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I Hate Zephyrs

Why I Hate Zephyrs!

When I was a kid in the 1970’s things were pretty bleak; the economy, music, fashion, everything was spiraling downwards. Messing with old outboards was my escape and kept me from getting involved with a lot of the bad stuff some of my contemporaries were doing. I became known around the harbor as the kid who could fix motors the professionals gave up on or wouldn't even touch. (Hey, the sales manual says it’s much easier and more profitable to sell a new motor than to fix an old one.) Many folks would simply give me old motors since “the pros” would tell them they had no value and couldn't’t be fixed.

One of the most popular old motors I was given as a kid was the 5.4hp Evinrude Zephyr. Evinrude sold the Zephyr from about 1940 through 1949 - the name had been made popular with the V-12 Lincoln cars of the 1930's. The Zephyr outboard incorporated 4 cylinders (most 5hp motors have 2) and other “advanced features” to provide boaters with the “ultimate” fishing motor. The designers of the Zephyr, working at their drafting tables in the depression, were so busy packing the Zephyr with engineering doohickeys that they never foresaw that one day these doodads would become tarnished, clogged or require service. They also didn't provide the Zephyr with any cooling at the ends of the combustion chamber and crossed the fabric covered spark plug wires in close proximity to the gasoline filled carburetor. (I also think they are just plain ugly!)

Gooped up with ancient gas, covered in grease and sporting 4 cracked spark plug wires, armadas of Zephyrs made their way to me in the 1970’s. I spent hours wrestling the complex suckers back to life and tried them out on my 14’ skiff Messenger. Yes, they were smooth running but were completely under whelming in performance, most had no provision for reversing and I would burn the heck out of myself on the cylinder heads. And the leaky carburetor and those deteriorated fabric spark plug wires were an incendiary time bomb!

When the third Zephyr I had caught fire the drill was old hat – undo the transom clamps and drop it in the water to put out the fire. Only this time the cracked bake-o-lite gas cap spewed fuel and I was in a sea of fire! I hacked my safety line and dropped the Zephyr to the depths of the Sound and then high-tailed it away from the scene via oars. The Messenger suffered a scorched transom and I looked a little funny with only my left eyebrow but both of us survived. I gave away, took to the dump or tossed overboard the remaining Zephyrs. Give me a Johnson TD any day – in addition to being easier to work on, more attractive and having reverse, they are much less flammable!

1946 Johnson TD 5hp
handsome, simple & reliable

1946 Evinrude Zephyr 5.4 hp
ugly, complex & flammable!

Visitor Feedback

Coast to coast there are people who share my views on the Zephyr! Here is a story sent to me by Gary G., a visitor to the site from the west coast:

Back in the early sixties, before the Indians reclaimed Blake Island in Puget Sound, my buddies and I used to go camping on the island during school summer vacation. There was nothing there except a nice beach a place to pitch tents and build a campfire. I had a TD-20 Johnson and my buddy had an Evinrude Zephyr. We would rent 18 foot kicker boats for $2.50/ day and head out from Haury's boat house to Blake Island. We had food, pup tents and three or four gallons of gas mix in one gallon wine jugs.

Even though the Johnson was rated at 5 hp, it would run away from the Zephyr even carrying an extra guy or two. I don't know where Evinrude had the .4 hp hidden. The Johnson always started on the first or second pull and never failed me on our countless trips across the sound.

On one trip ( the last for the Zephyr) we were leaving Blake Island for the boat house. As usual, the old Zephyr would fire up and then quit. With each restart, my buddy would get closer to shore. Finally he got it going and threw the throttle wide open to keep it running. Since he was heading to shore at full tilt, he spun the motor around to reverse without retarding the throttle (didn't want to restart again) bang snap, the old rotten wood transom snapped off and the Zephyr and the kicker boat sank like a rock. We salvaged some gear and three soaked guys and loaded them into my boat and left the Zephyr and boat at the bottom. The experience cost my friend $45.00 for the boat and oars (two months paper route money). The following year he found a nice TN Johnson for $35.00 and we continued our ventures the following summer.

Since this sight launched I have taken a take a lot of guff from some people in the AOMCI about my rather harsh attitude regarding the Evinrude Zephyr. To this I answer that it is my opinion and my web page - if you disagree there are billions of other things on the web to look at! If you really feel strongly about these miserable motors, you can design your own web page and voice your own (erroneous) conclusions. And, please, get a sense of humor - life is too short to take me seriously!

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