Pays To Tell People About Your Interest In Old Outboards
(originally published in the Knuckle Knews)
Several years ago while visiting some friends, I discussed
my outboard hobby with their teen-age son Clifford. We chatted
for some time about our interests in things mechanical. A
few months later Cliff was talking to the owner of a service
station and inquired (on my behalf) if he had any old outboards.
The fellow showed him a sawhorse in the back room with several
old motors including a real oddball with “funny writing”
on it. Cliff called me and based on his description, I took
a chance and purchased the lot.
The outboard seen above was the jewel of the bunch and even
came with the book of “Description and Guidance”
(aka manual) and its export “passport”, both written
in Russian. The other outboards in the lot, (two 3hp Evinrude’s
and a Seagull), I gave to Cliff as a well-earned commission.
The Russian was covered in dust and grease but everything
seemed okay with one exception; one cylinder had no spark.
Closer inspection revealed that the high-tension coil for
the #2 cylinder would need to be replaced.
My wife Abby and I used an online translator to decipher the
motor's name from its Cyrillic writing and were amazed to
yield the word “Whirlwind”. Working together we
devised a system to match the western keyboard to the totally
different Cyrillic keys and were able to translate a paragraph
of the manual every 5 minutes. In an effort to learn more
about this ugly duckling and get the needed coil, I searched
the internet (a relatively new thing in our house at the time) for anything relating to this outboard. After
many frustrating hours, I decided to use a search engine closer
to its birthplace. My thinking was that a search engine in Sweden would
offer the best chance for success and in about 5 minutes I
found just what I needed, though still all in Russian. We
were able to translate much of the site and gambled on writing
to its creator who appeared very knowledgeable about the Whirlwinds.
Less than 24 hours after sending my email off to Russia, I
was surprised and pleased to receive a reply (in English!!)
from the Whirlwind guru Alexey in Moscow. His web page was
called something like Repairs to Whirlwind Motors While at
Sea. Here is an edited excerpt of his email with an overview
of Whirlwinds and Russian outboards in general:
Motorostroitel has produced outboard motors (Whirlwinds) since
1965, due to the colour your motor is one of the very early
ones, probably from 66-x. I have not seen one (that old) in
Only five models have been designed: original Whirlwind-18,
20 hp (my model), Whirlwind-25 hp, Whirlwind-30 hp produced
until very recently and now the Whirlwind-32 hp. Every model
has received a lot of improvements and restyling during each
(ones) production life.
More than half (at that time) of the boaters in Russia use Whirlwind outboards.
Another manufacturer - MMPO in Chernyshova, makes the outboard
NEPTUN 23 hp. Vikhr (another name for the Whirlwind) and Neptune
are the most popular motors in Russia. Other popular models
Moskva, Priboy, Privet, Riga now are no longer in production
but sometimes, very seldom, I can see them still out on the
water. Other models are low power Veterok - 8 or 12 hp, and
the Salut - 2 hp that is still available.
Alexey was very helpful and interesting to e-mail. He eventually
found me an OEM coil, $7 plus $6 shipping via the postal service.
I was amazed that it only took 5 days to arrive, less than
is typical for the AOMCIs quarterly magazine the OUTBOARDER to reach me! With the parts
and some helpful tips from Alexey, I had the motor running,
shifting and pumping water in no time.
It would be interesting to know the history of the motor and
how it ended up here in the USA. We can speculate that it
may have been received in trade from a Soviet commercial fisherman
for a case of Marlboro’s or a few pairs of Levi’s.
My favorite theory is that the US Government got it to be
sure the Soviets weren’t ahead of us in “the outboard
gap!” All I really know about the history of the motor
is that the gas station owner purchased it 20-25 years ago
and it sat in his shop until I rescued it.
While not your typical antique outboard, I have had a lot
of fun with it; not only getting it to run but also doing
the research and making a new friend 1/2 a world away! The
cover of the motor is painted silver hammertone and the leg
is a (seriously flaking) light blue - all complimented by
a giant RED propeller. I have debated doing a cosmetic restoration
but there is a certain charm to its original Communist garb;
scratches, dents and all. It runs well and I peg it at an
honest 20 hp with enough torque to move a barge. At top speed
it is noisy, the cover rattles viciously and it sucks up a
tremendous quantity of fuel. However, the biggest problem
with it is the enormous amount of helm - having no co-pilot
adjustment it is a real workout to run and requires two hands
to run at speed. Another annoyance is the throttle; it has
an odd spring action that makes it challenging to start and
to use mid range power.
For those interested, there is tidbit about Russian outboards
in the January ’74 OUTBOARDER (available online through
the Inner Sanctum Index at AOMCI.org) showing a Whirlwind
and other Russian outboards. I would enjoy hearing from any
people who have owned or used a Whirlwind.
Over the years I have lost the URL to Alexey's site but
if you can read Russian, here is a link to a site discussing
this outboard: (If not open Alta
Vista online translator and paste the url's below into
on the history of the Whirlwind:
NEW: Check out the fantastic 2010 documentary by Werner Herzog called
HAPPY PEOPLE: A Year in the Taiga and see several different Russian motors at work. Quite a few Whirlwinds, several Neptuns and what I think is a
Bemepok are used by trappers under some pretty tough conditions. As of this writing in December 2014, it is available on Netflix.