A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE NEPTUNE MIGHTY MITE OUTBOARD MOTOR
By Doug Penn
originally for AOMCI Knuckle Buster Chapter's THE KNUCKLE KNEWS - Vol. 18, #4
In 1930 the Muncie Gear Works of Muncie Indiana, started building and marketing a 2 hp opposed twin
outboard motor. From this modest beginning came a line of outboard motors that spanned almost 60 years.
In 1938 they produced the first of what would, many years later, evolve into the popular Neptune Mighty Mite.
This little engine was a carbon copy of the Evinrude Scout motor that had sold so well the previous year. It
was designated as the 1A38 or 138A model, and was rated at 1.2 hp. The same motor was produced, almost
unchanged, as the 1A39 or 139A in 1939. In 1940 the horsepower and bore were increased to 1.5hp, with the
introduction of the 10A1, and the 11A1 in 1941. The 15A1 of 1945/46 was 1.5 hp as well.
This group of engines was the first of the MIGHTY MITE style motors. They are easily distinguished by their
spark plug, which was mounted on the starboard side of the cylinder head. With the exception of the piston
and cylinder bore, almost all the parts were interchangeable within this first group.
In 1947 the motors were increased to 1.7 hp with the introduction of the 17A1 model. I believe this was the
first of the series to have the rear facing spark plug. The first appearance of the name MIGHTY MITE does not
come into use until the introduction of the AA1A in 1956/57. Until that year they were called the Junior Singles.
The Muncie Gear Works was heavily involved in military parts production during the Korean War. No
outboards, at all, were produced during the years 1952 and 1953. When the outboard line was restarted in
1954, only the AA1 and some A1 leftovers were made and sold. Reportedly they were also under threat of a
major lawsuit from OMC. Their 1948-51 larger models were way too close in appearance to those of the best
selling Johnson outboards of that period.
In 1956 Muncie moved the air conditioning and heat pump division to Cordele Georgia. The outboard motor
production was moved with them. From that time on, all Muncie’s outboard motors weremade at Cordele.
The 17A1 and A1 motors were light green with red decals. The AA1 and AA1-A motors were silver with
maroon fuel tanks. The decals read “Neptune”, although the sales literature called them “Mighty Mite” from
Starting in 1960 andcontinuing thru 1969 the most common Mighty Mite, was made at Cordele. It was
designated the WC1 and is commonly know as the “Gold Bug” or “Gold Fish” motor. The entire motor was
painted gold and the fuel tank was squared off at the back. The previous models all had pointed or heart
shaped tanks. This motor carried the “Mighty Mite” decal. There seems to have been thousands and
thousands of them made, but no one has ever been able to come up with exact production figures. The 17A1,
A1, AA1A and WC1, constitute the second model grouping. While there are many small differences, most of
the parts are interchangeable within this group.
In June of 1969 Muncie Gear Works was purchased by Applied Devices Corp of College Point NY. The
outboard business was sold to a former employee and moved to Lehigh Acres Fla. E. Ray Abrams
manufactured the Model 500, and the plastic hooded, Model 700, from the Lehigh Acres address, under the
banner of his Telmar Corporation. It is here that the urban legend originated...”that the motors were
assembled by Senior citizens”.
The Model 500 was an updated version of the WC1. This new model had a Tillotson diaphragm carburetor and
the side covers to accommodate that change. Motors have been seen in both gold and the less common
turquoise color. All indications are the Model 500 was made from 1970 to at least 1978. Possible some were
sold later. The Model 700 was also called Mighty Mite. It was a redesign of the same old power head but wore
a plastic hood and had a rewind starter.
The Model 500 and 700 constitute the third parts group. Except for the covers and the rewind assemble; most
of the parts are shared between these engines.
Sometime in 1979 the Telmar Corp was sold to a group of investors and the headquarters weremoved.
Renamed MIGHTY MITE MARINE, the address appeared as Colton Rd, Old Lyme Ct. The Outboard Motors
were still produced at Lehigh Acres.
Shortly after that, the totally redesigned Model 800 appeared. There were three versions of this engine. The
800A, 800B and the Mighty Mite III. There are slight differences between the three but basically all the parts
interchange. This is an excellent little engine that should have been more successful than it was. American
made, water cooled, and incorporatinga neutral clutch and full pivot reverse, these were as good as anything
on the market at that time.
I will save the telling of the OLD LYME Mighty Mite’s story for another article.
But...We believe that there were roughly enough parts produced for 1000 complete Model 800 motors and
that the last ones were assembled no later than January 1987. The company struggled on under the
leadership of the last member of the original group of investors until it was dispersed sometime between 1989
and 1993 or possible a little earlier. No one in the outboard collecting community seems to know what
happened to the dies and the tooling for the Model 800 motors after the company quietly closed its doors for
the last time. Rumor has it that the tooling was worn out and that their US foundry had succumbed to
A sad ending for one of America longest running outboard motor marques.