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Chick Ludwig

The Old Motor Bug (Updated)

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   Well y’all, it’s happened again. I’ve done been bitten by another bug. The old motor bug. I don’t know how serious the affliction is yet. I hope not too bad. Miss Debbie and the budget won’t stand for much foolishness. Over the years I’ve experiences minor outbreaks of the bug, but have been able to ward them off before too much harm had been done.

   Here’s a brief rundown. Way back when I was a young-un, living in St. Petersburg, Florida, I kinda brushed up against the bug. From my earliest years, my dad would have a boat for me to mess with. There was the 10 foot Volksboat. I wish I could find one of those now! It had a Mercury Mk 15 on it. At the same time there was the old mullet skiff that I told y’all about in another story. It shared the motor from the Volksboat. Then there was the 12 foot wooden twin cockpit runabout with the steering wheel in the center of the aft cockpit that I blasted around Tampa Bay in. What fun chasing the Gooney Birds (Cormorants) and making them fly off of the poles that they were perched on top of.

   Guess I’d better explain. Goonies don’t have oil on their feathers like other water birds. After a time of diving deep below the surface catching fish, they’d have to take some time drying out their waterlogged feathers. They’d launch themselves off of their perches and flap wildly trying to gain flying speed and altitude to avoid being run down by the crazy kid in the boat. They’d sink down to water level and run wildly across the surface trying to build up enough speed to climb out of the reach of my boat with the mighty 15hp Evinrude, if memory serves on the size of the motor. (I had to get the Evinrude part in there as this story is supposed to be about old motors. It was a mid-1950s motor, so it qualifies as old now. Actually, not so old at the time.) Usually they couldn’t make it, so at the last second they’d dive. Never did hit one. Truth be told, I really didn’t want to. It was all about the thrill of the chase. By-the-way, a marine patrol officer stopped a friend of mine to ward him about “di-dapping”. When asked what that was, he explained that that was what the Goonies did running on the water. My friend was driving his little flivver boat in a wild and crazy manner, kinda like the wild and crazy goonies. Di-dapping.

     Well, guess we’d better find our way back to the old motor bug again. During those early years, I’d spend many happy hours hanging around places that had old motors. There was bill Jackson’s Army-navy Surplus. (This was back when it really was surplus. Much of it from the recent world war. Of special interest was the rack of old engines. There were two and four cylinder opposed “Johnrudes” that had been made for assaulting the beaches. Then there were a couple of target drone aircraft engines, There was one air boat style outboard, too.

   Another place I liked to hang out was Dick’s outboard shop in an old building on Gandy Boulevard near Snug harbor where my folks had a summer vacation house on the water. Dick’s is where we got the used motors for my boats. Dick Hines was an early hero of mine, he got to spend his days messing about with boats and motors. He let me hang around and watch him working. An idyllic lifestyle to an impressionable water and boat lover like me. Dick had lots of old motors. Motors hung on racks around the walls of his shop. Motors hung on racks hung high on the walls overhead. Piles of motors in the middle of the shop. More piles outside on the ground. Motors hung on the backs of boats that were in for repair. You get the idea. Lots and lots of motors. I loved the smell of the place. Old gas and oil. Even today, that odor brings back fond memories.

   I don’t want to forget another place I hung out at when I first began getting interested in boat racing. This was Billy Carteret’s shop. Billy was a different type than Dick. While Dick was undeniably a “messy”, Billy was more of a neatnick. His shop was always neat and tidy. Actually, it wasn’t his shop that fascinated me. It was the store room attached to the carport at his house. Billy used to be an outboard racer. He’d sold his equipment several years earlier, but the storeroom was full of odds and ends that he never got around to disposing of. Old KG-7 and KG4 parts, bearings, reed valves, parts for “quicky” lower units, test wheels, timing plates, racing props, tools. He sold me the whole pile. I used those parts for my first years of racing.

