My project for 2012 was a 1974 British Seagull, Silver Century series. It has one cylinder capable of four horsepower, and was given to me by the judge at one of our 4-H fairs last year. This judge, who does home renovations, was rebuilding a garage for some clients and they asked him to throw away all the junk in the garage. When he was doing so, he chanced upon a box of Seagull outboard parts and decided to hang on to them, since he too likes restoring outboards. At last year’s fair, during showmanship, he noticed my interest in outboards and offered this box of parts to me. He wasn’t sure if the entire Seagull outboard was there but he said I was welcome to find out! The Seagull was in the condition he found it, with many battle scars, grease, and more rust than anyone would care to see in a lifetime. It looked pretty dubious, but interesting.
Above: The Seagull when I first got it.
Seagulls are reputed to be highly dependable. At our local 4-H fair this summer, when I was exhibiting the Seagull, one fellow told me that he had fished a Seagull out of the water during a fishing trip. He let it dry, put some cleaner in the cylinder, and it kicked into life on the first pull of the flywheel. The Seagull seems to be renowned for its reliability, and every engine enthusiast I talked to at that fair was very enthusiastic about them. Still I couldn’t help but wonder just how reliable this old outboard could be. With my last outboard projects I had a hard time getting them to work, let alone start on the first pull. The carburetors on both the Viking and Shrimp (which by the way are almost identical) frequently clogged up with old gasoline and always needed cleaning. Would the Seagull be any different?
One thing I always think about afterwards but never remember to do beforehand is to try and start my engine project before I take it apart. This time I remembered.
Would the Seagull start? It was in rough shape and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I put some gas in the block and gave the flywheel a whirl. Second time round, it started. I was amazed! I expected some noise but not at this level. The sound of that one cylinder was deafening! That’s because the noise is funneled down the lower leg and into the water which acts as a muffler, so if the motor is out of water there will be a lot of noise.
Doing your homework on a small motor is a good idea. Knowing the history is fun and being aware of small details is important; perhaps there is a specific way to remove the flywheel, and using the typical hammer-and-leaver approach will only do damage. Manuals come in handy for this sort of thing. Webpages are informative places too, but if you’re looking for stories about vintage outboards there is a very useful book called “The Old Outboard Book.” It is written by Peter Hunn and there is loads of information about antique outboards. Reading about old outboards is always fascinating. During my quest for information on my British Seagull I found numerous websites devoted to Seagulls. “Saving Old Seagulls” was the most personable. Here are some of them. If you know of any, feel free to recommend them!
Even a quick Google search for “British Seagull” will turn up loads of results.
Above: The Seagull at the 2011 Saanich Fair, not yet restored and as far as I could tell, all original.
In the next few posts I’ll go over the restoration process of the Seagull.