History of the Muncie Gear Works Corporation outboard motors
Makers of the Neptune & others

This information was compiled off the internet with much of it by Doug Penn


 

1937 Neptune OB35A 1961 Neptune Mighty Mite WC-1

 

 

 Muncie Gear Works Corporation was founded in Muncie, Indiana about 1910.   They took over a failing, two year old business named "Muncie High Wheel Auto Parts Company". One of many, auto parts stores that sprung up in the early days of the automobile. 
The The first president of Muncie Gear Works was H.L. Warner and he was later succeeded by T.W. Warner.  Both men would become well know for their association with Warner Gear Division of Borg Warner and Warner Machine Products, a subsidiary of Essex International.

The company rapidly grew over the next ten years manufacturing Clutches and Transmissions for the automobile industry. With the growing amount of time required to manage Muncie Gear, the Warner's left the company to attend to their other business interest. Dr. William A Spurgeon became the new president.  He was replaced by his son Kenneth A Spurgeon in the early 1920's, who remained president until his death in 1967. 


Through the 1920's Muncie Gear Works continued to sell their transmissions to companies like International Trucks and the Ford Motor Company. By the late 20's the business climate was on the decline with changes in the automobile industry, the stock market crash in 1929 and the depression to follow. 

Unlike so many other companies of the period, Muncie Gear Works adapted and survived. Some of the product they manufactured are as follows: Transmissions for potato diggers, Automatic Coal Stokers, Heat Pumps, Air Conditioners, Commercial Deep freezers and more.


They got into the outboard motor business in 1930 building a 2hp opposed twin, then in 1938 they copied the popular single cylinder 1.2 hp Evinrude Scout motor.

Muncie Gear Works, made motors under many brands such as Muncie, Neptune, Sea Gull, Skipper, Mighty Mite and also Sea King brand for Montgomery Wards, as well as the Motorgo and Waterwitch brands for Sears Roebuck and Company.

Employment grew again through the late sixties, with Muncie Gear being a major supplier of rocket parts to the Army, for the Viet Nam conflict.  In June of 1969 Muncie Gear Works was purchased by Applied Devices Corp of College Point, New York.
 

From this modest beginning came a line of outboard motors that spanned almost 60 years.  In 1938 they produced the first of what would, many years later, evolve into the popular Neptune Mighty Mite.

This little engine was a carbon copy of the Evinrude Scout motor that had sold so well the previous year. It was designated as the 1A38 or 138A model, and was rated at 1.2 hp. The same motor was produced, almost unchanged, as the 1A39 or 139A in 1939.  In 1940 the horsepower and bore were increased to 1.5hp, with the introduction of the 10A1, and the 11A1 in 1941. The 15A1 of 1945/46 was 1.5 hp as well.  This group of engines was the first of the MIGHTY MITE style motors. They are easily distinguished by their spark plug, which was mounted on the starboard side of the cylinder head. With the exception of the piston and cylinder bore, almost all the parts were interchangeable within this first group.

Business continued to grow over the next ten years, but their outboard motor line took a back seat when World War II broke out.  During the war they manufactured 37mm gun carriages, aircraft parts, rocket parts and a outboard drive for barges that would be the for-runner of the inboard/outboard of today.

After the war in 1947 the motors were increased to 1.7 hp with the introduction of the 17A1 model.  It was the first of the series to have the rear facing spark plug.  The first appearance of the name MIGHTY MITE does not come into use until the introduction of the AA1A in 1956/57.  Until that year they were called the Junior Singles.

The Muncie Gear Works was heavily involved in military parts production during the Korean War.  No outboards, at all, were produced during the years 1952 and 1953. When the outboard line was restarted in 1954, only the AA1 and some A1 leftovers were made and sold.   Reportedly they were also under threat of a major lawsuit from OMC.   Their 1948-51 larger models were way too close in appearance to those of the best selling Johnson outboards of that period.

