site for antique outboards, mopeds, and select automobiles
Elgin 5 1/2 hp
Elgin 1 1/4 hp
all the outboard pages represented at the Oddjob Motors website,
this one is second only to the Johnson
Page in the number of hits we receive! (There must be
a lot of old Elgin's out there) Please note; for
further information, I help AOMCI Elgin Special Interest Group Leader Jim M. with a website that is devoted
to Elgin's. Visit it at the following link: Elginoutboards.org
Elgin outboard brand was retailed through Sears & Roebuck from
1946 through the early 1960's. The earlier Waterwitch and subsequent
Ted Williams and Gamefisher brands Sears offered never had the market
share or impact of the Elgin name. Two companies provided outboards
to Sears bearing the Elgin name; the lion's share came from West
Bend who had purchased the old Kissel Car plant (the same folk's
who had made the pre-war Waterwich motors after their automobile
business dried up in the depression). In 1959 Sears started transitioning
the Elgin name to outboards made by Scott-McCulloch. The little
2hp West Bend made motors remained on sale the longest being offered
new, Elgin's were a budget offering retailing for about 20%-25%
less than one of the major brands of the same horsepower. The apple
green Elgin's of '46-'57 are one of the most common old outboards
around and are mostly ignored by serious outboard enthusiasts. In
truth, they are not bad little motors and can almost always be made
for Elgin outboards can be difficult to find today. For the West
Bend made Elgin's there is some crossover with Chrysler and later
Force outboards since they are from the same lineage. Additionally,
the McCulloch made Elgin's share parts with Scott and other "badge
engineered" outboards like Firestone. Often the best bet if
you need a part for an old Elgin is simply to acquire a parts engine.
Consumables like water pump impellers and ignition coils are common
failure items and tough to find. (see Tech
Tip #1 for help on Elgin's equipped with certain Wico magnetos)
outboards were made for Sears by the West Bend Corporation.
Sears started working with the company that would become part
of West Bend with their pre-war Waterwitch brand. In the early
1960's WB would sell off their outboard division and they
would become known as Chrysler Marine.
The model "301" is one of the first Elgin offerings and was given to
me in 1974 by a family friend. It has been used very little
since it proved to be too puny to push their boat. I run it
periodically and must confess that it runs beautifully. These little air-cooled motors idle great and are a real gem.
Download & print it for free - Oddjob Motors buffs you up!
Year & Model:
1958 Elgin 571.5823 Horsepower: 2 @ 4000 rpm
Cylinders: 1 Bore: 1.75" Stroke: 1.5625" Ignition: Wico Point Gap:.020 Cooling: Forced air-cooled Condition: Unrestored Retail price when new: $99.95 Weight: 28lbs Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2pt Air Cooled 2-stroke oil (I suggest increasing the mix to 3/4pt per gallon for added security.) Spark Plug: Champion J-11c
The motor seen here is the replacement
for my first outboard sold in 1973. See below for the whole story!
For an inexpensive air-cooled single, not a bad little motor.
It All Started With An Elgin 2hp....
The old outboard bug first nipped me at an early age. When I was 9 years-old I found a 1958 2 hp Elgin that had been squirreled away at my Grandparents since the late 1950's. My grandfather, (a diehard Sears man), bought the outboard in the late 50's when he no longer felt comfortable rowing his 14' skiff the 2 miles from his house to the boatyard where he kept his sailboat. Not long after buying the Elgin he discovered that with the wind and/or tide against him it did not produce enough power to make any headway (and things only got worse when he had another person, groceries, etc... in the boat!) Anyway, his solution was to buy a used '53 7.5 hp Evinrude that I also ended up inheriting later, but that is another story….
I found the Elgin tucked in the corner of the basement while putting storm windows away a year or two after my grandfather died. In lieu of the $2.00 I was to get for working all day on the G.D. storm windows and screens (the old wooden hanging ones), I begged my grandmother for the motor. She agreed right away but it took some persuasion to convince my dad. (He only liked sailboats and saw outboards as noisy, evil and smelly).
