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The Work Horse Johnson Sea Horse

November 11, 2021 in Uncategorized


The good old green Johnson was a standard motor of the 1950’s. Dependable as a Model T, says Ron Stevenson, known as Mr. Motor and a passionate collector/restorer of antique and vintage outboards.

The Johnson outboard company started building inboard 2-cycle marine engines in 1903 in a barn, along with matching boats. By 1908, they were making V4, V6, V8, and V12 aircraft and marine engines. In 1910, they built the first U.S. monoplane to exhibit their aircraft engines. By 1912, their V-12 was making 180 hp. All this progress was wiped out in a terrible storm that destroyed plans and plant.

The company relocated from Terre Haute, Indiana to South Bend, Indiana and then to Waukegan, Illinois. Their motors in the 1920s were made from lightweight materials, especially aluminium and apparently surpassed Evinrude for sales and performance at the time.

The Johnson brothers held over 200 patents. Boaters of just about any age will instantly recognize the shape, colouring and logo of the vintage Johnson motor. Ron Stevenson shows the operation of his green 5.5 HP Sea Horse. We had an 18 HP hooked up to a crazy plastic boat and it would go bouncing along the lake, spewing smoke and making lots of noise. The trick to getting it to run properly was the correct settings of the adjustments for fuel, timing and so on. Motor heads love that stuff.

The good news is that my 3.5 HP Sea Horse may have new life in the hands of Mr. Motor, who has offered to work his magic on a motor that hasn’t run in at least 50 years.

By Tim Du Vernet

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