FIRST WORKING OUTBOARD MOTOR

About 1895, S. H. Holley (of Holley carburetors), then manager of Lake Shore Iron Works, and Nels P. Flodin, designed and built a gasoline engine. They made all the parts and assemble their first engine without the benefit of blue-prints or models.

Outboard Motor

Nels Flodin's Outboard Motor. Larger view

A very direct approach was taken to the design. The points, made of brass, were installed with one in the cylinder head and the other on the top of the piston. A can of gasoline was hung on the wall adjacent to the engine and fuel was fed from it directly into the engine intake. With batteries borrowed from the local telephone company connected to the brass points, they attempted to start the engine. After much futile cranking the crew went home discouraged. Early the next morning, Flodin tried again and his efforts resulted in a spark that caused the engine to explode and start a fire large enough that the fire department was needed.

Learning from the experiment, the men realized that some means had to be devised to vaporize the fuel. The second engine had a crude carburetor and a peep hole so the combustion process could be watched. The final result was the "Superior Gas Engine", which became the major product of Lake Shore for several years.

In 1896 Flodin, possibly with Carl Blostrom (the record is unclear), installed one of the engines on a small wooden boat. It was a simple machine that hung behind the boat, started from a hand wheel, and steered with a rod-like rudder. It weighed 150 pounds. Its spark plug was operated from dry cells that Flodin stored under the back seat with the gas tank. Two water hoses hung over the side for natural circulation of water through the cylinder head for cooling.

For years Mr. Flodin’s calling cards carried a picture of this outboard, but it was never patented and its development passed largely unnoticed into history. According to Lake Shore records, Nels Flodin and Ole Evinrude were friends and compared many notes on their original developments.

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