When we got it home I commenced to try and clean the 1950's gas out of the tank and carb. Since it was my first engine I was totally clueless and have subsequently come to know and hate the smell of varnished gas. (At age 9 I thought it smelled great, like maple syrup being made!) The Eisenhower era fuel had dried out to the point of being sandy grains and had totally clogged the jet and float chamber. It was only with the kind help of our corner garage's mechanic that I was able to get it working - he spent about 45 minutes helping me and never charged me a dime. He even took the time to explain how the carb and magneto worked and also explained that most outboards were water-cooled but the Elgin had the addition of air cooling "like lawnmowers."
His parting words to me were "always have a good set of oars when using that motor", (he was an OMC man). I must have used "that motor" for most of the summer before the local marine patrol brought it to my attention that my 10' boat needed to be registered and the operator needed to be 15! (It didn't stop me, I was just very careful for the next few years!) Anyway, by the end of the summer I wanted another, (bigger), outboard I had found so I sold the boat and Elgin for $35 to a kid "up the street".
That 1958 2 hp Elgin had the distinction of not really excelling at anything; it wasn't rare, smooth, quiet or unique - but it will always be very special for me.
Repair & Service Information
Elgin, West Bend, Chrysler, Wizard, Firestone, Foremost, Sea King, Commodore, etc... 2hp and 3.5hp - 1952-1965+ Sections 1-10 should cover any questions regarding restoration of these outboards!
Overview Developed by the West Bend Company and sold through Sears, these 2hp outboards first appeared in 1952 and continued in various forms through the mid 1970s. Initially marketed under the Elgin brand through Sears Roebuck, variations with the West Bend, Chrysler, Wizard, Firestone, Sea King, JC Penny, Commodore and other names were available. They started first as a 2hp, then bumped up to 3.5 and finally 4hp. For an entry level, air-cooled outboard, they are pretty decent. They lack the quality and sophistication of an Johnson/Evinrude but (when new) they cost about 40% less than the JW/Lightwin. Pretty quiet and smooth (especially for an air-cooled single), they are also simple to work on and very light and portable. Negatives are the light castings that are easily broken, tanks that are easily dented and poor quality paintwork.
Before you start working on one of these outboards today, (hopefully before you even purchase it) always do a compression test. These motors should have between 70lbs and 100lbs of compression. If they are lower than 70lbs take the powerhead off and look in the exhaust port. If there is carbon buildup it is easily cleaned, some OMC Engine Tuner or Sea Foam will help free the piston rings. Really tough cases may need the engine disassembled and the piston removed to free the rings.
If you note scoring on the piston when you look through the port (see photo below) then you'd probably best look for another engine - or know that what you are dealing with is just a parts motor. It seems like over half of these motors I come across have serious problems from previous owners skimping on oil or using the wrong oil. (I always like to ask the previous owner what oil mix they used. If they say 50:1 I usually walk away from it.) If you look in the ports and see that the piston is scored, you can be sure the bushings are even worse.
Section 1) Oil - Oil Mix Never, ever, use automotive oils in your air-cooled outboard. Yes I know the instruction decal says "automotive SAE 30" however today's automotive oils have additives that make them completely unacceptable. You should use the original recommended fuel mix ratio of 1/2pt of oil per gallon of gas but with modern TC air cooled 2-stroke oil. On my motors, I use 3/4pint of air-cooled 2-stroke oil per gallon of regular gas for added security. I've had very good luck with the Sthil brand of 2-stroke oil and Golden Spectro 2-stroke - this is the same stuff I use in my mopeds and yard equipment. People always ask me "do I really need to use so much oil" and the answer is always the same - YES!! Oil is still cheaper than parts or a new outboard: USE THE CORRECT 16:1 ratio and the correct type of oil - period! (For more OJM pontification on this subject visit Tech Tip #5 on 2-Cycle Oil & You)
Front of motor showing the pull start, throttle, high-speed adjustment and fuel valve.
Location of low-speed carb adjustment and high speed knob. (You will need to remove the knob of the HS to get full adjustment.) The carb cover and the spacers on the screws between it and the carb body are often MIA.
