Travel back in time With us as we open the vault and visit a simpler time and place—where, much like today, the outboard was king.
Fast Times Ahead
The new motors being introduced by the manufacturers are a far cry from the cranky putt-putts of yesteryear. They are sleek, streamlined and beautiful, they are easy starting, smooth running and dependable, and they sport a host of auxiliary features aimed at providing ease and pleasure for the outboard boater.” Those lines, from the inaugural issue of Outboard, in 1954, just as easily could have been penned in today’s magazine. The difference? That roundup of new engines included the monstrous (for the time) 40-hp options. How fun would it be to travel back in time to tell that author about today’s outboard power? I imagine eyes the size of saucers as I retell the story of testing the HCB 65 Estrella.
The shot in the corner of a hydroplane racer eating a face full of seawater is recreated every year around the world by die-hard speed junkies who are fighting to keep the pastime of outboard racing alive.
Another feature from the 50s shown here profiles the journey of seven boats from San Francisco to the Farallones—also known as the Devil’s Teeth Islands. The islands are sometimes also referred to by their Native American name: Islands of the Dead. Along their journey the intrepid (read: crazy) crews faced off against 10- to 15-foot seas.
I think I just found a story idea for the next issue of OUTBOARD! Like this story from the vault suggests, it should be a “swell time.”
While time has been kind to most of the stories inside the original issues of Outboard magazine, others, not so much. Stories about cruising with “Crippled Kiddies,” or a female-friendly way to change a sheared pin elicit cringes, and fair enough. There’s no sugar coating lines like: “Take an office secretary, a housewife, nurse, clerk or school teacher, give her a pair of shorts or blue jeans and a husband who likes boating and you have the crew for a outboard boat.” Yikes! Those have aged about as gracefully as a glass jar of milk left outside by the milkman. But before we go throwing stones, if you dig deeper into the stories we see that while the delivery isn’t politically correct by today’s standards, their message was that of inclusion and that boating should be enjoyed by everyone. I think those are themes we can all still get behind.
I’m reminded of the scene in My Cousin Vinny where Marissa Tomei finds out Joe Pesci’s character is going deer hunting, but this time with a moose: “Imagine you’re a moose. You’re prancing along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put your little deer lips down to the cool, clear water. BAM! A f—in’ bullet rips off part of your head!”
While the target of choice for outboard-boat owners has shifted from big game (and official state animals) to fish and fowl, it’s worth acknowledging that today’s boats are still used to bring food home for the table.
The September 1955 issue took aim at another type of outboard shooter: marine photographers. “Airborne Outboards” takes readers behind the scenes—and lens—of what it takes to bring a magazine story to life. Award-winning photography is a pillar of OUTBOARD’s DNA, then and now.
Booze-soaked meetings, four-martini lunches at the best spots in town, rapid-fire cigarette lighting. Ahh, to be an ad man in the heyday of the 50s and 60s. And what better outlet to run ads for a quieter Evinrude or the newest pair of Sperry Top-Siders ($8.95) than the preeminent print title of the time?
Coincidentally, print magazines remain one of the best ways to reach a captive, qualified audience of real boaters. O.K. shameless self-promotion not withstanding, these color ads from the late 50s are just plain fun to look at and have a way of transporting you back in time and making all of us feel a bit more like Don Draper.
The Journey Continues...
Pouring over the pages of Outboard past has given me a clearer perspective on how timeless our sport of boating is and how there are so many different ways to enjoy time on the water. I hope you enjoyed this short trip back in time and that you’ll look for more of these throw-back tales at outboardmag.com and on our social media channels. I only hope one day, years from now, someone discovers and re-enjoys the issue you’re holding. I suppose only time will tell.