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Come On! I'll drive!
Hi! I'm Scott's (my Dad) youngest daughter. This is really fun! I really appreciate the convenience of this Homelite Safety Mate control box. It has single lever shifting, push key choke, and a warning light with horn (whatever that means!) I heard older people talking about push buttons, or two lever control boxes other outboards were using in the 60's. I guess I'm pretty lucky to have this baby!
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1961 Homelite 55
1966 Homelite 55 "Grand Prix"
This is my sister (Tracy Ball) sitting in my Grandparents 1961 17' Lonestar Fleetwood runabout named "CUMMINBAC". This is the original Homelite purchased by my Grandparents in 1962 and installed on this boat after the crankshaft broke on its original Evinrude 40. Needless to say, the Homelite never came off!
Lonestar "CUMMINBAC" in action!
As with anything that is obsolete, it is very hard to be sure all the information is 100% correct. This outboard was produced twenty-five to thirty-five years ago. I have been gathering information for years. Most of it comes from articles I read and people I talk to. Some of the individuals are retired employees of the Homelite or the Fisher Pierce Bearcat Companies. I am in no way guaranteeing all the information is factual, however, to the best of my knowledge it is. I am open to suggestions if any of the information seems incorrect. This is an informational website only.
This is my daughter riding in our 1984 Larson runabout with a 1965 Homelite Grand Prix at Raystown Lake, a beautiful lake in the center of PA. Engine restored in the winter of 1983.
Welcome to my Homelite-Bearcat 55hp 4 cycle outboard engine homepage. I have been working on and restoring the obsolete Homelite and Bearcat engines for most of my life. I am very familiar with this unique outboard. I live in York, PA.
In 1962, my Grandparents purchased one of the first Homelite outboards in western PA from Kalajainen's Marine in New Castle. Growing up I had an interest in engines, so this was the one I learned on. As the seventies rolled by, the engine started to become obsolete. My Grandfather, my parents, and I, would stop at many marine dealers in our travels looking for parts and/or complete engines. Most of the time we were dissappointed and found nothing. However, there were times when we would find either boxes of new parts, special Homelite tools, or complete engines. Usually the dealer was glad to get rid of it and we purchased at reasonable prices. Needless to say, doing that for 20+ years can accumulate quite a few parts, engines, etc.
This engine was introduced in 1961 as the first 55hp 4 cycle outboard engine on the market. It was way ahead of its time. The 4 cycle design boasts excellent fuel economy, smokeless operation, no mixing of fuel and oil, and hour upon hour of automotive type reliability. It is a fisherman's best friend because it eliminates the need to carry a trolling motor. The Homelite will troll all day and not foul spark plugs. Because the 4 cycle engine has more torque (pushing power) than a comparable 2 cycle unit, it is great for larger pontoon boats and houseboats. A comparision test from a 1961 Homelite Marine Marketing Bulletin compares the Homelite 55hp 4 cycle outboard to a new 75hp 2 cycle unit. The results are startling. The Homelite 55hp will out accelerate the 75hp unit by 2 or 3 boat lengths and will run within 2 or 3 mph at wide open throttle. At wide open throttle (5500rpm) the Homelite burns one quart of fuel in 6 minutes and 20 seconds. The 75hp 2 cycle engine ran 3 minutes and 12 seconds on its quart of fuel and oil mixture. At idle the results are even greater. The Homelite will idle (troll) 44 minutes on a quart of fuel. The 75hp 2 cycle unit only idled (trolled) 6 minutes on its quart of fuel and oil mixture. It's no wonder the advertising literature stated you could run the Homelite engine for less than half as much as the 75hp 2 cycle unit. Famed automotive writer, test driver, powerboat authority, and Daytona speed trial director Tom McCahill tested the Homelite 55 on a 202 mile run from Daytona Beach, FL to West Palm Beach, FL. This is what he reported.
