Johnson is my brand of choice, I must confess that the Bendix Eclipse
outboards in my collection are probably my all-time favorites. Manufactured
from 1936 through 1940 they are quite unlike any other motors ever
produced - it is clear that Bendix took no cues from any other manufacturer.
The reproduction Bendix Eclipse
sign in our family room from Squiredesign.
story of Bendix outboards is an interesting one: In the early 30's
Victor Bendix bought out a small company owned by Victor Kliesrath
who was a well known inboard boat racer. They became friends and
decided to market outboards manufactured in South Bend Indiana.
first motor they brought to market was a battery ignition single
(model SB) and went on sale in 1936. I call it the "flip-top"
due to the cover over the entire motor that you flip up to use the
rope start or choke. In '37 they came out with a magneto engine
(model SM, also a flip-top). In 1938 they came out with a deluxe
version of the magneto engine (model SMD). The deluxe motor had
the rope sheave outside of the shrouding so you did not have to
open the motor to start it, it also sported a gravity feed gas tank
and all new carburetor. All motors used Stromberg carburetors and
Scintilla ignition systems, also divisions of Bendix Corporation.
Additionally in 1938, they came out with a 5hp twin (Model TMD)
and moved production to Brooklyn NY.
marked the last year of Bendix production, the same year Vic Kliesrath
died in a boat accident. At the time they were working on a "twingle"
4 piston/2 cylinder supercharged outboard of 15 hp. - it was making
the boat show rounds before they packed it in. By 1939 Mr. Bendix
had run up a lot of debt with all his acquisitions and was in financial
trouble. The government deemed Bendix an important company for the
war many knew was coming, he was "retired" and the bean
counters took over - one of the first things they did was sell off
the outboard area.
is said that Bendix Corp sold their tooling & parts to Posgay
Welding, an outfit out on Long Island. While I have one flyer from
'40 or '41 saying to go to Posgay for parts I also have an SMD manual
printed in 1947 by Bendix Marine products with an address in Massachusetts
(saying to look for new outboards soon!).
Bendix TMD twin, SMD single
and SM 'flip-top"
Eclipse singles and twins are air cooled, rotary valve and of almost
100% aluminum construction - very advanced for the day. Cooling
is provided by a forced draft from the turbine looking flywheel
over extensive fine-cast cooling fins. The early "flip top"
motors sported a strange carburetor, 1/2 in the gas tank (below
the motor) and 1/2 on the powerhead - fine capillary tubes connected
the two parts. Later motors had more conventional carburetion and
are gravity fed from tanks above the powerhead. Ignition was via
battery or magneto depending on the model. Bendix was one of the
first outboards that was fully shrouded and styled - in a unique
art-deco look. Motors from South Bend are unpainted with the gas
tanks polished, later Brooklyn motors were painted silver but retained
the polished tank.
are light, powerful, smooth and reasonably quiet. A Bendix Eclipse
in good tune will start on the first or second pull every time and
idle beautifully. Motors run on a heavy mix, 3/4pt TC (air-cooled 2-stroke oil) for every gallon
of gas. The down side to the Bendix motors is that they are very
fragile; skegs, cooling fins and the gas tanks are very susceptible
1937 Bendix SM running in the test
the 1960's, 70's and 80's members of the AOMCI considered Bendix
outboards to be extremely rare curiosities. Today they seem to be
coming out of the woodwork, one of mine came from a yard sale 1
mile from my house! I see a fair number of them on e-bay - at least
one a month. The most common motors are the SMD singles with the
TMD twins and SM singles tied for second place. The early battery
ignition motors are fairly uncommon. (There was also an electric
trolling motor, I have seen several but do not have an interest
friend John from the AOMCI in has worked on compiling a lot of Bendix
information, see his web site for a detailed look at these fine
little motors: Bendix
Atco Boatimpeller | Bendix | British Seagull | Caille | Champion | Chris Craft | Dragon Fly | Elgin | Elto | Evinrude | Flambeau | Johnson | Lauson | Lockwood Ash | Mac10 Wankel | Martin | Mercury | Misc.Motors | Oliver | Outboard Jet 200 | Pluvier | Scott-Atwater | Tohatsu | Tomos | Volvo | West Bend | Whirlwind(Soviet) | Wizard| Yamaha | Zundapp