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Bendix Eclipse

1937
1938
1940

While 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 about 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.

The 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.

The 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 4.5hp twin (Model TMD) and moved production to Brooklyn NY.

Vic Kliesrath died in a boat accident in 1939 and production of the outboards stopped in 1940 or 41. 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. Also, 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. It is said that Bendix Corp sold their tooling & parts to Posgay Welding, an outfit out on Long Island NY. 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 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.

They 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 to damage.


1937 Bendix SM running in the test tank

In 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 in electrics)

1937 Bendix Eclipse SM (Single Magneto)

Year & Model: 1937
Horsepower: 2.25
Cylinders:
1

Bore: 2 1/16"
Stroke: 1 1/2"
CID: 5.01
Ignition: Bendix
Point Gap:.020 to .025
Cooling: Forced air
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: Unknown
Weight: 27lbs
Oil/Gas Mix: 3/4pt air-cooled TC oil per gallon of gas
Spark Plug: Champion J10 (We use a modern J-8C)

Comments:


1938 Bendix Eclipse SMD (Single Magneto Deluxe)

Year & Model: 1938
Horsepower: 2.25
Cylinders:
1

Bore: 2 1/16"
Stroke: 1 1/2"
CID: 5.01
Ignition: Bendix
Point Gap:.020 to .025
Cooling: Forced air
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: Unknown
Weight: 27lbs
Oil/Gas Mix: 3/4pt air-cooled TC oil per gallon of gas
Spark Plug: Champion J10 (We use a modern J-8C)

Comments:


1939-40 Bendix Eclipse TMD (Twin Magneto Deluxe)

 

Year & Model: 1939-40
Horsepower: 4.5
Cylinders:
2

Bore: 2 1/16"
Stroke: 1 1/2"
CID: 10.02
Ignition: Bendix
Point Gap:.020 to .025
Cooling: Forced air
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: Unknown
Weight: 41lbs
Oil/Gas Mix: 3/4pt air-cooled TC oil per gallon of gas
Spark Plug: Champion J10
NOTE: modern sparkplugs are too long and will hit (and break) the bake-o-lite insulators inside the cowl on the TMD. I've got NOS J-10 oldies in mine.

Comments:

Did a short video of the 1937 Bendix SM on the boat, enjoy!

 

Here is another video running the 1940 Bendix TMD - Twin Magneto Deluxe. With the side covers opened to reveal the cylinders, you may think this motor is a V-2 configuration, but that is just an optical illusion due to how the fins were cast - it is actually an opposed layout.

 

For further information on Bendix outboards, my 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 Eclipse Outboards

Someone asked what the Bendix shut-off switch on the SM and SMD models looked like:

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