12/28/10

Evinrude Star Flite - The yacht of the boat engine world.

I know mostly jack about boats. My interest in ever owning a boat can be measured on the same scale. Boat ownership in my mind is just an inevitable very long swim in street clothes, postponed by various amounts of time. I do, however, give a damn about industrial design. So hey, look at that cool outboard motor!
Outboard motors today - and have for as long as I can remember - look like inflated rectangles or marshmallows. This ad for the Evinrude Star Flite is the first example I've seen of an outboard that looks as if it was handed off to a designer at some point.

Sure, all the styling added to the motor's case is fairly standard overdone 1950s fare. All crazy fins and pointless bric-a-brac. But on an outboard motor, I can live with silly festoonery. Boats are for weekends and holidays. You'll probably never have to park your boat at a funeral, where it's "I am an airplane!" styling would seem inappropriately out of place or juvenile. A vehicle should have wheels or wings, but not both (...apart from foldable landing gear, obviously. Shut up).

For the technically apathetic, here's the big deal with a V-anything engine. You already know that any engine gets more powerful when you add more pistons, right? The easiest way to do that is to just put the pistons in a line. But, eventually you wind up with a very long and skinny engine that doesn't fit nicely into any normal car shape. This is the same reason a carton of eggs is not arranged in a long row of twelve. The shape becomes awkward and doesn't fit anywhere. Just like the eggs, if you take the pistons and put them in two rows, you get a more compact engine. The "vee" part just means that the pistons are angled so that they can all turn a single drive shaft underneath, which goes round and round and makes your car go, or whatever. Evinrude made a four cylinder engine with two rows of two. More power in a small space is more better no matter what you want your engine to do.

Unless you're Steve Jobs, of course. If Steve made engines, every successive generation would have a little less power in a lot less space. "Enjoying your 120 horsepower Honda? Well, here's your new one with 90 Hp, but look how thin it is! Be careful not to slam the hood or the engine will break. The valve cover is made of glass. Also, the engine dies if you sit in it the wrong way, so just don't sit that way, idiot.You control the car with one large pedal, instead of two or three. This is simpler. Push the pedal once to go, and twice to stop. Push it three times to turn left and four times to turn right. This frees up your hands to dick around with your iPhone in traffic. Simple!"

Here's Ben Affleck and Katie Holmes posing with their Evinrude Star Flite. Ben is composing a song on his harmonica about boating. Katie is wearing those old kind of sunglasses that make you look cross-eyed. The sunglasses are also configured in a "vee", just like the Evinrude. This doesn't give them more power, but it does allow her to look directly at the Evinrudewhile simultaneously looking off into the sky at Xenu. She'll need the power of the Star Flite to stay away from him... and Tom Cruise.

2 comments:

Dan said...

That was probably a design by Brooks Stevens. Stevens worked with Evinrude on many an outboard engine design, along with some show boat designs. Very much worth picking up Glenn Adamson's biography on Stevens if you're at all interested in Stevens's work.

Phil Are Go! said...

Holy crap, Dan. That's some pretty heavy "data obscura"! Let it be known throughout the land that we enjoy the most vehicularly knowledgeable readership of any snarky-jokes-about-old-pictures-themed blog!

Hat tip to Dan!

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