1896 -The American Motor Company of Long Island New York built 25 portable boat motors. This was apparently the first gasoline powered outboard. It had a horizontal cylinder, vertical crankshaft and driveshaft, a tiller arm for steering and a 90-degree gearbox below the water ahead of the propellers. It was a four cycle, two valve, cam operated push rod engine. None are known to exist today and no one has a photograph of the unit.

1903 -An American, Cameron B. Waterman made a machine with an air cooled motor cycle engine connected by way of sprockets to a propellor. He called it an outboard motor. Production started on 1906 and 25 outboards were sold for that year. For 1907 the engine was redesigned to be water cooled and 3,000 Waterman "Porto" outboards were sold. The same number were sold in 1908, doubling to 6,000 in 1909. Waterman sold the company in 1915 for $20,000 to Arrow Motor and Machine Co. of Newark NJ. It is the motor of 1906 that is generally regarded as the first commercially produced outboard.

1908 -Ole Evinrude produced a motor which clamped on the back of a boat. 

1909 -Ole Evinrude and his wife Bess formed the Evinrude Detachable Rowboat Motor Company. They produced a water-cooled, single-cylinder design with the cylinder projecting inboard forward of the transom. It was immediately successful thanks to the advertising and good business sense of his wife, Bes.

1920 -Though he had sold out for $137,000 in 1914 Ole Evinrude re-entered the outboard motor industry by forming the Evinrude Light Twin Outboard Motor Company. The success of ELTO was immediate.

1921 - The Johnson brothers, Lou, Harry and Clarence, commenced production of a totally new lightweight smooth operating outboard. They pioneered the use of diecast aluminium castings, previously unheard of in the outboard motor industry. 

1927 -The Johnson Motor Co built a new manufacturing facility at Waukegan, Illinois. This site was the home of OMC right up until 2000. 

1928 -Briggs and Stratton purchased Evinrude Motors and with Ralph Evinrude (son of Ole Evinrude) they formed the Outboard Motor Corporation. This completely new company also included ELTO, the Lockwood Motor Co and in 1936 it also acquired the Johnson Motor company.

1940 -1945 -OMC largely produced engines for military purposes. 

1949 -The revolutionary Johnson Sea Horse model QD was produced. This motor introduced almost all the features found in today’s outboard. These include a recoil starter, the removable motor cowl, a forward, neutral and reverse gear shift and a remote fuel tank. 

From 1949 - In the postwar industrial boom outboard motor production surged ahead and in the years that followed outboards have become more reliable, far more fuel efficient and less polluting. Competitors such as Mercury, Mariner, Yamaha, Suzuki, Tohatsu and Honda have all played a significant role in the evolution of the outboard as we know it today. 

1960 -This was the year in which OMC began assembling Evinrude and Johnson outboards in Australia. Before 1960 there were stringent import restrictions on American products. There was a proliferation of Australian manufactured outboards of low horsepower and limited reliability. British made Seagulls and Anzanis were highly prized and some Swedish Pentas made their way into the country. With the arrival of OMC, Australia suddenly had a range of outboards with up to 75 horsepower output. The 70’s, 80’s and 90’s also saw the development of other multinational brands such as Yamaha, Mercury, Mariner, Suzuki and Honda.

From the humble beginnings in 1896, the outboard manufacturers created some milestone outboards along the way to the present. Here are a few examples:

*   First lightweight outboard with extensive use of aluminium: 1921 ELTO 3hp twin, 47 pounds.

*   First outboard to plane a boat: Johnson 1926 Big Twin, 6hp, a world record 23+ mph.

*   First four cylinder outboard: 1928 ELTO Quad, 18hp.

*   First alternate firing twin: 1930 Johnson A-50, 4hp, K-50, 8hp.

*   First electric starting outboard: 1930 OMC Speeditwin Electric, 22hp, Johnson VE50, 26hp.

*   First 40hp outboard: 1930 ELTO Hi Speed Quad, 50 & 60 Cl.

*   First 50hp outboard: 1946 Evinrude Big Four.

*   First forward/neutral/reverse gearshift outboard with seperate fuel tank: 1949 Johnson QD-10, 10hp. Scott-Attwater 491 Shift, 7.5hp.

*   First four-cylinder in line outboard: 1949 Mercury Thunderbolt, 40 Cl. 25+hp.

*   First super quiet outboards: 1955 Johnson/Evinrude 5-25hp.

*   First six cylinder in line outboard: 1957 Mercury Marathon Six, 60Cl, 60hp.

*   First three cylinder in line outboard: 1958 Scott-Attwater, 60hp.

*   First V4 outboard: 1958 Johnson/Evinrude, 50hp.

*   First 100hp outboard: 1962 Mercury 1000.

*   First V6 outboard: 1976 Johnson/Evinrude 200hp.

The Future 
Environmental legislation in many countries has seen the outboard of the future reducing dramatically the amount of oil in the water. Technical changes such as 4 stroke and fuel injection have guaranteed these environmental standards are met and owners have and will benefit from simpler, easier starting, lighter, quieter, more fuel efficient and more reliable products. The extent of worldwide investment in the outboard motor is proof enough that it will continue to maintain its role as the world’s most popular form of boat propulsion for a long time to come.