Laura Tiger – I Just Work With Her
Published: Thursday, April 11, 2019
By: John Tiger
At the risk of self-promotion (wife promotion?), this writer’s wife and partner, Laura Tiger, certainly fills a unique niche in the boating world. Our little business in Virginia Beach restores and rebuilds two-stroke outboards. Not antiques or show engines usually, though we do a few custom special (race and classic) engines each year. Our bread-and-butter are regular service engines, those Johnson/Evinrude, Mercury, and Yamaha traditional carbureted and EFI two-stroke engines from the 1980s to early 2000s, that we grew up with. Our business is split in three basic ways: complete engine restorations, powerhead and gearcase rebuilds, and regular service (carburetor rebuilds, water pump replacements, etc.).
So where does Laura come in? Most traditionalists and old-schoolers might imagine that she runs the business’ “back office”, doing the books and answering the phones. That assumption couldn’t be more incorrect.
“I've only been in the industry five years,” Laura explains, “and I don't encounter women in my work. I would love to see more women take a hands-on role in boat and motor work. As someone who began her career in a corporate setting, I have found hands-on work is far more rewarding.”
Contrary to the conventional assumption, Laura does all of the disassembly work – stripping engines and powerheads down to the last nuts and bolts, and carefully storing and categorizing all the parts. Together, we prep and clean all parts for reassembly including the engine blocks, crankshafts, connecting rods, and all related parts. She meticulously disassembles and cleans carburetors spotless, so they’re ready for rebuild. Even more involved, Laura also does all of the “body work” on our restored engines. She is a one-woman body shop, stripping off all old paint, sanding and cleaning all the major parts (hood, lower cowl, midsection, clamp brackets, swivel bracket, steering arm, power trim unit, and gearcase). She carefully applies body filler where needed, sanding and priming the parts to check her work. She finish-primes all parts with zinc chromate, then automotive sealer primer, then several coats of factory enamel, then two coats of clear on top. With new decals and rebuilt innards, our restored engines run like new and look even better.
“My favorite part about this work is seeing these salty old two strokes transformed,” she continues. “We live in a saltwater area, which wreaks havoc on outboards in a short period of time. I love working to renew them, and especially love seeing the completed motor hanging on the customer's transom.”
To become even more proficient and give the engines an even better appearance, Laura studied auto body and painting techniques graciously offered by a good friend and local auto body repair expert. She continues to hone her ability and has become extremely adept at this craft. Without Laura’s expertise, attention to detail, and never-satisfied quest for elusive perfection, our engines could never look and run as they do. With many hundreds of satisfied customers, it’s clear to this writer that a better work partner and life mate would be impossible to find.
“As a Michigan girl,” Laura says, “I've always loved boating but I didn't become involved in the business until I married my husband. We found working in the shop together is a great way to spend time with each other. I now work full time at it and have my own shop!”
Her expanded enthusiasm for boating doesn’t end there. She’s taken a particular liking to older, classic boats and outboards, and to date owns two classic Glastron runabouts as well as several 50s and 60s classic display outboards. When she’s not in the shop, she’s enjoying the sound, smell, and performance her classic engines bring.
When asked about her inspiration, Laura replied, “My husband. He has such a passion for keeping these two-stroke outboards alive. There isn't a motor he can't fix!”
Author’s note: I didn’t pay her for this endorsement!
This article first appeared in the Spring Issue (Mar/Apr) 2019 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.