"In a 202 mile run, at a planned average of 25 mph, I was able to hold speed for better than three-quarters of the way, and was only forced to drop to a slower speed when we ran into weather conditions in which a small vessel, such as we had, should have been home in the backyard. The engine, however, never missed a beat, and would have gladly driven the hull to its complete destruction , if I'd ask it to. The oil consumption for the whole trip was 1/4 of a pint. In total gasoline and oil costs, from a dollar-and-cents standpoint, we made this run for about half of what most two-cycle jobs would have cost to operate at the same speed for the same distance with the same load. Several things about the engine impressed me. Its continuous smooth-idle ability, a complete lack of smoke and exhaust fumes and its general lack of commotion. The automobile-type dependability is what sold me to the hilt on its worthiness because the engine, as well as the boat, was taking a horrible beating when the going got rough. I was also impressed by the fact that this beautifully-styled 55 horsepower package, pushing a big 18 foot Lapstrake hull with a gross weight of 2230 pounds was able to average 25-mph-plus for more than 175 miles without the slightest sign of fading or dropping off."
"I knew that the four-cycle, four-cylinder made a lot more sense than some two cycle designs because the four-cylinder, four-cycle engine has the reliability factor of the everyday-use automobile."
"During a stop at Vero Beach, quick work with the slide rule showed our average speed to be 25.2 mph. The oil consumption was nil!"
"At the end of the trip, we pulled up to the Palm Beach Yacht Club dock holding an average speed for the entire run of 24.2 mph, without the slightest co-operation from the elements."
The engine was produced by Homelite (division of Textron Inc.) in Port Chester NY until 1966. In 1966 Homelite sold the rights to Richard Fisher, the founder of Boston Whaler Boats. Since the Homelite performed so well on the Boston Whaler fishing boats, it was no surprise Richard made the investment. Richard produced the engine under the Fisher-Pierce Bearcat 55 label until all production stopped in 1972, the year prior to the major oil embargo that resulted in gasoline rationing. It was no secret if he could have hung on a few more months, things may have been different for his Bearcat 55. The engine has an excellent durability track record and seldom wore out from use.
The Homelite powerhead is a larger spin-off of the Crosley automobile engine. It features an integral head (part of the block) which eliminates the head gasket and any failures thereof. It is 59.4 cubic inches and produces 55hp at 5500rpm. With a five main bearing chrome plated forged steel crankshaft, balanced connecting rods and pistons, and a shaft driven overhead camshaft with direct action solid lifters, the wide open throttle specifications of 5500 to 6000 rpm can be tolerated day in and day out. An automotive type lubrication system with a spin on oil filter, automotive type fuel pump feeding two Tillotson side draft carburetors, regulated alternator charging system, thermostat, push key choke, and single lever gearshift with warning light and horn made the Homelite an attractive engine on the showroom floor in the 60's. The price reflected all the new technology as it listed for approximately $1499.00, about $500.00 more than the comparable 2 cycle unit.
The Homelite was the second and perfected attempt of converting the 44 cubic inch Crosley automobile engine of the forties into an outboard. In the mid fifties, a gentleman named Lou Fageol converted the 44 cubic inch Crosley engine into a very primitive outboard. Called the Fageol 44, the engine was rough looking from the prop to the shroud. However, it ran smooth, didn't smoke, and boasted terrific fuel economy. The Fageol resembled an old Mercury from the fifties except it was a copper shade of gold wrapped with thin chrome. In the late fifties, Lou sold the rights to Homelite.
The Crosley engine was also used long ago as a primitive inboard. This inboard design was called Vertical Inboard Power (VIP). The VIP design mounted the powerhead vertically on the floor of the boat. It was attached directly to a lower unit protruding through the floor into the water. Steering was controlled by turning the entire assembly as one.
In our area, I have approximately 12 Homelite and Bearcat engines restored and running. They are on a range of boat sizes and styles. Several are on new pontoon boats and many are on runabouts. Most of them are in service at a beautiful area along the Allegheny river in East Brady, a small town in western PA. Two are in service on the Susquehanna River at Goldsboro, PA. The Homelite-Bearcat outboard can really turn heads since the general boating public has never seen one before. The 4 cycle advantages are very evident, especially in an idling situation at launch ramps, marinas, "no wake zone" areas, and the fuel dock!
