Jeff & Laurie Knudsen from Holland, Michigan currently own three classic boats. A 1946 Gar Wood 19’6″ Deluxe runabout which is now being restored, a numbers matching bright sided Gar Wood Ensign which is a future project, and “Tin Can” a 1940’s Gar Wood Streamline Sedan Prototype.
Jeff is a relative newcomer to the antique & classic boating hobby and above all, wants to remain in good standing within the hobby. Jeff & Laurie purchased “Tin Can” late in 2009 recently after being restored by the Mayea Boat and Aeroplane Works of Fair Haven, Michigan. Regardless what the true background is on “Tin Can”, it’s a beautiful piece of classic boating history and deserves some recognition.
“Tin Can” is one of those mystery boats that no one seems to know very much about, because it was manufactured using aluminum and rivets, has no hull numbers and doesn’t really resemble any of the traditional wooden manufactured Gar Wood sedans (or utilities) from the period. Jeff Knudsen is determined to learn more about the origins of “Tin Can” and has spoken to a number of insiders within the hobby, but for the most part has not has much success. So recently Jeff contacted fellow Woody Boater Chad Durren to get Chad’s opinion on what steps Jeff should to take in order to gather more information about the boat’s history. Chad suggested that it might be a good idea to contact Woody Boater to run a story and reach out to the antique & classic boat community for help – And of course, Woody Boater jumped in head first! Heck – we haven’t run a controversial classic boat story for months now… Just kidding of course.
But how about a friendly debate on the subject… Kind of like the good old Kennedy vs Nixon Debate from 1960, but where we invite comments or suggestions from the Woody Boater Community, with the objective of learning more about the possible origin and DNA of “Tin Can” for further discussion.
We first became aware of “Tin Can” when Jeff brought it to the popular Hessel Boat Show in Michigan last summer. From the first moment we saw Chad’s photos of the boat at Hessel, we knew it was different, unique and probably a rare boat. But the mystery of “Tin Can” and it’s true origin and radical 60 year old riveted aluminum design remains unsolved.
To set up the debate, here is a description of “Tin Can” from Jeff Knudsen to the best of his knowledge…
“Tin Can” By Jeff & Laurie Knudsen – Holland, Michigan
A 1940’s Gar Wood 20′ 6″ Streamline Sedan Prototype. Restoration recently carried out (in 2009) by the Mayea Boat and Aeroplane Works of Fair Haven, Michigan.
Mystery surrounds the true origins of “Tin Can”. It is believed to be a Gar Wood prototype built sometime in the 1940’s as a design study to test the advantages of aluminum boat construction. When at Mayea’s workshop, old timers would come in and remember the boat at the plant but so far no concrete evidence has surfaced. So is this a prototype for Gar Wood or is it a special commissioned for an individual buyer. The craftsmanship is of too high a standard to be built in someone’s back yard. What is known is “Tin Can” incorporates many of the beautiful design features used by Gar Wood and Hacker in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. Interior and sides (ceiling panels, etc) are in mahogany throughout. The floors are done in teak. Seating & upholstery is done in leather.
In my opinion, the craftsmanship is of too high a standard to be built in someone’s back yard. It had to have been built in a shop of great craftmanship & capabilities to end up with a result of this quality.
Aircraft aluminum constructed hull, decks and roof. Typical of aircraft construction during the war years, all panels are held together by hundreds of hand bucked rivits. There are no welds. (It’s also interesting to note that according to Jeff’s information, all the aluminum on the roof, decks, and hull are original from when the boat was first manufactured in the 1940’s – Texx)
“Tin Can” is the only all aluminum streamline sedan known to exist. “Tin Can” was discovered and purchased from Fisher Marina south of Detroit in the 1970’s. They remember the boat but have no sales documents to trace the previous owner. The boat was brought to Lake Oakland in Michigan where it operated under the name of “Minnow”. It was sold to a friend who commissioned Mayea Boat and Aeroplane Works of Fair Haven, Michigan to do the restoration.
Was it built by an aircraft manufacturer such as Grumund or Fairchild?
Gar Wood did build aluminum buses in the mid 1930’s under the design and direction of William Stout, designer of the Ford Tri-Motor. Was “Tin Can” manufactured in one of Gar Wood’s bus plants? (It’s commonly known that Gar Wood was an avid pilot and often flew his favorite plane, a Fairchild A-942-B Amphibian from Detroit to the Gar Wood factory in Marysville, MI – Texx)
Shown below, the popular McDonnell Douglas DC-3 whose speed and range revolutionized air transportation in the 1930s and 1940s. Its lasting impact on the airline industry and World War II, makes it one of the most significant transport aircraft ever made. Many DC-3s are still used in all parts of the world.
Manufactured with aircraft quality aluminum components and thousands of rivets similar to “Tin Can” from the same era. The 30’s and 40’s marked a time in history when transportation was looking at the success of riveted aluminum construction for everything from aircraft, to buses, to trains, Airstream designed travel trailers and even some marine applications. The same techniques were used for the Feather Craft and other riveted aluminum boat manufacturers which caught on into the 1950’s. It’s also interesting to note that many of the early Feather Craft aluminum boats had a unique design style. Could this design style be a result of the aluminum manufacturing techniques being different than the tradtional wooden boat design, which if true, could be a clue as to the unique design and shapes incorporated into “Tin Can” in the 1940’s. – Texx
(Vintage DC-3 Photo provided Courtesy of Wire Lizard)
Drawings of a 30 ft Hacker designed sedan from 1943 have been found, and show some resemblance to the overall “Tin Can” design shapes.
