Relabeled or “Badged” Outboards

by Chuck Peterson

Throughout the years, most of the large and several of the small producers of outboard motors contracted with catalog or retail outlets who purchased engines to be relabeled or “badged” and sold independently. This helped the manufacturer increase production and enjoy the reduced scale or per-unit cost. In the early days, vast dealer networks were not yet in place. Retailers like Sears and Montgomery Ward could offer nationwide exposure.

1940 Sea King 3hp sold by Montgomery Ward, produced by Kiekhafer Corp.

Speaking of Ward’s, they were purchasing a line of motors built in Cedarsburg, WI called Thor Outboards. The problem was they ran so poorly, customer complaints were piling up. Carl Kiekhafer bought the old factory intent on building electrical components for the automotive industry. To raise capital, he fixed some old rejects and earned a new contract. The first originally designed Kiekhafers were sold in 1940 as the 3hp Comet of Model K2, but also, the Ward’s “Sea King,” 3hp. I didn’t think much of the old motor sitting in the corner of our boathouse, purchased and discarded by my grandfather years ago until Peter Hum’s book The Old Outboard helped me trace its history back to Carl Kiekhafer’s first production year!! In later years, Gale and West Bend outboards made up the Ward’s offerings through the mid-1960’s.

Sears offered Elgin brand engines (West Bend) and boats until 1964 when the Sears brand was produced by McCulloch.

The Firestone Tire and Rubber Company sold badged Scott-Atwater products after WWII. The firm later switched to West Bend and finally Chrysler when they purchased the old West Bend plant.

Mercury rejoined the private branding business in the post-war era with the Western Auto “Wizard” motors. While never offering the “top of the line” horsepower motors, the 1956 model year saw the tuned down Mark 30 model in fairly crude cowl design sold as the Wizard “Super Power 25hp.” Later, Oliver, Scott and Chrysler provided contracts into the 1960’s. Other notable private labels include Buccaneer (OMC,) Quincy (Atwater,) Royal (Gale,) and Sears Waterwitch (Muncie and Kissel Automotive.)

On a personal note, I would like to report that my dad is making great progress on his 20 foot Gar Wood utility (1939.) Thanks to Tom Juul and Big Bob for their help in providing information, patterns, etc. for this project.