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Restoration CornerJ2 Restoration by Rich Johanson


I decided to start with the ’56 Oliver.  I gave the motor a quick inspection and noted that it was missing a spark plug connector, so I went to the automotive store and purchased two new spark plugs and connectors.  Thinking that this was all I needed to do turned out to be a bit too optimistic.  As I investigated further, an attempt was made to rotate the crankshaft.  I was unable to make it budge because the pistons were frozen solid.  I thought about giving up right then, but with some words of encouragement from Dick Gorz, museum curator, I continued.  At this point, I figured I had nothing to lose.  I took the head off and a lot of debris and corrosion came out.  I eventually dismantled the entire motor and lower unit.

My first task was to extract the pistons from the block. Click to view cylinder block, head & shroudI took the block with the stuck pistons to several automotive shops and they all looked at me like I was nuts (they are undoubtedly correct) and really did not want to get involved.  They did give me some advice however, they said to soak the cylinders and pistons with penetrating oil and maybe that would help.  I soaked the cylinders for a day or so and then started to pound them out. In my zeal to extract the frozen pistons, I managed to damage both the block face and the connecting rods on both of the pistons (did I mention that I didn’t have anything to lose?).  The night that I got the pistons removed, I received an article from Dick about soaking the engine block in a molasses mixture.  This apparently will eat away the corrosion and free the pistons.  If anyone has a similar situation with frozen pistons, I would suggest the molasses method.

My second task was to fix the mistakes from my first task.   I contacted Paul Moneski, from Pasadena, Maryland, who was a great help.  He provided me with a shop manual, gasket set, impeller, lower unit seal and a few other parts necessary for my project.  He was also able to supply me with two connecting rods that I desperately needed.  One of my problems was fixed.  The next thing was to take the block and head to the machine shop for milling.  The machinist noticed pitting on the head face and suggested that the head be milled as well as the block.  He took .012" from the block and .010" from the head. He also honed the cylinders.  I needed to use the same set of pistons, as oversized pistons were not available for this engine.  I was able to purchase piston rings from Lee Holland from Algonac, Michigan.

At this point, I am on a roll (yeah, right), so I started to investigate the condition of the lower unit.  The shifter was loose and did not appear to be connected to anything.  The battered propeller could not be rotated at all.  When I dismantled the lower unit, I discovered that the lower shift rod had snapped in two and the bearings had suffered the same fate as the pistons.  They were also frozen.  I was able to fabricate a replica of the lower shift rod out of " steel rod and I took the propeller bearings to a shop for replacement.

I took the magneto to Willie’s Marine Service in Pasco, WA.  He specializes in older outboards, that is, old to most people.  I consider something from the seventies new!  Willie took an interest in the project and tested the coils and provided a couple of water line grommets for no charge.  He said he had only heard about Oliver Outboards but had never seen one.  The coils tested out to be in good condition.  In the mean time, I had gone through the carburetor and fuel system.  It was one of the few items on the motor that seemed to be in decent condition.

To get additional needed parts, I contacted Russ Larson of Larson Outboard Service in Mead, Nebraska whose name I got from Paul.  He was able to supply me with a flywheel nut, a new propeller and a few other parts that had been missing from the motor.  Other than purchasing numerous stainless steel nuts and bolts to replace corroded or missing ones, all I had left to do was to figure out how to build a pivot tube and paint the appropriate pieces.

I went to the local scrap metal yard and found 1 1/8" aluminum solid rod to replace the tube used in the original part.  Not only would this be heavier duty, it was my only choice in 1 1/8", so the decision was easy.   A flat piece of 3/8" thick aluminum provided the head (or top) of the pivot tube.  I was able to get some of this stock at the same scrap yard.  Even with my limited tools and limited skill (mainly limited skill), I was able to fabricate the part I needed.  I used the broken piece as a model.  I purchased enough material to make a pivot tube for the Wizard as well.

It was time to investigate the available paint and try to match the Oliver green that was on the outboard.  I went to the hardware store to look for paint that resembled Oliver green without much luck. Then I discovered a paint shop that not only custom mixed paints, but supplied it in spray cans as well.  I took the cowling to the paint shop and they were able to match the color exactly.

After all of the parts were painted, I attempted to assemble the engine and get it ready to test.  I had an interesting experience with the installation of the pistons. I installed the pistons following the exploded viewClick to view exploded view of powerhead assembly of the engine (piston, rods, and crankshaft) that was in the Operators’ Guide I had obtained. After the pistons were placed in the cylinders and connected to the crankshaft, the head would not fit.  At the top of the stroke the pistons would hit the head. I had yet to install the rings, so I took the block to a guy that works on my snowmobiles.  He put the rings on and installed the pistons. When I picked it up, the pistons were rotated 180 degrees from the way that I had figured and from the way the drawing shows.  I asked him about it and he said the drawing was incorrect and went into detail about why the pistons should be installed this way.   He told me to go back and look in the spark plug hole of the Wizard with a penlight to confirm.  He was right and the drawing was wrong.  With the pistons installed correctly, I no longer had a problem with them bumping the head.

I placed the motor on the back of my boat and put the lower unit in a barrel of water.  I cranked several times without success. Finally the motor fired, and I felt like I had done it.  Before I could enjoy my success, the motor stopped running. It continued to act like it was not getting gas, regardless of carburetor adjustments or anything else I could do. I suspected either the fuel pump or some other problem with the carburetor.  After all of the effort I had put into this project, I decided to let a professional look at it and see if they could get it running.   Currently the motor is in good hands with Willie, so stayed tuned to the "Museum" and I will follow up with the results.

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