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Johnson

About half of the outboards in my collection are Johnson’s divided about 50% pre-war and 50% post war. All still run as well as their original advertising claimed thus attesting to the “dependable outboards” slogan! The Johnson brand is my outboard of choice for "daily use" having a 1990 115hp on our Mako 19' and the 1955 QD-16 (below) for the 12' DuraNautic.

Hats off to the Johnson brothers: Lou, Harry, Clarence and their brother-in-law Warren Conover, for building such great outboard motors!

Johnson Collection (highlights)

Click on a thumbnail below to see the data listing on the motor or simply scroll down.

The Oldies

1923 Waterbug
1926 A-25
1931 OA-55
1933 J-65

The 4-6's

The 4-6 horsepower outboard has been a favorite with anglers and yachtsmen for just about as long as manufacturers have been building them! Johnson has always been a leader in this category and it is interesting to see the evolution of the product over the 30+ year time span.

1933 A-65
1938 LT-38
1939 DT-39
1946 TD-20
1952 TN-28

1955 CD-12
1958 CD-15
1966 CD-22

The 10's

The 10 horsepower outboard is another popular favorite. I have personally logged more sea-time with Johnson QD's than any other type of propulsion. I am working on finding a "K" predecessor to the QD to show the evolution. We also have a newer 9.9 but feel it is too new (for now) to be included on this site.
1953 QD-14
1955 QD-16
1961 QD-22

The Listings (by year & horsepower)
Click on the images below to make them larger!

1923 Johnson Waterbug (Light Twin) 2 hp.

Year & Model: 1923 Johnson Waterbug
Horsepower: 2 @ 2400 rpm
Cylinders:
2 - opposed twin
Bore: 2"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by mechanical piston pump
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $140.00
Weight: 35 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion C7

Comments:
The "A" series was Johnson's first outboard going on sale in 1922. Light & portable, built of quality materials and very well mannered, the Johnson A revolutionized outboard motoring in the 1920's. These motors are just as wonderful today as when they were new.


1926 Johnson A-25 2 hp.

Year & Model: 1926 Johnson A-25
Horsepower: 2 @ 2400 rpm
Cylinders:
2 - opposed twin
Bore: 2"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by mechanical piston pump
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $140.00
Weight: 35 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion C7

Comments:
This 1926 example of the Light Twin is a great runner! It is basically unchanged from the earlier Waterbugs with only some small differences. This motor is soon to be part of the 1926 Outboard Test Report comparing the Johnson, Elto, Caille, Lockwood - Ash and Evinrude.


1931 Johnson OA-55 3 hp

1931OA55

Year & Model: 1931 Johnson OA-55
Horsepower: 3 @ 2800 rpm
Cylinders:
2 - opposed twin
Bore: 2"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by mechanical piston pump

Condition: Restored
Retail price when new: $109.00
Weight: 45 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion C7

Comments:
The OA-55 was assembled during Johnson's first bankruptcy - the result of ownership by Wall Street bean-counters. (This scenario would be repeated in the late 1990's)

While not a bad motor, clearly it was assembled from bits and pieces that were leftover. Gather several of these motors together and no two will be exactly the same!


1933 Johnson J-65 1.4 hp

Year & Model: 1933 Johnson J-65
Horsepower: 1.4 @ 3000 rpm
Cylinders:
1
Bore: 2"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by mechanical piston pump
Condition: Original
Retail price when new: $72.75
Weight: 27 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion C7

Comments:
This was a gift from some friends of my parents when I was a kid in the 1970's. It is one of the first truly old outboards I ever tinkered with and got me interested in the hobby. It still runs great and is a lot of fun to putt-putt around with.


1933 Johnson A-65 4.1 hp


Year & Model:
1933 Johnson A-65
Horsepower: 4.1 @ 4000 rpm
Cylinders:
2 - alternate firing
Bore: 1.875"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water forced by propeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $109.00
Weight: 46 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion 5M

Comments:
This was an important engine for Johnson since this series (starting with the A-50) was one of the first alternate firing models they produced. Another new feature was synchronized throttle and magneto - prior to this Johnson's (and most other outboards) needed both adjusted separately. The mechanical water pump was done away with and a simple "pressure vacuum" system using suction and prop wash was used to force water into the powerhead. Very smooth and reliable, these engines are really wonderful to run.


1938 Johnson LT-38 4.2 hp


Year & Model: 1938 Johnson LT-38
Horsepower: 4.2 @ 4000 rpm
Cylinders:
2 - alternate firing
Bore: 1.875"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by mechanical piston pump

Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $109.50
Weight: 37.5 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-8J (now J-8C, however, J-6C has been found to be better suited to today's fuels)

Comments:
This motor would serve as the base for "T" series - produced through 1953. This family of piston ported two cylinder outboards is one of the most popular ever produced.

The early '37 and '38 motors had cast iron blocks and were only rated at 4.2 hp.

This LT is the base model in this series . For a couple dollars more it was also available with a recoil start, called the AT, and as a fully shrouded version with recoil known as the DT.


