I searched for several years to buy an outboard motor. The kinds of motors you see all the time here in the United States, the Johnsons, Mercuries, Yamahas and Suzukis of the world. Don’t get me wrong these are all nice motors, well built, but being a poor, country man like myself, these motors were out of my reach. The cost of acquisition was too high, maintenance and repair too complicated, and the closed architecture of these units meant I could not work on them myself without a diploma in marine outboard repair or mechanical engineering. Let’s look at these concepts:
Overly Complicated Motors
Have you ever noticed how cars have become as complicated as airplanes? Computer controlled this, that and the other. Well, outboard manufacturers have followed the same path. I love technology, and advances in such have brought better fuel economy to outboard motors that electronic fuel injection and computer controlled ignition brought to automobiles.
The cost? Well, good luck working on it yourself. If something goes wrong, unless you have the tools and training to work on a modern fighter jet, you’ll have to rely on technicians at the shop. Than means money. Not only that but get ready to have your boat in the shop for up to two weeks even for an oil change or tune up with $100 per hour shop rate.
That sets up the next point.
I went to Academy Sports to see what outboards they had. I needed something for less than $1,000, as that was all I could afford. Well, they had a 2.5 horsepower Mercury short shaft motor for $864. Do the math. That’s $345.60 per horsepower.
2.5 hp motor would have made a great trolling motor, but I needed speed, enough power to get up on a plane and get to my spots quicker so I could spend more time gunning and less time running. Eight to 10 horsepower would have been more like it.
As far as cost, hey, buy it online and save right? If you looks at some of the online outboard discount places, a 2.5 hp four stroke Tohatsu runs $869.99, more that the local Mercury. (Mercury power heads are made by Tohatsu, by the way.) The cheapest motor I could buy was almost out of my budget range with nowhere near enough power for my needs. An 8 hp Tohatsu? $1,599.99 or $199.99 per horsepower. A 9.8 hp Tohatsu? $1,799.99 or $183.67 per horsepower.
Notice how the cost per horsepower decreases as you buy more motor.
Build & Modify Yourself
Over Thanksgiving 2014 I built my own mud motor using a kit from SPS North America at $464.92, the power head a simple 6.5 hp go-kart motor from Harbor Freight at $106.82, and I bought a few hot rod go-kart upgrade parts for $48.99 from OMB Warehouse. That totals $620.73 or $95.49 per horsepower. That’s stock horsepower.
I don’t have access to a small engine dyno, but according to go-kart engine builders to do test these things, they have measured just shy of 9 hp with similar upgrades: intake, exhaust and carburetor mods. Let’s say 8.5 hp with the upgrades. The price per horsepower drops to $73.02.
These were mild upgrades, only removing the restrictive external components replacing them high-flow, high-performance parts. Just imagine if you went inside the motor and upgraded cam shafts, value trains, fly wheels and such. Would the costs continue to drop? That a post for another day!
Longtail mud motors are a great value-per-dollar option for anyone needing an outboard motor.
Good times, tight lines
P.S., If you have want to learn how to upgrade your SPS Longtail to get the kind of horsepower mentioned above without breaking the bank or ruining your motor, check out my new Hot Rod Your Mud Motor e-Course. It’s free.