1938 Johnson SeaHorse ms38 'sausage tank'

Discussion in 'Outboards' started by kroberts, Jun 9, 2014.

  1. kroberts
    Joined: Mar 2009
    Posts: 318
    Likes: 12, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 210
    Location: Chicago area

    kroberts Senior Member


    I bought a stock pond boat this weekend, it's a fairly old 12' aluminum round bottom. Yesterday I fixed the oarlocks, and then lacking anything better to do I grabbed an ancient 1938 Johnson SeaHorse MS38 'sausage tank' trolling motor out of my dad's storage shed. The U-shaped copper pipe around the motor is the gas tank.

    He picked it up in a scrap yard because it was cute, and never did anything with it. I looked it up online, found some stuff but I'm looking for more information. Here's what I know:

    1. 1.1 hp
    2. 2 cubic inches
    3. 4000 rpm
    4. Rope start (no recoil, you wind the rope around the pulley)

    We drained the bad gas out, put good gas in, drained the float bowl. Spark is amazingly good with an I-don't-know-how-old-it-is spark plug. After pulling on the rope and twiddling with the controls for an hour or so, it started to fire.

    Long story short, we took it out in the boat to test it. It takes a long time to start when cold, but I got it running twice, it runs for 5 minutes or so and dies.

    The compression is pretty weak. I can spin the thing over with my fingers on the pull rope pulley. There's enough compression to run, and if you spin it and release it will recoil back when it hits compression.

    So here's what I want to know:
    1. Does anyone know this engine?
    2. Is it water cooled? It has no cooling fins, and it also doesn't squirt water out when it's running.
    3. As a collector's item, is it better if I leave it alone or try to restore it?
    4. As a stock pond trolling motor, is it likely I can find parts?
    5. How much money could I reasonably expect out of it?
    6. Where can I get parts?
    7. Where can I get a reprinted or pdf manual?

    If this were a newer engine I'd tear the whole thing down and clean it up, replace seals and gaskets. I don't know if that would reduce its value though, and I don't know if I can even get parts. Or if I should.

    This thing is a little weak in terms of a trolling motor, it's noisy and the prop is always spinning. So I'll almost certainly wind up with an electric motor. But this thing is cute. That's the first word from almost everyone who's seen it. And it's 77 years old. And it runs.

    The only thing missing that I can tell is that the handle was broken off. I have a piece of EMT conduit in there now.




  2. Stumble
    Joined: Oct 2008
    Posts: 1,913
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    Location: New Orleans

    Stumble Senior Member

    Any idea how much it weighs? There is a huge market for older lightweight outboards since they are often less than half the weight of modern 4 strokes. Assuming you can get it running you could easily sell it for enough to buy a new 2.3 Honda, say around $1,000.
  3. kroberts
    Joined: Mar 2009
    Posts: 318
    Likes: 12, Points: 18, Legacy Rep: 210
    Location: Chicago area

    kroberts Senior Member

    I think the docs said 22 lbs. I pick it up with one hand by the gas tank, and if I handed it to you I would hand it to you like it was a hammer or something, not like it was heavy.
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