In 1956 Muncie moved the air conditioning and heat pump division to Cordele Georgia. The outboard motor production was moved with them. From that time on, all Muncie’s outboard motors were made at Cordele.   The 17A1 and A1 motors were light green with red decals. The AA1 and AA1-A motors were silver with maroon fuel tanks. The decals read “Neptune”, although the sales literature called them “Mighty Mite” from 1957-59.

Starting in 1960 and continuing thru 1969 the most common Mighty Mite, was made at Cordele. It was designated the WC1 and is commonly know as the “Gold Bug” or “Gold Fish” motor. The entire motor was painted gold and the fuel tank was squared off at the back. The previous models all had pointed or heart shaped tanks. This motor carried the “Mighty Mite” decal. There seems to have been thousands and thousands of them made, but no one has ever been able to come up with exact production figures. The 17A1, A1, AA1A and WC1, constitute the second model grouping. While there are many small differences, most of the parts are interchangeable within this group.

In June of 1969 Muncie Gear Works was purchased by Applied Devices Corp of College Point NY.   The outboard business was sold to a former employee and moved to Lehigh Acres Fla. E. Ray Abrams manufactured the Model 500, and the plastic hooded, Model 700, from the Lehigh Acres address, under the banner of his Telmar Corporation. It is here that the urban legend originated...”that the motors were assembled by Senior citizens”.

The Model 500 was an updated version of the WC1.  This new model had a Tillotson diaphragm carburetor and the side covers to accommodate that change.   Motors have been seen in both gold and the less common turquoise color.   All indications are the Model 500 was made from 1970 to at least 1978. Possible some were sold later.   The Model 700 was also called Mighty Mite.   It was a redesign of the same old power head but wore a plastic hood and had a rewind starter.   The Model 500 and 700 constitute the third parts group. Except for the covers and the rewind assemble; most of the parts are shared between these engines.

Sometime in 1979 the Telmar Corp was sold to a group of investors and the headquarters were moved.   Renamed MIGHTY MITE MARINE, the address appeared as Colton Rd, Old Lyme Ct. The Outboard Motors were still produced at Lehigh Acres.

Shortly after that, the totally redesigned Model 800 appeared. There were three versions of this engine.   The 800A, 800B and the Mighty Mite III.   There are slight differences between the three but basically all the parts interchange.   This is an excellent little engine that should have been more successful than it was.   American made, water cooled, and incorporating a neutral clutch and full pivot reverse, these were as good as anything on the market at that time.

It is believed that there were roughly enough parts produced for 1000 complete Model 800 motors and that the last ones were assembled no later than January 1987.   The company struggled on under the leadership of the last member of the original group of investors until it was dispersed sometime between 1989 and 1993 or possible a little earlier.   No one in the outboard collecting community seems to know what happened to the dies and the tooling for the Model 800 motors after the company quietly closed its doors for the last time.   Rumor has it that the tooling was worn out and that their US foundry had succumbed to environmental regulations.

Information added by LeeRoy Wisner

From what information that can be pieced together the following is close to the year/model for this style of the single cylinder motors which later became known as the "Mighty Mite".  There were others made prior to this date, but they were of a different style or twin cylinder motors.  You may notice some collation between the model numbers & the year of manufacture up until 1942 during WWII & then a carry over in 1946 with the models again resuming this in 1947.  Then there was a carry over of model numbers into years some later years.  From 1948 on was a different story.    I have not been able to track down any serial numbers however.

1936-37       OB-11, 12,
1938            2A38            
1939            2A39, 10A2
1940            10A2, 11B2
1941            10A2, 11A2
, 11B2
1946            11A2, 11B2, 14B2
1947            17A1, 17B1, 17B2

1948-55       A1, A2, AA1, AA2, B1
1956            AA1
1957            AA1-A
1961-69      WC-1
1970            500
1978            700
1980-86       800, 800B, Mighty Mite III

It seems that on a motor model that the 2nd letter being another letter (as AA-1) possibly designates a deluxe version, in this case probably was supplied with side cowlings.

 

A sad ending for one of America longest running outboard motor marques.

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