The New Face of Outboards

Henry Ford said, “You can get a Model T in any color you want … as long as it’s black.” And for the last few decades most outboard manufacturers have used a one-color-fits-all motif as a branding device. Mercury and Suzuki outboards were black, while Yamaha’s and Honda’s were gray. Only Evinrude offered blue and white, but that was largely because it had folded Johnson into its line, and its outboards were white. But to quote another Midwesterner, “The times, they are a-changin’.”

One of the hottest trends in boating over the last few years is the explosion of colored hulls, rather than ubiquitous white ones. Seeing lots of boats together at an event such as the Miami Boat Show these days is like peering through a kaleidoscope and being rewarded with a mosaic of boats of every color, and outboard manufacturers have taken notice. Over the last few years, we started seeing outboard engines in colors other than the off-the-rack look. So who and what’s behind the changing landscape of outboard engine appearance. In other words: Hue done it?

The poster boy for the rainbow revolution is the industry’s newest outboard builder, Seven Marine. In 2011, the manufacturer unveiled a 557 hp outboard based on the Cadillac CTS-V V-8 — in black. But judging from what we’ve seen in the last couple of years, the first two 557s we saw might be the last that were black. The next year we saw them in robin’s egg blue, and in 2013 we saw two 557s painted to resemble a lit-up dolphin-fish (see photo opposite) in all its electric-blue, green and yellow glory. We saw others at the convention center in fluorescent orange and lime green. What color do you want? Just plunk down around $70k, order one and choose any color your want, no extra charge. Or if you want to get fancy and create a custom design, Seven Marine can do that, too.

This year, for the first time, Suzuki is offering engines in Cool White with black and blue graphics in addition to its traditional Shadow Black Metallic finish. Cool White is available on select motors from the DF150 all the way to the torque-monster DF300. One advantage of white is that it makes a great blank canvas to match your boat with custom paint or different color graphics and decals.

In South Florida, many boat builders turn to The Outboard Paint Shop ( for their custom outboard paint work, and it’s a pretty involved process. According to owner Miguel Narvarte, primary colors are the hardest and most expensive to apply. Narvarte and his team start by taking all the plastic parts off and cataloging them. Then they do a degreasing, sand the existing paint off, apply a primer coat, use DuPont Imron for the paint, follow that with decals or graphics, and then apply a clear coat for added protection. This process usually runs around $1,700 per engine. White or black requires fewer steps, and Narvarte uses Awlgrip and then applies colorful graphics and decals to add some flash. The treatment starts at around $1,200. Just to add new decals and graphics costs between $400 and $500.

Boat builders such as Nor-Tech keep everything in-house and do custom outboard painting for the ultimate in control. Nor-Tech uses proprietary PPG paint or DuPont Imron to achieve a factory-fresh look. Most of the designs we’ve seen from Nor-Tech feature a white base with color accents and custom graphics that closely resemble the factory design — a clean look with a lot of pop. The builder works closely with an owner to get the look that’s perfect, and it can get as creative as an owner wants. Terry Sobo, Nor-Tech’s marketing manager, figures the typical custom job adds about $1,200 to the cost of a motor.

If you are considering a custom paint job, you really need to go to someone who specializes in outboards and has a reputation for quality. Engine manufacturers have spent a lot of money to develop good-looking, durable finishes for their outboards, and using someone who might cut corners to save a few bucks could easily result in a finish that won’t hold up against a harsh marine environment. When in doubt, contact your engine manufacturer or a local dealer to see if the pros there have any info about a specific custom painter.


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