Brothers Mark and
Steve Hansen, owners of Twin City Outboard, have surrounded themselves
with 10,000 motors -- one for every lake in Minnesota. In their inventory
are parts for Johnson, Scott-Atwaters, Mercurys and Chryslers. Will they
be at the Boat Show when it opens Wednesday? Maybe -- if they can dig
out from their stockpile of propellers, pistons and other parts.
Awash in outboards
By Dennis Anderson
missionary--wanted a 25-horsepower Johnson fixed so badly he was willing
to fly Mark Hansen to Africa to take a look at the vintage outboard. Hansen
"We sent him the parts instead, and told him over the phone how to
fix his motor," Mark Hansen said. "I didn't want to go to some
Mark and his brother Steve Hansen own Twin City Outboard, which from all
appearances is both business and lifestyle.
Surrounded by more than 10,000 motors, some dating to the early 1900's,
the Hansens eat, drink and occasionally sleep with their outsized collection
of Evinrudes, Johnsons, mercurys, Scott-Atwaters and Chryslers.
some accounts, theirs is the largest gathering of outboard motors in the
world. Name it and they probably have it. Rotor for a '54 Johnson 5-horse?
no problem. Skag for a '61 Mercury? Sure.
In some cases, the Hansens might have such parts new, still in the box.
If not, they'll check a bin or two. Or they'll cannibalize from a similar
model "out back" or upstairs or in one pile or another.
"Some people who come to our shop and see how many motors we've got
lying around say we 'file by the pile,'" mark hansen said.
After laboring 17 years in the 3300 block of nicollet Ave. of Minneapolis,
the Hansens are moving their business to Shakopee. Have been moving it,
in fact, for more than a year, loading truck after truck with motors and
sending them down Interstate 35W to a new 6-acre site. With luck, it'll
be the last move they make. Ever.
"It's taken us so long to move because we have so much stuff, and because,
in summer, we're too busy to move," Mark hansen said. "Last summer,
for example, when May came, we just locked the door to the place in Shakopee
and worked out of our Minneapolis shop. We're too busy in summer to work
and move at the same time."
Thousands of old boat engines hang on racks at the Hansen's new location
The Hansen's father, Charles Hansen, bought Twin City Outboard in 1980.
The elder Hansen had founded Elko Speedway just south of the Twin Cities
some years earlier, and had owned Hansen's Auto Parts, which Mark Hansen
said was "26 acres or cars," also near Elko. Both businesses had
been sold when Charles Hansen bought Twin City Outboard. "Our older
brother Butch was working at Twin City Outboard in 1980 when Dad bought
the shop," Mark Hansen said. "I think Dad saw it as a good opportunity,
a business that could be built up."
Brothers on their own
Hansen graduated from lakeville high School the same year his dad bought
Twin City Outboard. Blessed with his father's and older brother's mechanical
bent, Mark hansen soon was fixing outboards in a town--Minneapolis--that
hs more such motors per capita than any other city in the United States.
When younger brother Steve graduated from Lakeville High in 1984, he, too,
picked up a set of wrenches and went to work.
Later, Butch would leave the business, and their father would sell out.
Twin City Outboard was now Mark's and Steve's to grow, or not.
"I'd say we've gotten as big as we have because of supply and demand,"
Mark said. "We're on the internet, so a lot of people know about
The Hansen's business thrust is threefold: they repair outobards, they
sell used outboards, they sell parts for outboards.
Twin City Outboard's speciality, of course, is providing hard-to-find
parts for older outboards. To accomplish this, they scour the country
for old motors and parts, sometimes buying truck-loads of stuff from marine
dealers. Other times, they find caches of outboards in estate sales or
elsewhere. Occasionally they'll buy new outobards still in the box from
dealers in need of cash, space or both.
"When we buy new motors, they're usually a year old, or sometimes
two or three years old," Mark Hansen said. "Sometimes the dealer
might have bought them as a clearance from the manufacturer. Whateer.
If we can make the right kind of deal, we'll do it."
Dealing outboard parts through out Minnesota and the world is the biggest
segment of the Hansen's business. Regularly, they'll ship to Europe and
Latin America. Sometimes the opposite occurs: Outboard owners box up their
motors and ship them to the Hansens.
"At our location on Nicollet, we wroked mostly on motors 40 horsepower
and less," Mark Hansen said. "We couldn't work on the bigger
motors because we didn't have room for customers to leave theri boats.
If you wanted us to work on your motor, it couldn't be on a boat, and
you had to leave it at 8 in the morning and pick it up at 5 that afternoon.
That's all the room we had."
At the Hansen's
new location in Shakopee, which is expected to be fully operational by
May 1, that will change. Given the brothers' proclivity for ollecting,
it's possible that someday they'll fill their entire six acres with piles
and piles of pistons, plugs and other parts.
But until that happens, customers will be able to drop off their fishing
and other rigs for on-the-transom motor repair.
Love those vintage motors.
Some peole use old outboards because they can't afford new ones. others
just love the moss-green color of a '52 Johnson, or the maroon-and-beige
hues of a -56 Johnson, or the funky narrowness of '60s-era Mercurys.
"Maybe 10 percent of our business involves people looking for those
older motors," Mark hansen said. "I wouldn't say there's a lot
of it. But there are peple who want the older models.
"The '52 Johnson 5-horse, for example, the one with the tank on top
and the neutral gear, that's still a pretty good seller," mark hansen
said. "And the 3-horsepower Johnson that was made up until '57, the
one they described as 'weedless,' some people still want it, too. Thing
is, the way they designed it, it really is weedless."
The old Johnsons, Evinrudes and mercurys were pretty good motors, Mark
Hansen said, and fairly easy to work on. The Scott-Atwaters and Chryslers,
on the other hand, can present problems. "One reason those guys went
out of business is that their motors weren't made as wellk" mark
Hansen said. "They were trying to cut corners to compete. But in
the long run it didn't pay."
The Hansens and the other three mechanics at Twin City Outboard haven't
seen enough Japanese outboards come through their shop yet to make determinations
"I can say about the new motors in general that they're a lot harder
to work on," Mark Hansen said. "Everything is electronic now."