Vintage Johnson Outboard Identification

by Will Charpentier

If you have vintage Johnson outboard that you need to identify, all you need to do is look at the outboard's model number, found on either a tag on the starboard side -- the right side -- of the motor or on the port side of the motor's mounting bracket. Deciphering the letters in the model number will tell you everything you need to know.

Model Variation Code

The first letter in the model number of a Johnson outboard is the market for which the outboard was intended. These letters -- A, B, C, H and S -- represent Australia, Belgium, Canada, Hong Kong and South Africa, respectively. Outboards intended for use on Tracker boats are marked with a "T," and motors that were sold to boat manufacturers for inclusion in package sales, where a motor and boat were sold together as a package, are marked with a "V."

OMC's Brand Identifier

The second letter in the model number identifies the motor's brand. OMC made Johnson, Evinrude and -- for boat manufacturers, Quiet Rider -- outboards, indicated by an "E" for Evinrude, a "J" for Johnson and a "V" for Quiet Rider. Because of the many similarities in, and minor differences between, the motors, it was essential to include the specific brand in the model number so that repair personnel and consumers wouldn't order a part that would fit on an Evinrude but not a Johnson.

The Driveshaft Length

The only group of numbers in a Johnson model number indicates the horsepower, plainly stated in numbers -- a 40-horsepower motor has a "40" in this position. Immediately following the horsepower is a group of two letters representing a design feature -- such as electric start -- of the outboard. Following this is a single letter or a blank space that indicates the driveshaft length. Johnson has 20- and 25-inch driveshaft lengths, indicated by "L" and "X," respectively. A blank space tells you the original driveshaft was 15 inches long. Johnson's 22.5-inch shaft is identified by the letter "Y" and the 30-inch shaft by a "Z."

Year Built

The two letters next to the last are two of the letters in the word "Introduces." Each of the letters in that word represents one of the last two numbers in the year in which the outboard was built: "I" represents 1, "E" represents 9. The rest of the letters represent the numbers between those two. "S" stands in for 0. The last letter or number in the model number tells which factory shift built the engine.


  • "Johnson Repair Manual -- 2.5 to 250 HP Models, 2002-2007"; Seloc Marine; 2007

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.