atwater
1-16
(1950 Model Photo)

Martin 45
(Martin 40 photo)

Chris Craft
Challenger

Champion
3M-GS

P
H
O
T
O
No
Image
Available
HP@RPM
5@4,000
5@4,200
5@4,200
4.5@4,200
5.5@4,000
5@4,300
# Cyl
2
2
2
2
2
2
Bore
1.9375"
1.75"
1.6875"
1.5625"
2"
1.875"
Stroke
1.5"
1.5"
1.6719"
1.5"
1.5"
1.75"
CID
8.84
7.2
7.48
5.76
9.42
9.66
Ignition
OMC Universal
R.E. Phaelon
Wico
Wico
Bendix
Bendix?
Cooling
Water
Water
Water
Water
Water
Water
Weight
44lbs.
41 lbs.
46 lbs.
35 lbs.
46 lbs.
44 lbs.
Oil Mix
1/2pt per gal
3/8pt per gal
1/2pt per gal
1/2pt per gal
3/4pt per gal
1/2pt per gal
Fuel Tank

7 pt.

10 pt.
8 pt.
6.33 pt.
10.5 pt.
Remote
Speed
Control
Magneto
Lever
Magneto
Lever

Magneto
Lever

Twist Grip
Tiller

Magneto
Lever
Twist Grip
Tiller
Gearshift
F/ N - 360 Reverse
F/ N - 360 Reverse
F/N/R
Forward - 360 Reverse
Forward - 360 Reverse
F/N/R
Retail
$187.50
$196.00
$189.50
$179.75
$199.00
$219.50

And the "back rack" offered great values too!

Make &
Model

Gale
(Brooklure Shown)

Elgin
(1951 model shown)
Flambeau
(Ad photo)
Firestone
(1951 Model)
P
H
O
T
O
HP@RPM
5@
5@4,000
5@4,000
5@4,000
# Cyl
2
2
2
2
Bore
1.9375"
2"
1.9375"
1.6875"
Stroke
1.5"
1 11/16"
1.5625"
1.6719"
CID
8.84
10.6
9.24
7.48
Ignition
OMC Universal
Wico
Eiseman
Wico
Cooling
Water
Water
Water
Water
Weight
46.5 lbs.
49 lbs.
35 lbs.
46 lbs.
Oil Mix
1/2 pt per gal
1/2pt per gal
2/3pt per gal
1/2pt per gal
Fuel Tank
6 pt.
8pt.
7 pt.
8 pt.
Speed
Control
Magneto
Lever
Magneto
Lever
Magneto
Lever
Magneto
Lever
Gearshift
Forward & Neutral
Forward & Neutral
Forward Only
F/N/R
Retail
$148.00
$143.00
$161.50
$179.95

Which one would you buy?

Why 1953? With Ike in the White House and the Korean conflict drawing to a close, things were really looking up. There was a lot of competition in the outboard market with over 30 brands offered. This was the final year for Chris Craft, the previous was the end for Muncie's full lineup and 1954 would spell the end for Martin. 1953 was the swan song for Johnson's venerable "T" series and soon all motors in the 5hp class would have to be full gearshift to compete. I consider it Scott's last good year since the next would bring the infamous Boil-o-Matic. All-in-all 1953 was a year of firsts and lasts.

My Opinion

Johnson TN-28

The TN-28 was by far the best selling motor in this class. The mechanicals from the 1937 LT had been updated in 1949 to include an improved lower unit with a neutral clutch activated by a small lever on the top of the tank. Further refinements came with the incorporation of the OMC Universal magneto in 1952 (This writer never had any problem with the previous internal rotor magneto but it is likely OMC wanted to standardize and have one system for all their motors).

The Johnson had a lot to recommend it; the reputation of the company that had built 1,000,000 outboards was one of the biggest factors. The TN's idle superbly, are smooth, quiet, fuel efficient, lightweight and well thought out. They have a carry handle built into the cowl and two wings to rest the motor on when stored on the ground, in the trunk of your car or elsewhere. They are also about the simplest and most reliable outboard ever built (except for the neutral clutch)

On the down-side, the TN's powerhead engineering was ancient and did not make a lot of power. The sheet aluminum gas tank and cowls are dent prone and the neutral clutch cable and associated parts have been known to cause trouble. All of the OMC motors from this period will require coil replacement, fortunately the parts are relatively inexpensive.

If your interest is in fishing and you want reliability, there is no better motor. If you want to get where you are going quickly and in style there are better options. I love these motors but even a hard-core fan has to admit there were some sexier outboards available.


Mercury Mark 5

The Mercury Mark 5 is an update of the fine little Super Five that debuted in 1949. Equipped with a neutral clutch the Mark 5 went toe to toe with the TN and in most cases won hands down. (see chart above) It is zippy, stylish, very smooth and quiet and a genuine pleasure to run. Mercury's signature "Jeweled Power"coupled with modern engineering, carburetor and a good dealer network made this motor a top seller.

But to be sure however, the Mark 5 has it's faults. The neutral clutch activated by the pop-up handle is a little goofy. Another issue is that there is no way to rest the motor on the ground without damaging the tank rim, tank or cowl. The Phaelon coils have proven to be trouble-prone and are expensive to replace. And the biggest problem with the Mark 5 is the lower unit - though this would not be apparent on the showroom floor. Seal problems will lead to water intrusion causing wear or worse, freeze and crack the casting. And the friction clutch shear pin-less prop is an idea for the birds!

I'm not sure I would have paid the premium price for the Mark 5 especially with the lower unit problems we now know are common with these motors.


Scott Atwater 1-16

 

On paper the Scott Atwater 1-16 is a slam dunk (the 1-16 stands for the speed capability of the motor on a small boat). Full forward, neutral and reverse gearshift, a modern reed valve induction system and handsome styling helped Scott run neck-in-neck with Mercury for the #2 spot in this class.

The 1-16 is reasonably powerful and smooth but can not be considered a class leader. Lower unit and general build-quality problems are commonly found with this motor. The fuel valve shut-off actuated by the magneto lever and the carburetor drain, innovative ideas when new, are positively EVIL features to repair today. The Wico coils have a 100% failure rate and are expensive to replace. (see Wico Coil Replacement) I have not found my example to idle well, certainly not in the league of the Johnson or even the Mercury.

This is a motor that would appeal to the same people who years later will purchase a Rover 2000 car and later still a Renault Alliance - products that on-paper were class leaders but didn't exactly work out.... (though I should point out that Consumer Reports panned this motor and gave it a "Unacceptable" rating due to the finger chomping tilt lock)

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