One of my restored Homelite 55's was used in a head to head comparison test with the new Mercury 50hp 4 cycle outboard in the July 1996 issue of Trailer Boats Magazine. Since the Mercury is rated at 50hp at the prop, and the Homelite is rated at 55hp at the crankshaft, the test was just about dead even. Both engines performed very well (as expected), and the outcome was almost even.
Since I have been doing this for many years I have seen and worked through just about every situation that could arise. Please feel free to e mail me for information in repairing and/or trying to locate a part. I may buy and/or trade parts etc. at times. There are many parts for this engine that I have found substitutes for that will work as well as the originals. I will be glad to share my information so parts can be obtained locally if possible. As with any obsolete product, time and patience are the most important ingredient in a successful repair or restoration.
As the sixties neared the seventies, Richard Fisher realized the boating public wanted more horsepower than his Bearcat 55. He devoloped a 4 cycle 85hp model. It was introduced in 1970. The powerhead was a marinized version of the English built Coventry Climax. This was an aluminum block, three main bearing, 4 cylinder engine that was used in some Lotus automobiles and as a pump engine on some firetrucks. In theory, it was a great upgrade to the Bearcat 55. In reality, the public just wasn't ready for a larger 4 cycle outboard. The 85hp model wasn't on the market long enough to develop any sort of track record. Unfortunately, I have yet to see the 85hp model in person. I would be interested in locating one if somebody happens to know where one is.
A shot of the 60's in the 90's! Our dock in the lock #9 pool, about 60 miles north (up river) of Pittsburgh, on the Allegheny river at East Brady, PA. From left to right....1995 21' Riviera Cruiser with a 1966 Homelite Grand Prix (restored winter 1994), boat belongs to Amy Zeigler and Dale Meals. 1963 15' Starcraft with a 1963 Homelite 55 (restored winter 1996), boat belongs to my parents, 1984 16' Larson with a 1965 Homelite 55 (restored winter 1983), boat belongs to my wife and me.
Tracy and Will Ball's (my sister and her husband) 1995 21' Suncruiser pontoon boat with a 1964 Homelite 55 cruising up the Allegheny River in East Brady, PA.
Suncruiser and Homelite sitting at idle. If it weren't for the bubbles, you wouldn't know it is running. All the exhaust is underwater and NO SMOKE or ODOR!!!
Engine restored in the winter of 1992.
My parents, (Elsa and Lew Stewart) riding in their 1963 15' Starcraft runabout with a 1963 Homelite 55. Engine restored in the winter of 1996.
What a clean, smooth, practical way to push a boat!
AND YOU'RE UP! THAT'S ALL THERE IS TO IT WITH THE PULLING POWER (TORQUE) OF THE HOMELITE 4 CYCLE OUTBOARD. THIS YOUNG SKIER HAS NO IDEA WHAT IT'S LIKE TO BE IN A CLOUD OF BLUE SMOKE UPON TAKE-OFF, SOMETHING UNHEARD OF WITH A 4 STROKE.
IS THIS REALLY SOMETHING THAT IS SO NEW IN THE 90'S?
I DON'T THINK SO!
YOU GUESSED IT, THIS IS ME!
WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CLUE?
YOU MADE IT THIS FAR, MIGHT AS WELL CLICK DOWN UNDER THIS PICTURE AND SEE ALL THE INFORMATION ON PAGE 2.
RELAX, ENJOY YOUR SUMMER, ALL OF THE HOMELITE AND BEARCAT 4 CYCLE OUTBOARDS ARE Y2K COMPLIANT AND WILL RUN FINE FOR ANOTHER CENTURY!
Lots more Homelite-Bearcat information, including the four models (styles) and a whole lot of technical facts on Page 2. Click here and lets go! Home4cycle's Home Page
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