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
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)
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.
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.
more information on Oliver outboards be sure to visit my friend
Dick G's excellent Oliver Outboard Motor Cyber Museum at the following
Outboard Motor Cyber Museum
are some views of my 1956 J-2 "Five 1/2