Rare 1958 Woodard Runabout Emerges From A Barn In Vermont After 30 Years
Stories about true barn find boats are always great, regardless of make, model or size – They are what many of us love to hear about and hope to one day experience for ourselves. Last week we learned about a rare 1958 Woodard runabout that was found stashed away inside a barn in Vermont, and (new fellow Woody Boater) Chad Pepin from Island Marine Service just happened to be in the right place at the right time.
The late, great Bob Speltz covers the history of the Woodard family in his book “The Real Runabouts VI” and describes the Woodard boat legacy in typical Bob Speltz fashion. Here’s an excerpt from the book…
The great depression finally caught up with the wood Woodard-McCrea Boat Works, and the firm closed sometime during the height of those terrible times. Most of the Woodard family remained in the boat business in some way or other. Both Lindsey and Raymond continued to build boats, Lindsay building cedar strip rowboats as well as hand-crafted oars.
Raymond went on to manufacture small outboard runabouts, mostly as a hobby, but that hobby soon again became a full-time business. The new plant was located here in the United States at a site in Chester, Vermont. Once again, the Woodard name was attached to quality boats. At the height of its production Woodard boats was producing 18 boats a year in 12-, 14-, 15-, and 16-foot sizes. There are some old family photos showing the development of the Woodard outboards from 1954 up through the very early 1960s. During the winter months hulls were built and stacked to save space, being completed in the summertime.
In the late 1950s and early ’60s fiberglass was taking over in boats. Woodard boats had been fiberglass covered inside and out since about 1955, but it was obvious to everyone concerned that the era of the wooden boat was soon to be only a memory. Because of that, Ray Woodard made another hard decision, that being to close down his boat plant and move to Lake Bomosen, Vermont, where he built and operated Woodard Marine. – Bob Speltz
Last September we got a sneak peek of another great Woodard runabout in a story from none other than Greg Woodard, titled Classic Boaters Ascend On Lake Bomoseen, VT For The Lake Champlain Chapter Fall Cruise. It was this story that prompted Chad Pepin to contact us here at Woody Boater, looking to get in touch with Greg to learn more about the classic Woodard marque.
Chad did get in touch with Greg Woodard and he was excited to hear and see that another of the few Woodard boats had survived! Greg noted that from the pictures Chad sent him, it appears to be one of the most complete 14 footers he has seen. Greg and his father Bob Woodard from Woodard Marine are planning a visit later this winter to check out the progress and document the boat for their records.
Texx – I am the third owner of the boat. I purchased it from a Patricia Dix who needed to get the boat out of the barn as the property was being sold. Mrs. Dix contacted me, as my shop is located approximately 1/2 mile from her property and being in the marine repair business, she thought I would be interested in the old boat.
She called me and asked if I would want “an old boat” that she needed to move, as the house was being sold in a week. I thought to myself, “The last thing I want is another old boat sitting in the yard.” I pictured an old MFG or the like as these are common in my area. But I felt bad for the woman and decided to take a ride over to see what she had.
What I found was a half covered 14′ Woodard plywood molded runabout with the original 35hp Johnson tossed in the back. The mice had moved into most of the boat and engine, and made quite a mess. It was dark, but from what I could see, it was in very sound condition and very complete.
After returning from the war, Mr. Dix had purchased the boat from the original owner in southern Vermont, somewhere near where the boat was built in Chester, VT. Mr. Dix and his wife moved to Grand Isle in the early 1970’s.
Mrs. Dix explained that the boat had been a love of her husband who passed away in 1985. He had parked the boat in the barn in Grand Isle, VT in 1984 and it’s been sitting there ever since.
Being self employed in the marine repair business, working 7 days a week from April to mid November, I don’t even own a boat, but always wanted a cool little wooden boat that I could restore and this one just feel into my lap! I offered Mrs. Dix $300 dollars for the boat, motor & trailer and she gladly excepted!
We have now started work on the boat restoration and it’s coming along nicely. I have removed all the mahogany deck and have stripped all the old varnish from the interior. The original Johnson 35hp is in poor condition and I am planning to install a new 40hp 4-stroke outboard.
We have also finished a complete restoration on the original Mastercraft trailer.
We are hoping to have her back in the water for the first time in more than 30 years this coming summer, and are planning to keep and enjoy our new (old) Woodard runabout for many years, as it’s very rare and my wife just loves it!
Island Marine Service LLC – Grand Isle, VT
Thanks for sharing your story with us today Chad. The Woodard runabout looks great and we look forward to seeing how she looks after the restoration is completed and back in the water later this year.
Chad’s company Island Marine Service is a power and sail boat repair and maintenance company. They work on everything from small runabouts up to 55′ cruisers. They do both gas a diesel engine repair, all systems, detailing, gel coat and fiberglass repair, specializing in large boats and mobile service. So we think the little Woodard is in good hands.
Nice to see some plywood love!
Love the way this story weaves through the Woodard history along with Chads own experience.
Chad I love your Snap-on toolbox in the background. Just one of those things that always jumps out at me since I started my Snap-on business the same year your boat was tucked into that barn.
Sweet find Chad! Can’t wait to see it on the water.
Chad, that’s a nifty little boat. You are an inspiration. May I suggest you have the new outboard engine cowling hood (I think that’s the correct term) painted so it blends with the boat better? I totally understand the preference for a modern outboard — a topic that’s been covered on this blog before — but I always find it a bit of a visual shock / disappointment when a modern motor is hanging on a classic boat. (It’s also a missed opportunity to do something tres cool.). Whether it’s era-correct paint, or decals, or both — or best of all, an artist-created a patina on the cowling hood — it would be terrific for the look of your boat.