   Then later in my early 20s, while scrounging around for parts to keep my stock racing engines running, I would occasionally stumble across an old engine from back in the 1930s to early 40s. If they were cheap or free, I’d haul ‘em home and hang ‘em in my shop for a future project. I guess there were a half dozen or so when I quit racing, had a divorce, and moved. Dummy that I was, I just left ‘em behind!

   Fast forward quite a few years to after when Miss Debbie caught me, and we had moved up to Hendersonville, NC. This was 25 years ago or so when the next attack came. I was looking through the classifieds in the local Hooterville (What the locals often call Hendersonville.) newspaper when I saw an ad for a little, opposed cylinder John-rude. I bought it and hung it on the rack for a future project. Not long after, we moved down to coastal North Carolina, and I sold the little motor.

   A few years later, while picking up some plywood from Havelock Building Supply, that was to be used for transoms and floors in the fiberglass boats my company was building (A one man shop---ME.), I got to talking about boats and motors with the old man in the warehouse that was helping me load. He told me that he had an old opposed cylinder Johnson from “back in the day” that he’d kept all these years, but now at seventy something years old, he wasn’t going to do anything with it. It was a basket case. A bigger motor than the little one that I’d previously brought home back in the mountains. He even GAVE it to me. I hauled it home and---hung it on the rack for a future project. Then, another few years later, Miss Debbie and I decided to move back up to the mountains again. To Hendersonville where we’d moved away from eighteen years before. Guess what, y’all! I gave the old motor away. Maybe you guys are beginning to see a pattern here?

   So, here we are. Back in the mountains. Not interested in sailing on the mountain lakes. Looking for other avenues to pursue in my boating affliction. Joining various Facebook groups about boats. Several about old boats. And motors. Hmmm, maybe it’s time to try again. Maybe it’ll stick this time. So, I posted that I’m looking for an old motor. Doggone if someone who was a collector didn’t respond to tell me he was thinning out his collection of old Mercury motors. One was a 1947 KE-7 lightning that he had never gotten around to restoring. Ahhh, the memories came flooding back from my childhood days, and the little boats I had before getting involved in “real” racing. I had mercury 10hp KG-7s and 7½ hp KG-4s on a few of them. You know, those old motors that Mr. Kiekhaefer built as “rule beaters” to set records in hydroplane racing so he could build his reputation. No gearshift. No neutral. Start and GO. Well, the Ke-7 is part of that line up of motors. That old 1947 Merc only lacks one year of being as old as me. Had to have it. It’s hanging on the rack waiting for me to finish my current project, the restoration of a 1967 18 foot Starcraft aluminum runabout that my Tohatsu 25 will be going on (A modern motor.). I told Turtler about the KE-7. (Turtler is the 16 foot open boat that I built to go “turtling” in. But that’s another story.), and he immediately hollered, “I WANNA TRY IT!!!”. So far, all he’s had pushing him around is my little 2 ½ Suzuki, Mr. Zuki. I think they’ll make a good team.

  So, here we are. Back with the old motor bug. Going to look at a 1954 Evinrude fastwin 10 horse motor next Saturday. I had some of these old motors, too. Back when they weren’t old. (Update---I did get the Evinrude, and then a 1947 Sea Bee. And waiting on word about if the ownwers will sell the Firestone engine I ran across, and then a Mercury Mark 6.) Oooh, gotta scratch the itch! So, if any of y’all have an old motor just lying around gathering dust and rust, gimme a call. Maybe I’ll take it off your hands before you become infected with the Old Motor Bug, too.




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Chick haven't you figured out yet that buying old motors makes you move somewhere else? Are you going to move back to the coast now?

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Hmmm, Ken. Guess I missed that point. Actually, I DO really miss the coast for boating, but like living in the mountains best. Guess we're gonna stay. Besides, can't afford another move. Easier to modify my boating objectives. Plenty of small boats to build. I wanna Moccasin 2 canoe, a Birder or Moccasin 14, maybe Catspaw 8 or 9, a 50s style open boat to hang my KE-7 on, a small runabout for a future Mark 20 on, a.......

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