57 Comments on “A Gar Aluminum Sedan – Can We Help Solve A 60 Year Old Mystery For The Owner?

  1. It would be interesting to see what the actual rivet material is. If it was built from Aircraft rivet stock, the rivets would most likely have a dimple in the head. Aircraft rarely used the plain headed rivet that Feathercraft used extensively. The dimpled head rivet (aircraft) designation was a 2117-T4 compared to the FC’s plain head soft Aluminum 1100. The Aircraft dimpled rivet looks very similar to the plain head but has 3 times the shear strength. The reason is obvious – you would not want the seats to fall out at 50,000 feet.

    The only reason I bring this up is – if the TIN CAN has dimpled rivets, then for sure it had a close connection to an aircraft assembly designer or somebody that had a hand in aviation. It sure is a unique boat! amazing such a fine boat has no background history?

  2. we’ve never anything like it…its really wild…
    love the bus and the picture of Gar Wood looking out the cockpit window…what a great story, can’t wait to hear the ending!!

  3. Excellent story Matt, Texx & Chad. As John mentioned, it may take a little DNA type research to discover who may have done the aluminum rivet work on her.

    The forward deck appears to have rounded (non-dimpled) rivet heads and was laid out stylishly to somewhat resemble traditional wood planking. The cabin top appears to be done more like the wing of an aircraft would have been assembled.

    Following the war years Gar Wood Industries elected to redesign, retool and introduce non-traditional boats to the market place (a decision that back-fired). Tin Can may have been an experiment that turned out to be impractical to produce. Rather than brag about a failure, it’s possible she was kept under cover for fear of bad press at the time. Just my thoughts and speculation.

    Chris-Craft, Century, Lyman and a few others elected to continue building more traditional boats so they could hit the post-war market quickly, doing what they did best before the interruption. It worked well for them but it was equally risky at the time. What if the post-war public demanded the modern designs that Gar Wood and a few others began to offer? It could have gone either way.

  4. Quite often, it seems that the type of steering wheel and gauges the manufacturers used in both the Pre-War and Post-War boats can provide some evidence as to the originality of a particular marque.

    Does the steerng wheel and/or gauges in “Tin Can” resemble those used on any Post-War production boats? The 3-spoke wheel with the different width spokes looks a bit unusual.

    Also the rear vents in the transom appear to be similar to those used in the ’46 – ’47 Gar Wood utilities and runabouts…

  5. Its 2:00 pm…and all we have talked about is dimples in rivets.. DIMPLES IN RIVETS! thats it? Thats all we have.. OK, how bout this. I got an email from a guy “claiming” to be Gar Woods long lost nephew. He recalls a story from his grandfather who was in the war production business durring the war.. After the years of dimpling rivets he became familiar with the sound of banging metal and hot rivets. So when the war was over, he could not sleep. It was to quiet. So at night he would go into his shed and bang on his boat.. A boat given to him by his uncle Gar. After the years went by. The brother had completely rebuilt the boat out of aluminum.. NOW.. ya see the story would have ended there.. Except that the brother could not stop.. And finaly riveted his bride of 10 years in the head in a moment of unfortunate passion. The family was so embaressed that they hid the boat and that was that. Until now.. Thanks to Woody Boater.. Texx and Chad.. NOT ME! the family is horrified that this has all come out. … There… Jerry Springer… IS BACK!

  6. Hmmmm, where Pat Curtin when you need him!
    Seriously a beauty of a boat, that silver varnish must be a b*tch to sand and apply.

    How do you value a boat like this?
    I know whatever the next guy is willing to pay.

  7. I just don’t know what, other than the use of GW hardware, makes this look like a Gar. I guess the key is determining when it was made – pre or post war. I agree with Texx that the transom vents are post-war, but I do not know enough about the other harware to know if it is pre war or not. If this is post-war, then I would come down on the ‘not Gar’ side because it is a complete stylistic departure from the rest of the post-war line, which was brand new already. It strikes me as unlikely that GW would produce something like this after the war, when they were already going in a different direction style-wise. Remember, Gar shut down in early April 1947, so would have left very little time to design and produce the new line and something like this.

    The parent company of Gar Wood Boats undertook a complete review of the boat co. in 1945 or ’46, which ultimately led to it being closed. There is extensive documentation of this but no mention of this boat. I think if it existed at that time, it would have been noted in the consultants’ report. By this time, Gar Wood himself was no longer involved in the company – another reason the boat builder was closed.

