Adding Some Vintage Goodness To A New Outboard


Thanks to Scott Turner from Aristocraft boats for sending us in this fun report on how they vintagize a new outboard. You may have seen these at various shows they attend, and now here is how its done.

Take it away Scott.
Years ago when we introduced the new Torpedo 16′ hull, we were having trouble deciding on how to power it.  For the classic boat enthusiast, most were resisting the new power options as they were not sold on a modern looking motor.  What they were sold on was the new fuel injected four strokes reliability, fuel economy, and noise reduction.  So when we made our first demo boat, we knew what we had to do.  We had to make a new motor look old…

We started off with a new Yamaha 50hp four stroke.  This motor was going to work well for us because of the design of the cowling base, it was a nice flat surface where it mounted to work with.  So we had our motor, now we needed a cover.  Upon our search we found that finding one that would fit the motor was almost fun, walking around a boat graveyard and letting our creativity go to work.  For our first cowl we chose a Evinrude Starflite motor, and brought it back to the shop for its transformation into a new cowling.

The more we looked into it, the more we wanted to keep the original cowling in tact as much as possible for the simple reason of noise reduction.  One of the biggest selling points of the new motors was how quiet they are, and we did not want to change that.  So we disassembled both cowls, and slid the Starflite over the Yamaha cowling,  The hardest part was dealing with the gap around the bottom of the Evinrude cowl, around the Yamaha cowl,  we custom cut aluminum flat stock, and added tabs to the cover to rivet it to.  img_1875Once we were satisfied with the fit of the Evinrude cowl on top of the Yamaha cowl, we used a two part foam, and poured it into the gap that surrounded the two cowls, further reducing noise.  I would like to add a note, that you must think about the air intake of the motor, so it will not starve for air.  The Yamaha and the Evinrude both had air intake areas under the handle on the top rear of the cowl. img_1882
So we did open that up more on the Evinrude, and blocked this area off, so when we poured the foam, it would not block the air channel.

At this point the two cowls were bonded together, and it was ready to start the finish work, bondo, priming and painting.  The beauty of this project ended up being able to use most of the factory cowl, so we did not have to change the way it mounted, latched, and we did not have to work about clearance issues around the motor, as we knew the factory cowling had all of that covered for us.


At the end the project is not hard, just very time consuming getting it to fit, and look right.  We have done a handful to this point and they all work out great.

img_1890 img_1895

This a great project for someone who wants that vintage flair, with modern convenience.

I hope this helps some of your future readers with an different option for dressing up their outboards.

Take care and safe boating

Scott Turner

21 replies
    • Dave Nau
      Dave Nau says:

      For old cowls (or hoods), check with the local AOMCI chapter. Some of the guys will have scores (or more) of old motors to donate cowls that they will part with.

      That said, I say seriously consider an old motor. Get it rebuilt if needed. Parts for old Mercury motors are a little harder to get, and require some special tools. Johnson and Evinrudes are easy. Again, AOMCI folks are key. I’m a member of both ACBS and AOMCI and it’s the only way to go if you like outboard boats. Just like with old inboards, an inline 6 Mercury in full song or a mellow V-4 OMC motor just has that certain sound. Yes, it’s noiser, and burns more fuel, but for the overall time in use, it’s a good tradeoff. Also, with a new outboard, forget about judged shows – you just lose too many points.

      I like things totally stock. Just like if a fiberglass boat had gelcoat from the factory, using paint in a restoration is like finger nails on a blackboard for me.

      But that’s just me.

    • Scott Smith
      Scott Smith says:

      Most well appointed marinas have a graveyard of sorts somewhere, whether it be an attic, back room or shed “out back”. Show up around coffee time with a box of good donuts and strike up a conversation. Look for the guys who have been there awhile, with grease on their shirts and well calloused hands. They usually have names like “Butch”, “Hank” or “Skeeter”. The clean shaven kid in the showroom wouldn’t know an old outboard hood if you stuffed them inside one, so avoid Skippy at the front desk. DON’T go during high season when they’re flat out busy – DO go during the off season when they might appreciate an extra $20-$50 in their pocket and have the time to show you where to look.

  1. Dave Nau
    Dave Nau says:

    Also watch the weights. Modern outboards are much heavier for the same power as old outboards, and thus could just be too much motor for some boats.

  2. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Thanks, Scott! I’ve been wondering how you did this every since I saw the 1st photo of one. The old motors look so cool. Kinda surprised that none of the modern manufacturers have thought to offer a vintage styled cowling as an option.

  3. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Bill and Scott – always thinking out of the box or out of the vintage box or I guess utilizing the vintage box outside the original box or…you get the picture. Very logical design.

  4. Miles Kapper
    Miles Kapper says:

    An old cowl on a new engine might very well be the best of both worlds but for those of us who grew up on outboards during our Wonder Bread years of the 50’s and 60’s there is nothing like the smell of spent exhaust when you are in reverse pulling away from the dock for that all encompassing boat ride. This is the one memorable sensory experience a four stroke just can’t replicate!

  5. Greg Jones
    Greg Jones says:

    I find this concept fascinating…and yet silly in some ways. Stay with me here.

    I love old motors…so I am biased…but the new motors don’t seem as though they will likely last. I have a “Big Twin” 1957 Johnson 35up that runs great. We put between 500 and 600 miles behind her this year…with the original spark plugs still.

    So when I hear “owners want the reliability of a new motor” I bristle a bit. What I think really should be said is “my mechanic/boatwright convinced me everything old is crap…except the boat they are charging me a small fortune to restore.”

    On the other hand I realize most vintage boat owners would be challenged to change the plugs…let alone a water pump. So maybe it’s best. Lol.

    I don’t know how many “modern boats” I pulled in with my 1949 Thompson Lake TVT 14 footer with an 1956 Johnson Javelin 30hp. Lol!

  6. Chad
    Chad says:

    If someone could figure out how to make a modern engine look and sound exactly like a Merc MK55,58,78…

  7. Bill
    Bill says:

    Well, Chad, that would be impossible. Here is the real thing. We would not want anything but the real deal anyway.

  8. Red Dog
    Red Dog says:

    Bill. Nothing quite like the tower of power. And Gregs old johnrude 30 HP. Looks real nice too. I use a ’79 25 HP. on my boat and it moves it along just fine. That is a great idea with the double cowls. Many of the vintage decals sets are still available. Or can be made at a vinyl graphics shop.

  9. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    In my long lost youth I always had busted knuckles from knuckle busters….no more… cats can opt for Period Power…give me Power Period!
    especially for Going Boating!
    John in Va.

  10. Dave Nau
    Dave Nau says:

    One more thing. Classic outboards gave a style all their own, with frequent, and often yesrly styling changes. They can complement the look of the classic bost. Modern outboards just look dull to me in comparison, with the same look running for a decade or longer.

    It’s also fun to try to march a good looking outboard to a good looking boat, so the overall look is just right.

  11. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    Matt, thanks for that article, much anticipated. The base motor was a Yamaha 50hp, didn’t I read somewhere that they had done the same thing with a 25hp Suzuki motor? The other issue is that many vintage boats take a short shaft engine that is not so common on the modern 4 stroke.

  12. Scott turner
    Scott turner says:

    Hey everyone. Thanks for all the comments, good or bad. This obviously is not for everyone, but is just right for some.
    We have done motors from 20hp zukis to 150 Yamaha. Our goal was just to add another option for the boating world, and have fun in the process!
    Happy boating everyone!

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