Twin Cities Reader
{June, 1986}

Awash in engines
By David Carr

For a landlocked enterprise, Twin City Boat and Motor manages to achieve a very nautical ambience. Two old boat motors hang on a sign that towers above the shop. Other motors--and lots of them--are visible between gaps in the high cyclone fence.
Mark Hansen, son of owner Charlie Hansen, says the company has about 10,000 motors, which roughly translates into one for every lake in the state.

It's an impressive sight. Some of the motors are neatly mounted on rails in the sheds strung out across the backyard. Others are piled on top of each other like animal carcasses, and most have been cannibalized for one part or another.
If you're looking for a specific engine part, it would be tough to beat Twin City Boat and Motor. A water pump for your grandfather's 1932 Evinrude is probably right out back.
But don't go poking around by yourself out there. Before Mark hansen would let a reporter into the yard framed by fence and barbed wire, he had to lock up the dog. Was that really necessary?
"Oh, he'd bite ya," Hansen said, nodding toward the hungry-looking German shepherd.
The old shep guards one heck of an inventory. Charlie hansen has traveled throughout the United States in search of old motors. His parts requests have come from as far away as England and Germany.

The front end of the operation isn't much to look at. there are boat motors, of course, and mysterious looking parts strewn all over the counters. Two weeks ago, would-be Memorial Day weekend captains jammed the small space, their faces anxious and concerned.
"We tell them to bring them in during the winter, but they never do. It's always a rush," the elder Hansen shrugs. "They bring 'em in today and they want 'em yesterday."
During a busy week like this one, the shop may fix as many as 50 motors and boats, but a lot of its business involves finding that odd part. For that, you need inventory, and Twin Cities Boat and Motor has lots of it. The business sprawls over a big yard and across the street to another fenced-in area.

Hansen takes a reporter across the street and into a dark, cave-like cellar. The fluorescent lights reveal row upon row of antique motors, plus an exotic assortment of gimmicks and geegawa. hansen points out a few of the more interesting ones with his foot, pausing to pick up one.
"See this one has this horseshoe gas tank, just kind of a tube that wraps around the motor." He points to another that doesn't pivot like the usual engine, but uses a tiller behind the motor to provide direction. the market for antique motor parts is fairly limited. Mostly, these old parts just sit there looking neat.
Back across the street, one of the employees is stripping a coil off an old motor with the decals worn off. He holds it up to Hansen to see. "$30?"

Hansen says the company prices parts at approximately 60 percent of their new price. While that may seem steep if the old Johnson needs a water pump, who's going to argue when you can't find one anywhere else?

The younger Hansen claims he has no trouble picking a requested part out of the jumble of old and new hardware stacked every which way. "I remember what I buy," he says simply.
Hansen, 24, has been working at the shop for six-and-a-half years. He says there's nothing all that unique about boat motors. "They've still got pistons and rods. They still run on a spark. They still pump water, except that they draw it out of the lake instead of the radiator. Otherwise, they're just like a car."

In fact, if your taste runs to big horsepower, Twin City Boat and Motor has a 200-horse automobile engine that's been converted for marine use.
Hansen likes working with motors just fine and says the people who bring them in aren't bad either. "It's like any other business. You get your complainers and you get the people who thing we're the greatest thing in the world. We've got parts for motors going all the way back to 1914. That sort of sticks us above the rest.

The shop also has a very noisy family of four young robins in a nest atop a 1942 Scott Atwater. Hansen gestures toward them with an arm stained with marine oil.
"It's nice having them around. I like robins. They're nice birds," he says.
What happens to the robin family if there's a call for a 1942 Scott Atwater part?
"That's no problem. We got lots of 'em just like that one."


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