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50 horses pushing you, and not a sound.
Member Name: uncle_bob
Date: 02/09/01, updated on 02/09/01 (1208 review reads)
Advantages: Quiet, powerful, 2-stroke
Disadvantages: OMC going bust, Heavy
Well, since no one has ventured into the world of boat ops, I figured I would try and share some experience in the field. Although it seems everything I know about, there isn't a category for, but hopefully this will change.
So the Johnson 50. What a star that has been for me.
I own 2 Johnson outboards, an ex-MOD 35hp and a 50hp, both 2-stroke and both great little runners. I also own a 40hp Mariner, but that’s in a different class.
So, about Johnson.
Well, as some of you know, and some of you don’t, Johnson is owned by OMC, as is Evinrude. The 2 engines are identical in every way, apart from the cover and graphics.
OMC is an American company who are not as well known as the likes of Mercury, with their Mercruiser range being probably the only real inboard engine fitted to boats these days, apart from Volvo.
However OMC do make an inboard range, called the Cobra I believe, but really only common on racing spec boats.
However, OMC is not the engine you want to spend your hard earned cash on, at the moment at least.
Well, recently, they went down, and not just a small profit drop, by down I mean, out of business. UH OH was the words that left my mouth on finding this out (well words to that effect).
Because of this, buying spares for the OMC range is impossible. Second hand dealers have about dried up, and main dealers cant get the parts.
This came at a bad time, as the clutch on my 35 had just worn out and needed replacing (heavy MOD use).
But they assure us they will be back in business soon, and are just having some minor business difficulties. Uh-huh, well, we’ll see.
So, The 50hp?
Well, mine is not a new one, and in my opinion, is a lot better than the new ones, in terms of performance at least.
Being a 2-stroke, it offers very good power output, when compared against a 50hp 4-stroke.
A good example of this power difference would be a simple outing we
had on a couple of RIBs in a force 6. 2 Avon 5.5-meter ribs were used, one had a 4-stroke 40 and one had a 2-stroke 35 Johnson.
The 35 left the 40 in its spray. I am an experienced boat operator, but no matter how well I trimmed this engine, and boat, or how hard I pushed it, I could not keep up with the 2-stroke engine, being driven by an amateur.
So that’s a big plus with the 50. It is a 2-stroke.
Also, it offers very good reliability.
I have owned a number of outboards, made by various manufacturers, including Mercury, Mariner, Johnson, Evinrude, and Yamaha. And out of all of them, the Johnson has been the most reliable. Never let me down yet and always starts when wanted.
We use it for skiing etc, as well as pleasure trips and heavy excursions. And it just ticks away on the back there happy as can be.
I brought the engine from a local dealer who had taken it in with the intent of doing it up and selling it. I took it into my care and did it up myself, it had a hole in a piston, for reasons we couldn’t figure out, but being owned by a dock company for rapid response boats, it was obviously neglected.
Working on the engine is easy, with most parts accessible without much effort. Replaced the Piston in a day.
The drive leg is not as easy to work on however.
With my 35, you unbolt the leg bolts, and undo the gear shift linkage in the lower leg, and the leg drops off. The 50 mind you has a much bigger leg, and removing is a complicated procedure. Not a problem in its self, as you rarely need to remove it, but changing impellers etc can be a task.
Another nice thing about it, is the noise. There is hardly any. And for a 2-stroke that is a rare thing. It is so quiet when running you often look back to check it still is running. The only indication being the cooling tells tale. When opened up, the noise does increase, obviously, but this is due to the exhaust leaving the water, not the engine itsel
Economy is not it's strong point. Being a 2-stroke means it is a heavy fuel user. A 5 gallon tank used to last us about 2 hours skiing, where the enging is running flat out. However if performance is what you want, then you cant have performance and economy. So it is a case of what is more important. For me it was performance.
All electric makes it easy to operate and use, with electric start and choke, although my model is not power trim and tilt, which would be nice. But the newer ones do offer hydraulic trim making complete operation available from the driver’s seat.
One bad point about electric starts on engines such as this, is the lack of pull start option. If the battery fails, or starter fails for some reason, you have no means of starting the engine. But carrying a good length of rope with you can sort this problem out, as the flywheel does have notches in it to allow pull start if needed.
The engine is heavy, about 75Kg I think, but don’t quote me on that, and it does mean it is not an engine you can take on and off easily. It required a hoist and 3 men to fit the engine to the boat in the first place. It is designed to be fitted permanently to the boat, with no clamps like on smaller engines. It is mounted using bolts. However it is well balanced and lifting for towing or shallow water is aided by a hydraulic ram, which makes it effortless.
Steering is responsive and easy, with through hub steering system used, making for safer and easy steering.
The overall performance of the engine is second to none. Although currently not fitted to a boat, we used it on a 4 meter RIB and hull shot was rapid, instant planning almost and would pull anything we attached to the back, even a large sailing yacht.
We could pull a wake board with 3 people on board and a full tank of fuel easily with no straining apparent. However its weight does add a large strain on the transom, especially when towing, and
this needs to be checked carefully. The transom shifted about ¼ inch on my boat when I fitted the 50, due to the large force applied from its power and its weight when stationary.
Cost of OMC parts, when you can get them, are fair. Cheaper than a lot of the Japan built engines. However, even when OMC are supplying, the lack of main dealers and breakers around the UK does often mean mail order is required in order to purchase parts. I use a guy in Scotland for most of my parts, and that 700 miles away. But there are dealers closer. It is often cheaper and easier to import straight from the States, where OMC are very popular. But it does make returning the product difficult.
Cost of the engine?
Well I paid £600 for mine, second hand with a hole in the piston. Which was about right for the age of the engine. You will do best to check Johnson them selves for current prices, but I think they will be high due to their problems. Second hand Johnsons are easy to come by and relatively cheap compared to a lot of outboards.
Overall it is a great little runner, which offers everything I need from an outboard, minus the power trim. But the lack of parts at the moment, means I have to recommend you avoid very old Johnsons that may require work in the near future. If you can get one like mine, that is sound and doesn’t need anything for a while, then it is a good buy.