1939 Johnson DT-39 5 hp

Year & Model: 1939 Johnson DT-39
Horsepower: 5 @ 4000 rpm
Cylinders:
2 - alternate firing
Bore: 1.9375"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by mechanical piston pump

Condition: Restored
Retail price when new: $129.50
Weight: 42 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-8J (now J-8C, however, J-6C has been found to be better suited to today's fuels)

Comments:
Starting in 1939 the "T" series motors used aluminum blocks withcast iron liners. With a slightly larger bore the horsepower was now upgraded to 5.


1946 Johnson TD-20 5 hp.


Year & Model:
1946 Johnson TD-20
Horsepower: 5 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 1.9375"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: Johnson Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber "wobble" pump
Condition: Restored
Retail price when new: $154.00
Weight: 42 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-8J (now J-8C, however, J-6C has been found to be better suited to today's fuels)

Comments:
A new more substantial leg and "wobbler" (neoprene rubber) water pump were the mechanical improvements to the "T" series starting in 1941. A new fuel tank and cowl made from sheet aluminum were also incorporated with the redesign in 1941 - possibly due to wartime shortages. (They are not as robust as the earlier DT's cast aluminum ones)


1952 Johnson TN-28 5 hp.

 

1952 Johnson TN-28 with original instruction tag and bag containing the owner's manual and tools!


Year & Model: 1952 Johnson TN-28
Horsepower: 5 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 1.9375"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $187.50
Weight: 44 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-6J (now J-6C)

Comments:
The 1952-3 TN marked the final model of the "T" series from 1937. TN models had neutral actuated by a small lever on the port side of the recoil.

This series was continuously improved over the 16 year production run. Changes included blocks going from cast iron to aluminum with cast iron sleeves, 3 styles of waterpumps and different cowlings and magnetos.

In 1953 Johnson produced their 1 millionth outboard - no doubt a large number of those million motors were from the "T" series! Today they are a staple of yard sales and often ignored by collectors, a shame since they still run as well now as they did half a century ago.

The "T" series motors are a favorite of mine for their mechanical simplicity, reliability and smooth operation. They are a real contrast to their sister company Evinrude's offering in the same class, my nemesis the Zephyr. (see why I hate Zephyrs)

Compare the 1953 5hp Outboards


1953 Johnson QD-14 10 hp.

-

The year Johnson produced their millionth outboard!



Compare the 10hp motors from 1953


Year & Model:
1953 Johnson QD-14
Horsepower: 10 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 2.375"
Stroke: 1.875"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $275.00
Weight: 60 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-6J (now J-6C)

Comments:
The QD series started in 1949 and continued through 1963 with many improvements. The QD-14 is an important motor to me personally - I had a really faded and battered one on my 14' skiff Messenger as a kid. I logged thousands of hours on that boat and motor in the 1970's. I found the front mounted gearshift to be very handy, much more convenient than the later side mount position. About the only issue I had with this motor was the noise level, fixed by painting 2-part foam on the inside!

Unfortunately my parents sent my original QD-14 to the dump when I was in college. Probably because, by the late 1970's, years of salt water use and abuse had left it looking pretty ugly. The engine seen here is a nice original example that spent years in a barn upstate. It required several months of soaking with PB-Blaster to free the stuck pistons but now runs as well as new.

Compare the 10hp motors from 1953


1955 Johnson CD-12 5.5 hp.

1955 Johnson 5.5


Year & Model:
1955 Johnson CD-12
Horsepower: 5.5 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 1.9375"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $210.00
Weight: 47 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-6J (now J-6C)

Comments:
All new in 1954, the CD series would be another long-lived family of motors essentially running into the late 1970's.

When debuted, the CD series sported many features that have now become commonplace: full gearshift, twist grip throttle, reed valves and a remote fuel tank.

It is interesting to point out that the bore & stroke is the same as the earlier "T" series. Advancements in carburetion, crankcase design and porting make this motor significantly more powerful than the preceding motors - more so than the 1/2 horsepower increase noted.

 


1955 Johnson QD-16 10 hp.


Captain Harry at the helm! (7/04)
Harry was not allowed to run it over "start" on the throttle - but he kept asking to go faster, faster!


Year & Model:
1955 Johnson QD-16
Horsepower: 10 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 2.375"
Stroke: 1.875"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $310.00
Weight: 67.5 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-6J (now J-6C)

Comments:
An updated version of the QD series appeared in 1954. The carburetor was updated to a more modern design, engine cover was now easily removable (rather than screwed on) and gearshift was mounted on the starboard side.

This motor is our daily runner for our 12' aluminum boat. It is named "Hopkinson" after the moniker on the soiled tag on the gearshift when it came to us. Needing the usual coil and waterpump replacement it runs exceptionally well - the cosmetics are 100% original.

In the summer of 2004 we logged well over 125 miles of cruising (according to GPS) with this outboard while on vacation at Lake Champlain in Vermont. We used 3 tanks of fuel and had no problems in two weeks of daily use.

Running the 1955 Johnson QD-16 - what a great motor!


