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12-Aug-2017 03:36

Unless the company faded completely from the outboard scene, a sizable lawsuit would be forthcoming. Chris-Craft, an industry giant, did not wish to be dragged into court by a relative newcomer, and thereby tarnish its good name. It seemed a shame, because Chris-Craft surely didn't need to pirate anyone else's ideas to build a good outboard. About 70 miles south of Grand Rapids, the Oliver Corporation of Battle Creek, Michigan, had for generations been a major manufacturer of farm and industrial machinery with a sales network around the world.In the fall of 1954, it was announced that Oliver was in the outboard business.The following year, a big brother, in the form of the 10-hp model K Commander (factory photo shown) promised to further Chris-Craft's quest to become a formidable contender in the outboard industry.The Commander was super-quick, considering its 10-hp rating.

Though it was a nice performing rig, the tactic proved to be a futile effort - hardly competitive and certainly not profitable. Apparently, quality control was still a problem, as the sensitive poppet-valve induction assembly on this engine crashed and burned not long after delivery.In 1958, these models continued with additional refinements. By the following year, a national recession was firmly in place, and Oliver was feeling the pinch.However, the industry leaders of OMC (Johnson and Evinrude), Mercury and even Scott Mc Culloch forged ahead with even larger outboards.Along with a heavier, more rugged look, new features included full-shift lower units, twist-grip throttles and remote fuel tanks.

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Horsepower for the "Super" Commander was raised to 15. I am fortunate to have what may be a pre-production model of the Commander in excellent, original condition. A serial number of OXK-123 is stamped directly into the boss cast into the lower starboard side of the engine block, where the old Chris-Craft identification plate would have been attached. The original owner stated that the engine was acquired legally in the fall of 1954, but not through a regular retail outlet. In late 1951 or early 1952, George Martin, creator of Martin Outboard Motors, left this association under stormy circumstances and assumed the top engineering post with Scott Atwater.

One version claims that Chris-Craft hired several engineers away from Mercury, and they - innocently or otherwise - incorporated "borrowed designs" into their new employer's product.