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The Evolution & Demise of Chrysler/Force Outboards
Kissel ⇒ West Bend ⇒ Chrysler ⇒ Force (Bayliner ⇒ Brunswick / Mercury)
Two brothers, George and William Kissel founded the Kissel Motor Car company in 1908. The plant was located in Hartford, Wisconsin. Like so many other companies of the period, they fell on hard times in the late 20’s. In 1929 they filed for bankruptcy and lost the company in 1931. In 1934 the brothers regained control of the plant and founded Kissel Industries. They started manufacturing candy vending machines among other ventures.
Sears sold outboard motors manufactured by several different manufacturers under their brand name “Water Witch” (two words, then later, one word). Find more on the Waterwitch page. In late 1936, Kissel Industries won the exclusive contract with Sears and Roebucks Company to build outboard motors. George Kissel and Herman Palmer would design the new outboard. They had been the chief engine designers at the old motor car company. The new outboards would be called Waterwitch (one word). Kissel Industries never marketed outboards under Kissel or any other name. For more information about these engines, go to a really beautiful website dedicated to the Waterwitch Outboards built by the Kissel Motor Company in Hartford, Wisconsin from 1936~1944. The only outboard production during the War Years was for government agencies.
In 1944 Kissel Industries was purchased by West Bend Aluminum Company along with the Sears and Roebucks contract to make outboards. The relationship continued with Sears and Roebucks through this transition. This brought an end to the Waterwitch brand of outboard motors in 1945. In 1946 West Bend Outboard manufactured their first motor for Sears. It was in this year that Sears and Roebucks changed their outboard motor brand name to “Elgin”. West Bend had a non-compete clause with Sears for the USA that ran through 1955. Starting in 1956 some outboards appeared wearing the West Bend name.
More from OddJobsOutboats.com & FiberGlassics.com.
West Bend continued to add to their product line. This caught the eye of the Chrysler Corporation. In 1965, the Chrysler Corporation purchased West Bend’s outboard motor business. Chrysler acquired the 413,000 sq. ft facility in Hartford, Wisconsin which employed 500 people. The business was added to Chrysler’s Marine and Industrial Engine division which already included a Marysville, Michigan plant for producing inboard marine engines
From Jan. 8, 1965, Wall Street Journal.
In 1965, the Chrysler Corporation also purchased Lone Star Boats of Plano, Texas. Chrysler pioneered the concept of marketing boats and motors together as a package.
More at our Chrysler Marine webpage
The 1980’s government bailout forced Chrysler to sell off their non-core businesses, so in 1983, Chrysler sold the profitable outboard division to Bayliner’s US Marine and the brand was renamed Force Outboards. Bayliner sold many Force engines mated to their boats as package deals with matching trailers.
In 1986, Bayliner and its US Marine division, including Force, were acquired by the Brunswick Corporation, owners of Mercury Outboards who were then tasked with supporting the Force product line. Shortly thereafter, the engine color scheme was changed from white to ‘bowling ball’ charcoal black like Mercury Outboards’ white color scheme had changed to Phantom Black years earlier.
In 1990, when a long running labor dispute at the Hartford, Wisconsin plant was decided in labor’s favor, as Brunswick had threatened, the plant was closed and Force production was relocated to the Mercury assembly line in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin.
The Chrysler/Force engines were generally pretty dependable engines. If they did need work, the engines were quite simple and easy to fix. Parts were reasonably priced and widely available. Surprisingly, many parts are still available from Mercury Marine dealers and from aftermarket suppliers. The secret to keeping the engine healthy is to run it only on fresh fuel. After oil is mixed with the gasoline, the mixture is good for only a couple of weeks. After that, get rid of ALL of the old fuel and start fresh. The reason is this: From the time that Chrysler acquired West Bend until Mercury ceased Force production in 1999, the product line received few improvements beyond superficial cowling changes. While everyone else was developing flat topped pistons and loop scavenged combustion chambers which proved far less prone to detonation from stale fuel, Chrysler and then later, Force stayed with the cross-scavenged combustion chambers with ridged pistons which promoted detonation and the resulting detonation piston damage and thermal runaway cylinder damage that became common-place with the advent of low/no lead fuels (especially those containing alcohol) which – because of open vented fuel tanks in boats – quickly become unstable and suffered from evaporation and phase separation. View “The often overlooked cause of Engine Detonation – Phase-Separation“. In recent years, older Chrysler and Force engines have been de-tuned with less and less spark advance and richer and richer fuel jets, and consequently de-rated to lower and lower horsepower with lower pitch propellers in an effort to prevent the engines from producing detonation shock waves, going into “thermal runaway”, and disintegrating as shown below left. An undamaged piston is shown below right for comparison.