1957 Johnson AD-11 7.5 hp.


Year & Model:
1957 Johnson AD-11
Horsepower: 7.5 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 2.125 "
Stroke: 1.75"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $260.00
Weight: 59 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Spark Plug: Champion J-4J

Comments:
The 7.5hp of this series was originally offered by sister company Evinrude in 1954. It was not brought out by Johnson until 1956 and lasted only 3 years ('56, '57, '58)

This is an all original motor showing only minimal use and was stored in a closet by its original owner for 40+ years!

Another AOMCI member found this motor and swapped it to me on the condition that I do the necessary work to make it run as new. It was painful to replace the waterpump and break the paint on the powerhead and lower unit bolts. Despite such an easy life, the coils also required replacement since the insulation was made of unstable plastic and had deteriorated. (as on every other OMC motor from the 1950's)

True to my word the engine now runs but I handle it with kid-gloves since it is so beautiful! It is shown here with a restored 4 gallon pressure style gas tank as is appropriate for this year motor.

The motor won Best In Show at the Fall 2004 New England AOMCI Formal Meet in Shelton Connecticut.


1958 Johnson CD-15 5.5 hp.

1958 Johnson 5.5


Year & Model:
1958 Johnson CD-15
Horsepower: 5.5 @ 4,000 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 1.9375"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water by rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $230.00
Weight: 56lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-4J

Comments:
OMC did not rest on their laurels with the bread & butter CD series. Each year motors sported refinements in the design. The leg & exhaust, vibration dampening, recoil, thermostatic cooling and other improvements were incorporated each year through the last 5.5 in 1964.

This motor has the redesigned leg, vibration dampening and exhaust plus the most uncomfortable "space age" twist grip handle that Johnson - thankfully - only used a couple of years!

On our 12' skiff the mechanical improvements net this motor about 1 mph more speed over the '55 above.


1961 Johnson QD-22 10 hp.

 


Year & Model:
1961 Johnson QD-22
Horsepower: 10 @ 4,500 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 2.375"
Stroke: 1.875"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water/Thermostat controlled/ Rubber impeller
Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $330.00
Weight: 70 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/3 pt TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-4J

Comments:
The final versions of the venerable QD series sported fiberglass hoods and fuel pumps starting in 1959. The very last versions also had needle bearings rather than bushings and thus needed less oil mixed with the fuel.


1965 Johnson CD-22M 6 hp.

 


Year & Model:
1965 Johnson CD-22M
Horsepower: 6 @ 4,500 rpm
Cylinders:
2
- alternate firing
Bore: 1.9375"
Stroke: 1.5"
Ignition: OMC Universal Magneto
Point Gap:.020
Cooling: Water/Thermostat controlled/ Rubber impeller

Condition: Unrestored
Retail price when new: $275.00
Weight: 55 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 50:1 TCW-3
Spark Plug: Champion J-4J (now J-4C)

Comments:
Modifications to the bearings, crankcase, carburetor and low profile spool recoil helped modernize the old CD series starting with this motor in 1965. Interestingly, while this motor looks lower than the earlier CD's and has lost the bulky top mounted recoil start, it is less than 1" lower to the transom than the previous model. Only slight changes in the ignition, decals and paint color were made until the end of this models run in the late 1970's. (1978?)

This example was found at our local dump! Other than the waterpump and a good cleaning, it required only a new carrying handle since the original had broken when it was thrown onto the pile. (The one on this motor is not correct and is from a '63 5.5)


Why I Love My Johnson(s)

The Johnson brothers were uniquely American; plucky engineers who tried their hands at many different businesses before building their first outboard in 1921. (I’ll leave the history lesson to others who are better qualified to teach it!) Regardless, Lou, Harry and Clarence launched their names into outboard history when their little Waterbug or Light Twin went on sale in 1922.

The little twin cylinder 2hp water cooled outboards soon gained a real following since they were light, reliable and ran beautifully (unlike most other outboards of the era.) Today, 80+ years later, these very same motors are loved among collectors for exactly the same reasons they were in the 1920’s! For many years Johnson Outboards used the advertising slogan “Dependable Outboards”; more than just advertising rhetoric since many of their customers, starting with those 1922 Waterbugs, had nothing but praise for their motors.

In the late 20's the Johnson brothers sold out to Wall Street investors - this would not be the last time such a deal proved unfortunate. Durning the Great Depression in the 1930’s Johnson was purchased by Evinrude/Elto and, eventually, they became OMC – the company almost synonymous with outboard motors. Despite their marriage to Evinrude, Johnson outboards retained separate engineering, design, marketing and sales-forces through the early-mid 1950’s. In this period my opinion is that Johnson’s engineering and styling was superior to their sister company, despite the more “upscale” image the marketing department tried to spin for Evinrude. My all-time favorites are the burgundy & white motors Johnson produced in 1957 and 1958.

1955 Johnson outboards
1926 A-25 2 hp "Waterbug" or "Light Twin"
Entire lineup of 1955 Johnson Outboards: 3, 5 1/2, 10 and 25hp.


1957 Johnson AD-11 7 1/2 hp.

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