British Sea Gull Outboards

by Chuck Petersen

Few imports have made an impact on the outboard market in the U.S. with giants Mercury and OMC dominating post WWII sales, a niche market was the most any import could hope for. In the racing venue, Japanese Yamato and German Konig motors have found a home. The British Sea Gull found such a market with the sailing crowd looking for an upscale, quality brand for auxiliary or dinghy power. The primitive looking motors often are confused for antiques with their non-shrouded gas tanks and simple controls. The basic design however, was produced well into the 1990’s.

Beginning in the 1920’s, the Marsten (designer) Sea Gull was produced in Woverhampton, England by the Sunbeam Motor Company. Sea Gulls soon gained a reputation among sailing clubs for reliability and saltwater resistance. Sunbeam later sold the Marque to the Sea Gull Company, Ltd. Of Poole, Dorset. American sailors in WWII were exposed to the product, fostering a market in the U.S. during the 1950’s.

Features like a brass fuel tank, bronze clamp brackets and chrome exhaust housing bespoke quality and attention to detail. Geared for low rpm, high thrust applications, they work best on displacement or non-planing hulls. Four basic models were available, the prime difference being displacement, carburetion and gear ratio. All Sea Gulls use single cylinder blocks with one carburetor and magneto ignition. Horsepower varied from 2-3 hp with the “Forty Plus” model to 4-5 hp with the “Century” model. Later “Silver Century Plus” models were rated at 5 ½ hp.

Interesting features include a side mounted carb., bicycle type butterfly throttle (no spark advance control) and a spring loaded propeller. The heavy conical shaped spring replaced the traditional shear pin found in U.S. motors. The idea was to absorb minor impact without shearing. Champion model D-16 spark plugs are standard.

One frustrating factor encountered by restorers involves the fasteners used. The British Whitworth thread was used prior to 1973. Neither SAE or Metric tools will work. British Motorbikes like Triumph and cars such as the MG share this issue. Restorers looking for spares, tools, etc. should consider Ron Battistan in Victoria, BC, Canada. His website is easy to find and the only one specializing in Sea Gulls I was able to find.

The only example of the Sea Gull I have run across is sitting in my shop looking for a home. A fellow church member was cleaning out his basement prior to moving and asked if I would look it over and sell it for him. While not the high speed type of engine I specialize in, I must admit a certain fondness for this gleaming, like-new condition 1969 4 hp model. What a nice living room conversation piece. Are you reading this Dr. Bob?

Hello to all my friends at BSLOL. The 2000 Rendezvous was a resounding success. The number and quality of boats keeps getting better and better. This is particularly true of the outboard class. Those judges really had their hands full! I hope to see some of you at the Mt. Dora, Florida show.