Section 2) Carburetor If you don't know the history of your motor - or it has been sitting for more than a year - you will need to tear down the carb and thoroughly clean it. These carbs are very prone to getting goop in the bottom of the bowl and stuck or leaky needles and floats. The carb used on most of the Elgin 2hp motors is a Tillotson MD-59A. (Around 1961-2 they briefly used a Walbro that I don't like at all - my suggestion is to replace the Walbro with a Tillotson!) The 3.5hp motors used the MD-124A. (As far as I can tell, the jet size is the only difference from the earlier 59A - I need to look into this in greater detail.) The Tillotson MD series was used on a lot of other outboard motors so it is pretty common, the bottom bowl with sediment bowl underneath and the jets are about the only difference between the 59A, 124A and most of the others. Here are some photos of an MD-59A off a 1957 2hp Elgin:
Tillotson MD-59A carb - typical for the 2hp West Bend/Elgin that glass sediment bowl on the bottom sets it apart from the MD carbs found on many other outboards
Tillotson MD-59A carb - starboard side view
Port-side view, note location of linkage in the bell-crank on upper right. It should always be in the outermost hole (farthest from the shaft through the carb) See magneto section below for synchronization instructions.
This is the MD-124A off my 1964 West Bend 3.5. Many parts are interchangeable with the earlier 2hp versions, likely the jet is larger. Not sure if there are any other differences, certainly the gaskets, glass bowl and most other the parts are the same.
Tip: If you are servicing your carb and don't want to cut the bowl gasket or need a new needle, seat or needle packing, try doing a search for the following phrase in Google: "Tillotson MD Series Carb Parts". You should get several vendors who have parts, you'll probably need to have a dialog with them to be sure you get the right ones you are looking for.
1) Be sure to remove the high-speed needle valve assembly (bottom) before you disassemble the carb or you will bend the needle valve. You can just remove the brass base/packing and needle assembly together, no need to unscrew the needle from it first.
2) When you remove the carb jet that screws in from the top of the carb, there should be a tiny red o-ring on it. Sometimes this gets stuck on the seat down in the carb - don't lose it!
3) I go to NAPA Auto Parts and get a roll of generic cork gasket material (approx .045" thick) to cut a replacement bowl gasket myself. I find that an old .22 bullet casing is a great punch to make the holes for the four #10 screws. You can use the same material for the glass sediment bowl gasket - BTW: don't drop the glass sediment bowl or it will break!
4) When it is time to reassemble the carb give the float a shake to be sure it hasn't gotten gas inside it. After you get the seat gasket, seat, needle, float and hinge pin back in the carb body you will need to set the float height. Be sure the float moves up & down easily. Invert the carb (i.e. hold it upside down) and note the position of the float on the side away from the hinge pin. Relative to the bowl flange, the float should stick up 1/64" above the rim. Bend the tabs on the float (where it fits on the needle) to adjust it. (see photo below)
To set the float height (typical Tillotson MD carb bowl shown) invert the bowl and note the position of the float on the side away from the hinge pin. It should hang down 1/64" from the rim. Carefully bend the tab that fits on the float needle to adjust it.
5) When the carb is reassembled, start with the high-speed (bottom) adjustment needle at 1-turn out from lightly seated. The low-speed needle should also be 1-turn from lightly seated as an initial adjustment. Leave the high speed knob off until you get the motor dialed in - the stops on it will prevent you from getting more than 1/2 a turn of adjustment.
6) IMPORTANT: The original recommended fuel mix of 1/2pt of oil (using modern TC air cooled oil) per gallon of gas should be followed. On my motor seen here I typically use 3/4pint of air-cooled 2-stroke oil per gallon of regular gas - just for added security and protection. Golden Spectro or Sthil chain-saw 2-stroke oil are my preferred lubricants for air-cooled motors.
7) Best to test the motor and set the carb with the motor on a boat - a large barrel of water will also work, just not as well since the prop will blow the water out! (I try never to test motors on the bench since there is no load on them - it is also dangerous with the prop spinning!) When you start the motor, throttle it up and adjust the high-speed first aiming for max RPM. Using a tachometer for 2-strokes, full throttle should result in 3,000 to 4,000 RPMs. (with the motor on a boat) Next, idle the motor down and adjust the low-speed for the best slow idle. An Elgin 2 hp with good compression should idle quite slowly, say 500 or 600 RPM. My motors typically have the needles ending up HS= 1 1/4 turn from lightly seated, LS= 1 turn from seated.