Always use fresh fuel!
The engine brand suffered from several other design flaws and deficiencies as well. The high energy ignition systems suffered frequent failures until they switched to Mercury components. The early two-piece lower unit housings were easily bent by impact. Later in the 1990’s A problem that plagued the newer one piece lower units developed when the propeller supplier began installing a shorter splined clutch hub in the propellers. This allowed the propeller’s thrust washers to tighten against the propeller hub until the rubber clutch was disabled. Since the rubber clutch provided protection against damage to the lower unit shafts, gears and clutch dog in the event of a prop-strike and also against the shock when shifting due to the solid shifting clutch dog, the shafts, gears and dogs began breaking. Eventually, Force realized the problem and developed a spacer to fill in for the shorter clutch hub. Later a thrust washer with an extension to fill in the space was developed and made available. Confusion about which thrust washers had to be used with which propellers has resulted in many broken drive shafts, gears and dogs until this day. For a detailed description of the problem and the various fixes go to Chrysler/Force Propeller Clutch Fiasco.
Mercury Marine (Force engines>Out of Production since 1999 – But some parts are still stocked)
Fond du Lac
Toll Free: 1-8
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Specifications For Chrysler/Force Outboards
2-Stroke Cycle Gasoline Outboards & L-Drives
(Features: Vertical Crankshaft and Boreable Parent Bore Cylinders)
⊗ = Data Not Available from Data Source. ? = …? = ¿…? = Data Unconfirmed.
BASE ENGINE: Manufacturer & Model of Base Engine.
DS = Data Source:
Ma = M anufacturer. BD = BoatDiesel.com = …B. Wik = Wikipedia.
^ …d = Directory. …w = Webpage. …y = Years Mfr’d History. …c = Catalog. …b = Brochure. …s = SpecSheet.
^ …o = Owner’s/Operator’s Manual. …m = Service/Repair/Technical/Workshop/Shop Manual.
^ …p = Parts Book/List/Manual. …h = History. …f = Forum. …1,2,3,A,B,C,etc = Source #, Version, Revision.
CYL: Cylinder Orientation & Configuration – (Dash w/no spaces) Number of Cylinders:
^ Cylinder Orientation: h… = Horizontal.
^ Cylinder Configuration: …S = Single Cylinder. …T = Twin Cylinder. …I = In-Line..
BORE & STROKE: …mm = Millimeters. …in = …” = Inches.
DISPLACEMENT: …cc = Cubic Centimeters (cm³). …L = Liters/Litres. …ci = Cubic Inches (in³).
BRAND: ^ = Base Engine Manufacturer. ⇒ = Engine Marinizer/Mariniser.
MODEL: Full Engine Model Number w/Codes – Rating.
^ EC = Engine Code. Cylinder Block Capacity ID Code.
ASP: Aspiration-Fueling: N = Naturally Aspirated. Petrol Fueled: C = Carbureted.
POWER: kW = Kilowatts. HP = Horsepower. BHP = Brake Horsepower. MHP = Metric Horsepower.
@RPM = Power Ratings @ Revolutions Per Minute.
YEARS MFR’d: Beginning-Ending. Trailing “–” (Dash) without an Ending Date = Still in Production.
Click on Model Links below for Detailed Specifications and “DS” (Data Source) Links to Catalogs, Brochures, SpecSheets, Manuals, Parts Lists, Articles, etc.
|MODEL||BASE ENGINE||CYL||DISPLACEMENT||kW||HP||@RPM||YEARS MFR'd|
||uI-⊗||⊗cc / ⊗L / ⊗ci||⊗||⊗||⊗||19??-19??|
||uI-⊗||⊗cc / ⊗L / ⊗ci||⊗||⊗||⊗||19??-19??|
||?||⊗-⊗||⊗mm||⊗mm||⊗in||⊗in||⊗cc / ⊗L / ⊗ci|
|⊗ − ⊗||?||⊗-⊗||⊗||⊗||⊗||⊗||⊗-⊗|
|⊗ − ⊗||?||⊗-⊗||⊗||⊗||⊗||⊗||⊗-⊗|
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