- $69 for one boat motor oil and filter change ($140 value)
Outboard Motors: The Little Engines That Could
An outboard motor allows you to buzz swiftly across most any body of water. Dive into Groupon’s guide to learn more about this remarkable invention.
“Don’t Row! Throw Away Those Oars! Use an Evinrude Motor!” So ran a 1909 slogan for one of the world’s first outboard motors. Today, the concept needs no advertisement, and you can spot them all along the waterfront: sleek metal units on the backs of small boats, shaped something like a tiny whale jumping up to say hi for a minute, perhaps raised to expose a propeller or lowered to provide power. Inside is a piston-driven internal-combustion engine, quite similar to those that power cars. As fuel burns, it turns into gas whose expansion creates enough force for the engine’s cylinders to push a crank, which in turn drives a shaft with an attached propeller. The propeller pushes the water backward and, consequently, the boat forward. The same process is used to steer, simply by changing the direction of the propeller. This ease of control makes the outboard motor the most common means of powering small watercraft.
The first removable boat motor was electric, and could also be used to propel a bicycle or other land vehicle—in 1881, the Parisian inventor Gustave Trouvé reported that his battery-powered motor could send a tricycle with rider whizzing off at 12 kilometers per hour and three passengers just a little slower in a small pleasure boat he dubbed Le Téléphone for its unprecedented speed. Two decades later, Yale law student Cameron Waterman, inspired by his bicycle’s removable electric motor, adapted a motorcycle engine to nautical needs and introduced the term “outboard motor” to the world.
The real gas-powered revolution began around 1910 with Ole Evinrude. One story holds that the young machinist was on an island picnic with his sweetheart when she expressed a wish for ice cream. As he rowed to shore and back, the frustration of watching the ice cream melt in the heat and completely ruin the little chocolate-syrup heart he’d drawn reportedly inspired him to set about developing an inexpensive, easy-to-manufacture engine. He and his sweetheart (by then his wife) marketed the engine by mail, and the rest is history—the Evinrude logo continues to line lakes and shores today.