Jeff & Laurie Knudsen, Holland Michigan
“Hornet II” , 1930/1939 29’6″ Gar Wood Step-hull Hydroplane. One of ten built by Gar Wood between 1929 and 1934 originally owned by Henry J. Kaiser who, after losing the Lake Championship race to Mercury, an all aluminum boat, sent “Hornet” to Howard Hughes who removed the wooden top and designed and built a custom aluminum top. “Hornet” never lost another race and when it was retired in 1953 it had won more races than any other boat in such a short time frame. It is powered by a Packard V-12 model 1A-1237 aircraft engine, one of the oldest Packard V-12’s in existence. The engine restoration and installation was done by Sierra Boats, of Lake Tahoe and the aluminum top was restored by Air Pirates.” For this and more info on this unusual Gar Wood creation click here to go the Hornet Race Boat web page.
So, if you have any information or comments on “Tin Can” please let us know, anonymous commets are welcomed as usual. Or you can e-mail them to Matt@woodyboater.com and we will post them for you. Or if you have a question, fire away and we will do our best to respond.
Let’s try to help Jeff & Laurie Knudsen learn more about their rare and unusual classic boat. We should clarify that they are considering selling “Tin Can” and have spoken to a few antique & classic boat brokerage firms for advice. But Jeff wants everyone to understand that this story is not about selling the boat, it’s about trying to learn more about the history and DNA of “Tin Can” so if and when they decide to sell it, the next owner will be better informed – period. That’s the kind of guy Jeff Knudsen is and how he wants to be viewed in the antique & classic hobby. And thats very cool…
The images for this story were supplied to Woody Boater by Jeff Knudsen and fellow Woody Boater Chad Durren who provided a great deal of assistance as we collectively prepared the “Tin Can” story. Thanks Chad for all your hard work and for introducing Jeff Knudsen and “Tin Can” to Woody Boater!
All three of us worked together on the story… Matt wanted to describe it as a Threesome Story but….
Matt – Chad – Texx
Story Update – March 11, 2011 -We received a photo of a vintage steering wheel from fellow Woody Boater Brian Toye that he found on line, which looks very close to the original wheel (as shown above) in “Tin Can”.
Brian commented… “Have a look at the following link to an AEC (Associated Equipment Company) bus steering wheel and if one just knocks off the little ribs, the wheel on the bus and the wheel on this boat are pretty close.”
click here www.steeringwheelrestoration.co.uk/image/gallery/5/aec_bus_steering_wheel_restored.jpg
Thanks Brian for sending this in, and if anyone else has any other info or comments about this story, please let us know.
Matt – Chad – Texx
Story Update – March 13, 2011 -Today we received a few more photos of post-war Gar Wood boats which may have been produced / delivered with the same type of steering wheel as shown above in “Tin Can”. The photos (shown below) are of 1946-47 Gar Wood 19’6″ Deluxe Runabouts. Here at Woody Boater, we are by no means claiming to be experts, or even knowledgeable on the subject of post-war Gar Wood boats, but simply trying to confirm the possibility that the steering wheel in “Tin Can” may in fact be the same as what Gar Wood Industries may have installed in some of their post-war production boats. We appreciate that steering wheels can also be replaced or used from other boats, but we are making every effort to help Jeff Knudsen, the owner, gather any information possible relating to the history, year and actual DNA of “Tin Can”. It’s difficult to do forensic investigation on a boat that appears to have no historical documentation, but it’s been a fun story just the same.
Below is a photo of Jeff Knudsen’s project boat which is currently being professionally restored. It’s a 1946-47 Gar Wood 19’6″ Deluxe Runabout Hull #7334 which he purchased from Doug Morin’s personal collection. Jeff commented… It came with a correct but not matching Chrysler Crown which Doug had sourced during his ownership. When I pulled the hull card it was discovered to have been ordered with a 140 hp Greymarine Fireball. Tony (Mollica) counted the total 19’6″ production to find out this is one of 6 out of a total production of 84 runabouts with this option. Since I have owned her, I have sourced the missing hardware and a new bottom is nearing completion. It was bright sided when new. Behind the after market gauge panel is the hole for the original large Gar Wood style gauge. That is the one interesting point about Tin Can’s fittings, it is all Gar Wood. Not just a portion of it. It could be purely coincidence and it is sending us all down the wrong path in our research, but somehow a complete compliment of Gar Wood hardware ended up on her. – Jeff Knudsen
The photo below (provided by Jeff Knudsen) was taken last year at the Les Cheneaux Islands Antique Wooden Boat Show in Hessel, Michigan. It’s a beautifully restored 1946 Gar Wood 19’6″ Deluxe Runabout “Lynthia” owned by Bob Stenger, of Long Lake, Michigan. Note this post-war Gar Wood also has the same style of steering wheel as shown in “Tin Can”. The circular gauge cluster also appears to be the same as “Tin Can”.
Last but not least, it appears that the same steering wheel was also used on fellow Woody Boater Jim Giesy’s rare 1946 Gar Wood 17’6″ Deluxe Runabout as shown on www.garwood.com by clicking here.
Then these images came in from Chad, to confirm that the same style of steering wheel was also used in 1946-1948 Plymouth cars as well. This wheel was quite common among Plymouth, Dodge and Desoto automobiles from the period, on post-war cars from ’46-’48, which were also known as “P15-D24″ cars. So if nothing else, we now have evidence as to the year the steering wheels were produced and sold to Plymouth, Dodge, Desoto and Gar Wood Industries… We think.
Stay tuned to Woody Boater for more updates on “Tin Can” as they become available.
Matt – Chad – Texx