I Hate Zephyrs!
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.
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
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!
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!
Johnson TD 5hp
handsome, simple & reliable
Evinrude Zephyr 5.4 hp
ugly, complex & flammable!
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
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.
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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