Here's what the miserable Walbro carb looks like - it was, thankfully, only used for a short time in about 1961-2. It is very prone to leaking where the high-speed needle assembly is pressed onto the bottom of the carb bowl. And that carb drain is another problematic area - though the gaskets for the drain are the same as common to the carbs on your Tecumseh lawnmower & snowblower engines. If you have one of these my suggestion is to find one of the Tillotson MDs and replace it. (You will also need the carb cover)
Section 3) Powerhead
The powerhead on these motors is very well engineered - the only problems I've ever seen are from abuse and improper oil mix. I'll be honest that if your motor shows signs of wear (as indicated in the photo below) it is far easier and less expensive to find another motor than try to fix it. If the piston shows evidence of scoring, the crank and connecting rod are probably even worse. Since these parts are not readily available new, (or are prohibitively expensive when they do show up) it is probably safer to find another candidate.
These motors are prone to carbon buildup in the ports and rings.
Many owners skimped on oil and scored pistons, cylinders and bad bushings are the result. If you look in and see this kind of wear, probably best to relegate it to being a parts motor.
Section 4) Recoil Starter The early Elgin/West Bend 2hp motors didn't have a recoil starter, you had to wrap a rope around it and pull. The starter used from 1954 to about 1962 used three 3/8" diameter ball bearings that operated by gravity and centrifugal force. It's actually a really simple and effective recoil - until you take off the rope plate and lose one (or all) of the ball bearings. When I got my first motor I didn't know the ball bearings were in there so when I took off the tank to clean it, out popped all three balls - never did recover all of them. (I had to go to the bearing store and purchase a box of 100 3/8" diameter balls- and before you ask, I have no idea where the box is today...)
On the plus side, the rope is the easiest to replace of any outboard I have seen with a recoil starter!
Recoil rope is easy to replace. Find the correct size nylon line and tie an overhand knot in the end. You can melt it a bit with a match to make the knot hard so it won't slip through.
Check the boss on the recoil for burrs and smooth them out the best you can with a file. If yours is very badly banged up, you may need to replace the rope plate.
Recoil ball bearings are a source of frustration - they are easy to drop or misplace. No need to use grease, wax or epoxy to hold them in place - just have the motor level and they should stay there during assembly.
When the motors were upgraded to 3.5hp in 1962 the starter changed to a simpler style that used friction pauls in a cup. There's almost nothing that can go wrong with these other than needing to replace the rope.
Underside of the 3.5hp starter showing the friction pauls.
Cup mounts on top of flywheel in the same way the 3-ball one did
Section 5) Servicing The Motor
Removal of the gas tank is necessary to service the magneto and also helps make access to remove the carb easier. To remove the tank you will need to unfasten the 4 screws on the bottom of the tank, remove the magneto lever and the fuel line. (Better drain the tank first) Also, you do not need to remove the recoil first - HOWEVER - be careful, if you tip the motor and have the starter with the 3 ball bearings (mentioned in the Recoil section above) they will fall out!
Section 6) Magneto Two style magnetos were used in these motors. The early models 201 and 202 used a Wico FW magneto similar to the ones found in other Elgins of the early 1950s but only using a single coil. In 1954 or 55 they changed to the common Wico lawnmower style magneto. If you have the early style magneto you probably will need to replace the coils - see my Tech Tip #1 on this subject. The later lawnmower style coils seem to be very reliable, 9 times out of 10 they are good though the spark plug wire can get chewed up and is hard to replace since it is sealed into the coil.
Servicing the magneto requires removal of the flywheel. To do this the original service material had you screw a special tool (essentially a large hardened bolt) into the crankshaft in place of the one that holds on the starter cup. A gap between the flywheel and bolt head allowed the flywheel room to come up - the bolt was bottomed out in the crankshaft. You then struck the bolt head "firmly" with a "medium sized hammer" while an assistant lifted up on the flywheel. The bolt protected the crankshaft and the hammer blow would "simply pop the flywheel" off its taper.
