Join Date: Feb 2000
Location: Annapolis, Md
Thanked 447 Times in 377 Posts
Rep Power: 10
I have to weigh in on the side of not discounting buying a boat with a decent condition Atomic 4. I have owned quite a few boats with Atomic 4's and one with a 1939 Universal Blue Jacket, the two cyl version of the AT 4. They are extremely easy to work on and frankly have proven as reliable and cheap to run as the diesels that I have owned.
Yes you have to learn to run the blower, sniff the bilge, check the points, and occasionally set the fuel mixture. Maybe once year pull the carb bowl and clean it (or else add a modern fuel filter/water separator). Its all pretty basic stuff. No easier or harder than diesel stuff.
My experience with Atomic 4's vs Diesel in the same model, 30 footer was that the AT4 burned roughly 3/4 gal per hour and the 2 cyl Volvo diesel burned something over 1/2 gal per hour. Frankly with 25- 30 hours a year of motoring in a big engine use year, it was not a big deal.
To me, part of the fun of owning old boats is that they are bound to have a vast need for TLC with the downside being that in most cases they also have a need for cash infusions that are way beyond the initial cost to purchase one. Old boats are not for tight of buget, weak of heart or the mechanically inept. Reliability and ease of use come at a price. The Atomic 4 in an engine compartment is the least of the problem.
Lastly, as CardiacPaul says in his post, in all of my years of sailing and being around boats, I have never heard of a sailboat with an Atomic 4 blowing up. In fact, with exception (an ancient wooden boat with no bilge blower and a leaky filler hose that filled its bilge with gasoline at a fuel dock) the only sailboats that I personally know of that have blown up have had diesel engines and propane stoves.