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The 1953 model year spelled the end of production for Chris Craft's Challenger & Commander outboards. For many years it has been rumored that this was due to legal challenges from Kiekhaefer Mercury over patent infringements. Others have put forth that Chris Craft simply made more money on their boat building and inboard motor business and decided to concentrate in these areas rather than developing the additional outboard products needed to match the offerings of OMC, Scott Atwater & other full-line outboard manufacturers. More than likely it was a combination of factors that together spelled the demise of what was once a promising brand.

The Oliver Corporation purchased Chris Craft's outboard tooling in 1954 and set to work improving and modernizing them to compete with the other brands on the market. A full FNR gearshift, modern styling, remote fuel tanks and other features would be incorporated so they could compete with the best motors then on the market. Also, a 35hp motor would be developed (incorporating George Martin's patented poppet intake valves) though this would not actually go on-sale until 1957. (They were advertised in 1956 but it is not known if any were actually built)

Oliver Outboards debuted in 1955 with the "J" Challenger 5 1/2hp and "K" Commander 15hp. The second year of production (1956, the year of our motor) saw a lot of changes and refinements in the design, casting and manufacturing. This brought Oliver's products up to the quality of the very best of their competition. In 1957 the 35 went on-sale, the 15 was upgraded to 16hp and at some point the 5 1/2 found another 1/2hp and became a 6.

In the late 1950's Oliver was purchased by the British engine maker Perkins and at some point around 1960 production of outboard motors was moved to the UK. Reference material says that Oliver discontinued sales of outboards in the United States as of May 1960. Badge engineered variations of the Perkins/Oliver motors show up in europe under a host of different names well into the mid 1960's.

For more information on Oliver outboards be sure to visit my friend Dick G's excellent Oliver Outboard Motor Cyber Museum at the following link: Oliver Outboard Motor Cyber Museum

Here are some views of my 1956 J-2 "Five 1/2

1956 Oliver J-2 "Five 1/2"



The Oliver's green and white colors go nicely with my old DuraNautic!

Year & Model:
1956 J-2
Horsepower: 5 1/2 @ 4,500 rpm
2-Alternate Firing

Bore: 2"
Stroke: 1 1/2"
Ignition: Bendix Scintilla Magneto
Point Gap: .018"
Cooling: Water by impeller
Condition: Original
Retail price when new: $215.00
Weight: 50 lbs.
Oil/Gas Mix: 1/2pt TCW3 per gallon fuel
Spark Plug: Champion J-8J (Now J-8C)

Zippy styling, high quality and good performance make this Oliver a fun and unusual classic outboard.

Its top speed of 9.1 mph on the 12' DuraNautic is only average when compared to other 5 1/2hp outboards of this vintage. I think the massive full-gearshift foot holds it back since its Chris Craft Challenger older brother runs almost 2mph faster.

The Bendix magneto, while costly to fix, delivers such excellent spark that this motor will idle all day at a very low RPM. The motor is also very smooth and reasonably quiet, though some noise insulation inside the metal hood would make it even better.

The manual trim adjustment (a la Martin) is a nice feature and all the controls are easy to reach and use. The hood un-clips and lifts off to provide excellent access to the motor for maintenance and repairs. At 50lbs it is also light and portable with good hand-holds provided.

To sum it up, the Oliver J-2 is a splendid outboard motor and one of my favorites!

Here's a link to a You Tube video of the Oliver J-2 in action:


Additional discussion of the J-2:

And here is a picture of our other Oliver. He is a 2004 model year black miniature poodle and loves boating as much as the rest of us, especially with an Oliver outboard providing the zip!

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