I prefer to thread the 3 holes in the flywheel with a 1/4" -20 tap and use a traditional (3-leg) flywheel puller, I have a special dimpled bolt to take the place of the starter cup one so the puller doesn't bugger up the crank. Watch that the flywheel key doesn't fall out when you are removing the flywheel, they like to stick in the grove.
Once you have the flywheel off, the points will need to be cleaned & gapped at .020" - be sure the cam lobe is at its highest point. NOTE: There are two screws you need to loosen to adjust the points. (see photo below) With the lawnmower style magneto shown below I rarely see a bad coil is these motors, they seem to hold up pretty well. Check all the connections to be sure they are secure and clean, also examine the sparkplug wire for any abrasions or cracks - a common problem. About 2 drops of 3 in 1 oil on the wick for the cam are all that is needed. The Champion J-11C Sparkplug should be gapped at .030".
View of the Wico magneto used on the 2hp Elgins - this photo also shows the cork gasket between the tank and motor.
This photo shows the two screws that anchor the points - both need to be loosened to adjust them.
You do not need to time the magneto like on a 4-stroke since the magneto plate moves with throttle changes. You DO NEED TO synchronize the magneto with the carb. This is done by the adjusting the link between the carb and the bell crank on the underside of the mag plate. (Note: the rod on the linkage should be in the hole farthest from the shaft - see photo below) The carb linkage should start to open when the magneto lever is 1 3/4" to the left of center when you look at it. (see photo) It is also important that the butterfly open all the way at max throttle. You may need to monkey with the throttle cam on the underside of the mag plate to get both - the two screws have slotted holes so it can be adjusted. (Hint - if it has not been messed with, best to leave this alone!)
With the Tillotson MD carbs, the linkage should be in the outermost hole on the bell crank as seen here
Throttle knob position when the carb butterfly should just start to open - 1 3/4" left of center.
Section 7) Cooling While these motors are air cooled, the exhaust on all but the early model 201 motors is cooled by water forced up a tube just aft of the prop by the prop-wash. This keeps the leg from getting too hot and cooking the lower seal and bearing. It also keeps the paint on the leg from being charred off!
There is a 1/8" thick cork gasket (see photo above in the Magneto section) that runs between the fuel tank and the motor block. I've seen these disintegrate or previous owners broke or lost them. The gasket is important for three reasons, first to ensure the majority of the cooling air is directed at the fins, second to keep the tank and block from rattling, and third to maintain the correct height of the tank on the motor. (In the photo of the rope plate above you will note score marks around it - this is because the gasket had been removed and the recoil sat too far down hitting the flywheel.)
There are a number of videos on the web showing people running their air-cooled Elgin 2hp out of the water. While a short period of 1 minute or less probably wouldn't do it harm, I do not recommend it. With no load on the motor you really are not getting an accurate test for carb setting or peak RPMs. Even running the motors in a garbage can or bucket is a challenge since there will not be enough flow to force water up the cooling tube, prolonged running will scorch the paint on the leg, or worse, cook your lower bearing. Your best bet to accurately test the motor is on a boat.
NOTE: Use of the correct oil ratio, a good gas tank cork gasket, clear "splash" tube and running it on a boat are the best you can do to provide optimum cooling. Even so, the cylinder, exhaust, upper leg and transom clamp do get hot - so be careful not to touch them when using the motor on your boat.
Water inlet in prop wash
Pencil points to the top outlet for the water tube. Be sure you can blow air through the tube and it is not blocked by mud daubers or some other obstruction!
Section 8) Lower Unit The lower unit is very simple; two gears in a water tight housing. There are fill and vent screws on the port side of the lower unit. I tend to use a tad of compressed air to blow out the old grease. (Unfortunately, every time I do this, most of it ends up on me and it smells wonderful!) Refill with Lubriplate 105 - check it for water intrusion before the motor is stored away in the fall.
Section 9) Parts There are no sources (that I'm aware of) for new parts for your Elgin 2hp save NOS stock for sale by old marinas on eBay, etc... If you are missing parts or something is damaged, you may be able to find them on the AOMCI free on-line ads:
Remember that this same motor was offered under a number of brand names, in most cases the parts are interchangeable.
