Jerry Kay of Cortland says that he has been a motor head all of his life.
"When I was a kid, my neighbor gave me a washing machine motor, which I made into a go kart," he said. "I tore that washing machine motor up to the last nut and kept rebuilding it. I was always tearing up the family lawn mower to see how it works."
These days, he's a collector of outboard motors and is a member of the Western Reserve Antique Outboard Motor Club. It was a garage sale find that got him into the hobby.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Don Urchek of Bazetta is shown with an assortment of antique boat motors. Urchek is a member of the Western Reserve Antique Outboard Motor Club. Urchek’s motors include, from left, a 1950s Mercury 7 1/2 horsepower (most popular for racing), a 1954 Evinrude Zephyr 10 horse and the very popular late 1950s 5 1/2 horse Johnson Sea Horse.
"I saw a mid-1930s Johnson Model 300 at a garage sale," Kay said. "It was lightweight and weighed only 30 or 40 pounds, and I had to buy it. Collecting outboards is an inexpensive hobby and in the club, we do a lot of trading. What's nice about these outboard motors is that they are portable and you can put them on any boat."
Gary Orloff of Mentor is president of the Western Reserve Antique Outboard Motor Club, which is a chapter of the Antique Outboard Motor Club Inc., a non-profit worldwide organization devoted to the restoration and preservation of antique outboard boat motors. The local group hosts wet and dry meets for its members.
"We are trying to do more instruction demonstrations at our meets," Orloff said. "At dry meets, we offer our resources for people to give us a call if they need help repairing their outboard motors. At wet meets, we swap motors, talk about boating and what works and what doesn't work. With our wet meets, we look for an area that has a small lake or river to meet, where we bring our boats and run various motors," Orloff said. "Whoever hosts the meet hosts a lunch. The members of the club show what they have collected."
Orloff said he that has been collecting outboard motors since he was a kid. He said that the fun aspect of the Western Reserve Antique Outboard Motor Club is finding out about unique, rare, vintage and antique outboard motors and parts. Orloff said that members of the club and collectors of outboard motors all have a specific brand or model they want to collect.
Kay said that he likes the pre-1940s outboard motors and outboard motors from the 1920s and 1930s which had metal shrouds on the motor.
"Most outboard motors die of neglect from improper oiling, but you can still get useful parts out of them," he said. "We collect vintage and antique outboards, and a lot of the really early outboards that I collect never made it past WWII, because of the scrap drives. The pre-WWII outboard motors are made out of aluminum, brass and bronze. One of my better finds was when a woman brought an early Johnson 1925 outboard engine to Bianco Marine in Girard. It was her family's heirloom and the store called me. This outboard was really well taken care of."
Another club member, Don Urchek of Bazetta, said that he has been collecting outboard motors since 1979. Urchek got into outboard motors when he owned Cortland Recreational Marine.
"When I was a young boy, I liked to race boats," he said. "People used to bring outboard motors in to me for service. I used to trade in other parts for another motor. I like trading something very old that you can't get parts for anymore and make it work."
Mike Seachrist of North Canton is past president of the club.
"I got hooked on outboards since the age of 12. Outboard motor collecting is unique," he said. "You start collecting motors that you remember when you were a teenager and then you tend to collect other motors.
Kay said there is a difference between the old and new outboard engines.
"The early outboard engines were built so well, they were all metal and everything made back in the day was built to last," he said. "The outboard motor is a detachable motor, and the original concept of it was to put it on any boat and run it. These outboards go back to the turn of the century."
Orloff said that even though the outboard motor has changed over the many decades, the concept of an outboard as a portable motor hasn't changed.
"Outboards have grown in size today," he said. "The biggest outboard today is 557 horsepower and manufacturers have incorporated large components in these motors, such as electric steering, electric shift, and they are fuel injected and computer controlled."
But for club members, there is always more to learn about their hobby.
"The major aspect I like about the club is getting information from people you meet," Seachrist said. "You meet such great people, who all have the same hobby. You learn different things from different collectors."