Btw, your restored trailer is also cool, coming on the heels of yesterday’s story about the beauty of a vintage trailer under a vintage boat.
One request in closing. We already have one Chad on this blog. (He’s the one armed with a monkey.) We need a handle for you that differentiates you from him. Given some of his comments, it’s in your best interest too. So please pick one and let us know what it is so we know it’s you and not THAT Chad. You could be “Dangling Chad,” but perhaps that’s not the image you want to convey.
Please keep us appraised on your progress!
I would say it has to be Island Chad… 🙂
Or maybe flip it to “Chad Island”.
Dud you could be an island all your own.
Forgot the visual.
It was -10 degrees (F) this morning. The visual makes me want to trade my woody in for a vintage Grumman flying boat and head off to Hawaii!
Sweet as it gets, Chad! Takes me back to putting the Chetek back together. You are gonna LOVE the looks and waves from the docks and other boaters!
I also vote for vintage power, by the way. You’ve got the boat going…you’ve done the trailer…might as well complete the picture!
Great story! Good to see more plywood love.
The Bob Speltz reference was key. I remember as a kid reading his books off my dads shelf and seeing the Woodard Boat chapter.
It still amazes me how quickly my heart races every time I catch a glimpse of one of my grandfathers creations sitting in a port or barn. It also amazes me that my father ,age 15, and uncle, 13, were helping to build these boats in their little garage. I can’t wait to see Chad’s boat in person.
Talking with Chad he said a key phrase that brought a smile to my face…..”This is going to be our family boat”. That is everything Woodard boats represents in my mind.
We just started a Woodard Boats Owners/Enthusiast Group on Facebook. Join us as we continue to explore the history of these small boats.
Photo: 1959 15′ Woodard “Citation”. Photo Credit to Claire Wakefield
Greg its super to see that not only one but two of these wonderful little runabouts have managed to survive, especially so considering the small numbers of that must have been built in Chester. What a great testament to the quality of your forefather’s craftsmanship.
On a related note I took some time to explore the Woodard Marine link that Texx added to the story and was intrigued to find that the Woodard’s had partnered with the McCrae family way back in the late 1920s to build race boats in Hatley Quebec. According to the information on your family’s web site one of the models built by that firm was the elegant little pelican hydroplane designed by John Hacker..
Now I expect finding a Woodard/McCrae Pelican roosting in a New England Hay Mow for 70 years would be the ultimate barn find!
BTW the name McCrea triggered a memory. During the mid 1950s a Navel architect by the name of E. G McCrae ran monthly ads in Boat Sport magazine. According to the ads McCrae’s office was situated in North Hatley .I am now starting to wonder if Raymond Woodard asked his old business partner to design the new line of runabouts when he decided to go back into the boat building business in the early 50s?
A Woodard-McCrea would be the ultimate barn find, and it has eluded us for generations.
That is correct they built 151 Class Pelicans based on the John L. Hacker design. We know that “Smiling Dan” was a cup winning Hydroplane built in that shop. The Woodards and the McCreas had a falling out at some point in there history.
The North Hatley shop you speak of is the continuation of the McCrea family post split. My Great Great Uncle Frank Woodard was the last builder in that factory and he is the one who taught my Grandfather Raymond at a young age, the trade of boat building.
To answer your question, the designs are my Grandfathers but I bet there are a lot of similarities in McCrea’s as well. Knowing that the knowledge would have come from the same base….we can guarantee some overlap.
I have just begun this journey where my father & uncle left off about 10 years ago. Searching into the past to document this family history and see what I can find gives me so much gratitude and drives my passion.
As for the the 58′ in this article and my 59′ Citation, they are not the only two. We currently have 10 Woodard Boats in storage ourselves (in various stages of preservation) and we have helped restore and preserve 10-20 more. What we do know is that there are upwards of 100 boats built in a ten year span and some prior concepts that were built. I have searched for a ledger, but nothing has been found.
The most amazing thing is that are OUT THERE. Sitting, waiting, and wishing for a true woody boater to find them and bring them back to life.
I hope to bring you more news this coming year. Follow Woodard Marine and Woodard Boats – Owners & Enthusiasts Club on Facebook to stay up to date.
Love the new family boat! Go with the new 4 stroke. I am also self-employed in a buisness that keeps me most busy during the boating season. I have no time to mess with engines any more than needed. The new engines have many benefits. Maybe if they were made of wood and were varnished I would feel different. I will take Alex’s suggestion under advisement. Thanks for sharing.
The following is not exactly a barn find but rather an abandoned 26ft CC in the Seattle area. Jump ahead to the 0:41 mark to begin seeing the boat. Any takers ?!!
Thank you everybody for the words. This project has been great fun so far! To Troy, yes that is a Snap-On in the back ground, Almost 30 yrs worth! And to John and Alex, I know the engine subject is controversial, but the truth of the mater is, I am restoring this boat as a weekly user and not so much for show. I want a turn key fun reliable little cruiser. And the idea of making the new motor look like a 1958 is already bouncing around in my brain. I have found year specific decal kits on e-bay and would like to try and have some fun with that as well. I still have the old 35 Johnson hanging in my barn, and maybe some day, But for now I just have to figure out witch customers to put off so I can work on the Woodard…..
Just found a Woodward myself! Came with the Johnson. Everything is in nice shape, aside from needing a good sanding, painting and varnishing!
Great news Brad! Do you have photos? Texx@woodyboater.com
Brad wondering if your have photos and if your are in the New England area. Woodardwooden@gmail.com