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This Article appear in Soundings October 2000 issue


Outboard Exchange remanufactures, reconditions boat engines

By Steve Knauth


Sometimes it’s the job you don’t get that starts a career.

Old corroded outboards like these provide invaluable parts.  Hogan has a complete engine breakdown and parts-cleaning system in his shop.

Tim Hogan of Waterford, Conn., runs the outboard engines.

Hogan and mechanic Mike Conti check Internet orders.  Customers from Europe, the Middle East and Asia inquire about parts end engines.

Tim Hogan was fresh out of college in 1989, with a hard-earned degree in business administration. The Water ford, Conn., native was sending out resumes during what he calls a “dead job market,” and getting few hopeful replies.

To keep busy, he repaired an old out board motor and sold it. “I’ve been around boats since I was a kid, and I love the water,” says Hogan, who owned his first outboard-powered boat at age 13. “So, it was kind of a natural thing for me.”

What he was really doing was finding his business niche. “I quickly realized that the demand for quality used out boards far exceeded supply,” says

Hogan, 34. “I got a few more engines, fixed them up and sold them, too.

Before he knew it, he’d rebuilt and sold 40 outboards, most of them 70 hp and up. “I saw that this could lead to a business,” he says. “So, I decided to give it a try.” He set up shop in a small shed on the Niantic River waterfront and went to work. He spent six years in the tiny (1,000-square-foot) building, establishing a reputation among the local anglers and pleasure boaters.

Now Hogan runs his Outboard Ex change shop from a two-story, 15,000- square-foot building next door to where he got started. A 10,000-square- foot warehouse filled with engines and parts is nearby. Mechanics Eric Barboza and Mike Conti work full time, and others may be hired soon. Internet sales have expanded Hogan’s market from the local fishermen and pleasure boaters to customers all around the world. ‘1 just sent off some parts to a customer in England,” says Hogan, standing at the computer mounted on his front counter, checking his constant barrage of c-mails. Other prospective customers have contacted him from Denmark, Hawaii and Alaska. An ignition module, crankshaft and lower unit were recent ly shipped to Indonesia.

The grand opening for the new building is expected to be held this fall. “I had hoped to move in here during the off-season, but the timing wasn’t right,” he says. “So, it’s been a busy summer, moving and expanding the business.” The Outboard Exchange deals in engines mostly from the 1 980s and newer with Johnson, Evinrude, Mercury and Yamaha figuring prominently in the workload. He both reconditions and re manufactures the outboards, services what he sells and also supplies parts.

The most popular engines are the remanufactured ones, according Hogan. “They have new pistons a hearings, a new thermostat and water pump and rebuilt carbs,” Hogan plains. “The lower unit is also completely rebuilt.” The engine is then painted and new decals applied, needed. (When Hogan couldn’t original decals for one older engine, had them re-created at a print shop using a computer.)

“For many the new engines are just too complicated... you need a laptop computer and a lot of software to work on those engines.”
- Tim Hogan

The owner gets a one-year warranty and, in many cases, saves more the half the cost of a new outboard of similar horsepower, Hogan says. “A 115- engine costs just under $10,000 new and our remanufactured engine sells around $3,400,” he says. A remanufactured 140-hp engine might sell I about $3,600. “We like to say that don’t cost a customer money, we save him money,” he adds.

Most of Hogan’s work is on outboards 70- to 140-hp, although he does take smaller and larger engines, and works on both 2-strokes and 4-strok While the prices arc attractive, there's more to the demand than saving money, according to Hogan. “There’s been a surge of interest lately, and the demand is greater than we can handle,’ he says. ‘One reason is that the older engines are known quantities, and people feel comfortable with them. They have a track record, a reputation, and everyone knows how they perform.”

With new engines, the buyer may be helping the maker to work out the kinks on a new design. Hogan says. “You’re not going to know the real story on a newly designed engine for a few years.” He cites the reliability problems Out- hoard Marine Corp. had with its FICHT fuel injection system when the company introduced the technology.

“With a specific used engine, I go back and check the factory service bulletins to see what tended to go wrong, and design that weakness out,” Hogan says. “The 1988 Yamaha outboard had problems with the [piston] wrist pin, which we’ve solved by using a new piston.”

For many, the new engines are just too complicated, Hogan says. “You need a laptop computer and a lot of software to work on those engines,’ he says. “A lot of people just can’t keep up with that kind of thing. The old engines are simple. People call me up trouble-shooting, and we try to help them out. I give away a lot of free in formation, hut I think it pays off in the end when the customer needs some work done. He thinks about us, first.” In fact, Hogan is considering holding a few outboard maintenance classes in his new shop over the winter. There is a downside to Hogan’s success story. While Barhoza and Conti are usually busy at their new expanded workstations in the new building, Hogan is called away increasingly to the phone or the work at the computer. “I’d rather be at the workbench, myself, taking apart an engine and getting it running again, and having a satisfied customer take it away” he says. “That’s what I like about this business.”

For information, contact Outboard Exchange, 362 Rope Ferry’ Road, Water ford, CT 06385. Phone: (860) 437-0060.

Web: www.outhoardexchange.com.

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