59 Years Ago in Texas Game and Fish
In 1949, readers first learned about a new revolution in outboard motors: the gearshift.
By Jon Lucksinger
Most people don't remember the time when a boater had to paddle his craft out from the dock before starting the motor, but before 1949, starting a boat meant the vessel started going forward - immediately. The invention of a motor with a forward/reverse/neutral shift made operation less hazardous and more accessible to non-anglers and the general populace. As a result, the popularity of informal boating for fun rather than just fishing took off, which led to the development of our modern boating safety laws and regulations.
From the January 1949 issue of Texas Game and Fish:
An Outboard With Gearshift
The Scott-Atwater line of outboard motors for 1949 will feature four new models with the Scott-Atwater shift, a gearshift that provides reverse speed and neutral as well as the conventional forward speed.
Heralded as the greatest outboard development in years, the shift offers obvious advantages of maneuverability, convenience and safety. The motors may be started in neutral and warmed up while the boat is tied to dock or shore. The reverse gear permits the boat to back away from dock or shore without necessity for using oars or paddle. The combination of neutral and reverse gives greater controllability and promotes safety at crowded landings and in heavy traffic. Starting the motor in neutral avoids the forward surge heretofore unavoidable in starting motors in forward speed at the traditional three-quarters throttle. Reverse is also useful in edging up to dock or shore under power and with full control of the boat.
Models having the Scott-Atwater shift will include the 1-14, a 4-hp. single with a speed range of 1 to 14 miles per hour; the 1-16, a 5-hp. twin, and the 1-20, a 7 1/2-hp. twin. There will also be a larger, more powerful shift motor, the Scott-Atwater 1-30, available later on in the spring. The Scott-Atwater line also includes three conventional models, without shift. These are a standard and a deluxe version of the 3.6-hp. single cylinder 1-12 and a non-shift model of the 7 1/2-hp. 1-20.
"Even the few skeptics will have their doubts satisfied when they know the Scott-Atwater shift adds less than two pounds to the weight of the motor, the three smaller, popular sized, shift models will retail at less than $200, and the shift mechanism is amazingly simple in design, construction and operation."
The gearshift lever is located on the starboard side of the motors near the front and has somewhat the appearance of a short gearshift lever in an automobile. It moves forward and back through approximately a 45-degree arc. When the shift lever is upright, the motor is in the neutral position. The lever is moved back for reverse and ahead for forward.
Automatic stops acting on the throttle prevent shifting at high speed, racing the motor in neutral, and limit reverse speed, thereby promoting safety for the user.
Editor's note: This is the seventh installment in an eight-part series commemorating the 65th anniversary of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine (formerly Texas Game and Fish).