On May 31, 1956, OMC purchased Industrial Engineering Ltd., a Canadian chain saw manufacturer and further diversified with the formation of the Pioneer Saws Division in Waukegan. Management of the new division decided to focus their development efforts on products for the casual weekend user rather than the commercial lumber industry. The new Pioneer saw was an immediate success with consumers. A year later, OMC purchased the Lincoln, NE based Cushman Motor Works. Cushman was the low-cost leader in land transportation with their well-known line of gas and electric scooters, golf carts, and industrial three-wheeled vehicles. OMC’s goal in this acquisition was to dominate the market for economical transportation on land and water.
By the end of the 1950s, OMC had more than 9,000 employees and 30,000 retail dealers throughout the world. OMC also had an impressive production and transport system which included 27 million feet of office and factory space, 8 truck tractors, 20 trailers, 2 DC-3 aircrafts, and 2 Twin Beechcraft planes. Based upon sales figures from 1959, OMC was named as the 259th largest industrial corporation in the United States.
In 1958, OMC introduced the V-block engine, which was used in the electric-starting Johnson Super Sea Horse V-50. The electric-starting Evinrude Starflite and manual-starting Fifty-Four also contained the V-block engine but both models were quickly discontinued less than two years later. Thermostats were also introduced in 1958 and placed in both of the Evinrude V-50s, as well as the 35-hp Lark. In 1959, to celebrate their 50th Jubilee Anniversary, Evinrude designed all of its outboard motors with gold accents on the all-fiberglass cowlings. Johnson, in turn, designed a new Sea Horse emblem and placed in on its trademark white cowling.
Johnson produced its two millionth motor in 1960, the same year that OMC opened a 52,000 square foot plant in Bankstown, New South Wales, Australia. Within its first year of operation, the new facility produced 14,000 outboard motors. Production continued to increase at a rate of 25% per year for the next five years.
The year 1961 saw the resurrection of the “Matched Unit”. OMC announced in April 1961 that it planned to produce a line of boats in the following year. The 17-foot day cruisers were designed to be matched with a new stern-drive 80-hp, 4 cylinder inboard-outboard motor. The boats were to be produced by the newly formed Special Products Division (later renamed the OMC Boat Division). When the 17-foot boats hit the market in 1963, consumers were offered three basic configurations – an outboard runabout, a deluxe runabout, and an open forward cockpit model. Each model was available with a choice of engines – an 88-hp V-4 twocycle, a 110-hp inline four-cycle, or a 150-hp V-6 four-cycle. A year later, Evinrude began to sell 16-ft boats – a conventional runabout called the Sweet 16 and an open forward cockpit model called the Sport 16. Boat production continued at OMC until 1970.
Push-button technology was all the rage in the early 1960s. To capitalize on this trend, Evinrude introduced push-button shifting on all of its 1962 models. Johnson featured Electramatic electromechanical forward to reverse shifting on its 40-hp and 75-hp models and added a 28-hp compact model to its lineup. Similarly, Evinrude came out with the 28-hp Speeditwin in 1963. That year, Evinrude sold 87,398 motors, while Johnson sold 88,118. Also that year, OMC launched a line of marine accessories, ranging from electric starting kits to propellers. In August 1962, OMC stopped production of private label outboards at their Gale factory so that efforts could be concentrated on producing and distributing a growing line of accessories.
Diversification continued in 1964 with the production of a new line of snowmobiles at OMC’s Canadian plant. The Evinrude snowmobile was called the Skeeter. It featured a 14-hp, two-cycle engine, thumb control throttling and disc brakes. The Skeeter sat on a 15-inch wide rubber track and could reach speeds up to 30 mph. An identical Johnson unit was called the Skee-Horse.
The 1960s also brought about a number of line changes for Evinrude and Johnson. The 28-hp Speeditwin was re-launched as the 33-hp Ski Twin. The Fisherman was boosted from 5 ½ hp to 6-hp and the budget-friendly 5-hp Angler was introduced. Two new 14-foot outboard boats were added in 1965. However both the Lark 14 and Sport 14 were discontinued a year later. Johnson added a high-thrust V-60 and V-75, along with a 5-hp unit similar to Evinrude’s Angler. Record sales were achieved in 1966 when net sales for boats, motors, snowmobiles, lawn mowers, and Cushman vehicles reached $212.4 million.
Sales at OMC weren’t the only things setting records in the 1960s. World speed records were also being set using Evinrude motors. In March 1960, Hu Entrop used the Starflite II to power his 14-foot hydroplane to a record 114.65 mph. In September, Entrop used another Starflite II engine to bump the record to 122.97 mph. The introduction of a new 115-hp motor in 1967 renewed OMCs interest in factory-sponsored racing. The High-Performance Group was established in 1967 and OMC reentered the racing arena with three boats at the Parker Enduro in Parker, AZ. Unfortunately none of OMC’s boats even finished the race. Despite their lackluster start, the OMC team managed to win 11 out of 16 Outboard Performance Class races that year and placed first in 1 out of 4 ocean races.
OMC continued to grow throughout the 1970s, adding more factory and warehouse space. The result was newer and better models of all of its products in the marketplace. In 1971, the Starflite 115 was replaced by a high-performance Starflite 125-S and a new Starflite 100 was introduced. Similarly, on the Johnson side, the Sea Horse 115 became the Sea Horse 125 V-4 and a new Sea Horse 100 was introduced. Snowmobiles began to come with a standard Wide- Trac and were offered with both manual and electric starting.