Section 10) What's It Worth? This is the #1 question most people want to know and the hardest to answer. Your location in the world, the condition of the motor, the year, how the paint scheme catches someone's fancy, etc... make it very hard to put a dollar amount on one of these motors. (And remember, they sold a zillion of them as Elgins, West Bends, Wizards, Firestones, Chryslers, etc...) In my observation these motors sell anywhere from FREE to about $40 for "barn fresh" examples. Running motors are in the $50 or $75 ballpark, $75 being a really nice one that runs, looks good and has it's owner's manual and a stand. Okay, if you have one new, in an unopened box, then possibly you would break the $100 barrier.
EXAMPLE: The photos of the copper colored motor (above) were actually done using 4 different examples. I paid the following for them: Free, $10, $20 and $25. Below is a 1964 West Bend Shrimp - essentially the same motor as the Elgin 2hp but with a slightly larger bore for the extra 1.5hp. It is virtually like new - came with the stand, literature and started on the first pull! I purchased this from another AOMCI member in 2009 for fifty bucks - and I was the only person who was even interested in it....
Bottom line: the sale of your 2hp or 3.5hp Elgin/West Bend/Etc... is not going to add to your bank account in any significant way.
Here is a video running the 1953 Elgin 571.58202 - this model is from the second year they made the little air-cooled 2hp:
1956 Elgin (Sears) 571.59501 5 1/2 hp
With original Reservoir 4 gal tank!
Front control panel, the black handle on the left in this photo is the gearshift, right is the pull start.
Cover open to adjust the carb settings
Plastic bendix gear is very fragile
A Word of Caution; If you have one of these motors and want to use it, the bendix spool on the pull-start is a very fragile plastic - even more so since it is 50+ years old. Be very gentle in using the pull-start mechanism and I'm sure to engage the gear before tugging on the rope. I would recommend using the flywheel rope plate if more than 1 or 2 pulls are required. NOTE: There were two size gears, most small motors use a 13-tooth one that is still available from Mercury part # 43-803624T for about $13.00 There is also an 11-tooth gear used on the larger hp Elgin/West Bends that is unfortunately NLA.
Year & Model: 1956 Elgin 571.59501 Horsepower: 5 1/2 @ 4000 rpm
Cylinders: 2 Bore: 2" Stroke: 1.6875" Ignition: Wico Point Gap:.020 Cooling: Water by Impeller Condition: Unrestored Retail price when new: $184.95 Weight: 52 lbs. Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2pt TCW-3 Spark Plug: Champion H-10C
This little Elgin was purchased for a whopping $15 because I felt bad for it and didn't want to see it go to the scrap yard. Someone had replaced one of the sparkplugs with an extra-long reach plug causing it to appear to be seized. (It pays to be able to recognize the AC plugs out of a Chevy 350!)
The original Wico magneto coils were replaced per Tech Tip #1 and I also cleaned the carburetor and rebuilt the fuel pump. A few small parts were needed like the pull start handle and air-box spacer. These were obtained through the AOMCI Webvertize.
I was stunned at how well this motor runs! It is quiet, smooth and very powerful for a 5 1/2hp motor. It also only used 2 1/2 gallons of fuel for 5 hours of running. It has become a real favorite of mine and one I plan to use a lot.
And I have come to really enjoy the styling of these motors - 1950's outboards, like cars, all pretty much looked the same. A metal cowl covered the machinery and the basic shape was very functional. The fiberglass hooded Elgins and West Bend outboards were very revolutionary in their styling and looked unlike any other outboard then being made. I would compare it to the '57 Chryslers that totally broke with tradition to come out with cars that were styled years ahead. In the case of the Elgin seen here, it is very similar in shape to the 1962 Johnson's. Love it or hate it, you can't deny that the Elgins from this era have a unique look!
Engine detail - that cable throttle advance and pulleys can be problematic
Hood latch is an odd design but works well once you get used to it. Dots to the left & right of the latch are spare shear pin holders
Serial number plate is located on the tiller
Fuel barb is an odd size and different than the later Chrysler design
Coming soon - 1958 Elgin 35hp!!
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