    I have a post war Gar and the steering wheel, dash, interior layout and seats are totally different. Just about everything is different, actually. It is worth nothing that several prototypes of my ’46 22’6″ Sedan were built and photographic evidence of these exists. In fact, some were used in early post-war advertising.

    A boat like this was a real departure in the immediate post war period, and I think it unlikely that any manufacturer would have gone to the time and expense of making but then not documenting it or promoting it.

    Someone with the requisite knowledge needs to comment on the hardware, but to me there is little else to suggest a GW lineage.

    It occurred to me that Gar Wood Industries, parent of the boat company, could have undertaken something like this at some point – there is no doubt they had the capability to do it. Maybe some research on that angle should be undertaken.

    Could this be pre-war? If so, it might be more likely that it is a Gar, but I am not aware of any large aluminum boats being built at that time.

    I think it is a great boat, very unique and interesting. But, I would be very surprised if it was a Gar.

  8. Not to belabor rivets after John and Al gave us some valuable clues but it did send me off to the storage facility to check the rivets first hand. These do not seem to be the 50,000 foot variety for they do not have dimples. The cabin rivets are much smaller and flatter with a head OD of 5/16 and the deck and hull rivets are more rounded and have a head OD of 1/2 inch.

  9. This boat hasn’t been in a movie, has it? “Cause if it has been, I’m sure we’d get to the bottom of the story. We might even find one or two more long lost models…. Oh, the possibilities… ahh, never mind.

  10. Matt, That just gave me an idea. What if you produced a black & white movie to look like it was filmed in the 1940’s and we can say it’s the long lost, never before seen movie with Ernest Borgnine driving the boat.

    We can say it was recently discovered at a garage sale in Marysville in a film can for $5.00 and …

  11. Could this just be a one off someone did in their garage? Or maybe a small yard did from private plans. Back in the day yards all over the place were building. Around here Ketcham boats were built on LI, NY but I’ve only seen 1. Just a thought if there are no identifying marks on the ribs or anywhere else.

  12. I really think Jeff really has something here. Yes, it’s unorthodox in construction, but you really have to see it to appreciate what he has. The boat is really striking in it’s design and construction. I was able to be near it first hand and this is not a homebuilt boat. The rivets are very straight and parallel

  13. It’s hard (maybe unfair) to compare this boat to any Gar Wood “production boat” at the time, pre or post-war.

    I think we should explore connecting the boat to Gar Wood, the man, and not Gar Wood, the company. There is no doubt Gar Wood had the resources to create such a boat.

    While Gar Wood shut it’s doors in 1947, Gar himself retired much earlier (41-ish) to Miami, where he continued to invent, create and build other unique craft. Perhaps this is just one of his experiments?

    Heck, I screwed a milk crate to a skateboard when I was a kid and I didn’t take a picture of it. The only documentation I have is a scar on my knee.

  14. I really think Jeff really has something here. Yes, it’s unorthodox in construction, but you really have to see it to appreciate what he has. The boat is really striking in it’s design and construction. I was able to be near it first hand and this is not a homebuilt boat. The rivets are very straight and parallel and the lines are very fair. Pre-war or post war? The bowlight is one used between 1941-47, as is the red dot 5 function gauge panel. My 41 gars had dash switches that had the word light and start stamped in the center. The lifting eyes and step pads are GW hardware and used in similar years. Ventilators look pretty common, not GW specific. The logo is post war, but Jeff tells me that that wasn’t on the boat when it came in for restoration. Gars passion for flying and rubbing shoulders Fairchild and Grumman nay have lead to a mutual project that never took hold. If it was a prewar, I would think it would have had a 4 gauge instrument panel and a 4-5 tine 3 spoke banjo wheel. No doubt, a sweet and interesting ride. My 2 cents is that it’s real! Hard to prove but real. Enjoyed the pics.

  15. I agree with Chad – I think it is most probable that if the boat company built it, there would be some record, photographic or otherwise, attesting to it. Perhaps Gar himself did commission it somehow? That would be very interesting.

    Also, I think that the owner might consider having a few experts from the boating community go through it with a fine toothed comb and make their obervations. If he can get it out to shows, there should be plenty of opportunity for that.

    I think it is great that he is putting the boat out there like he is, in an effort to sort this one out and end the mystery. Many people would not do that, perhaps afraid of what they might find. Somebody somewhere will probably recognize this and come up with the answer.

  16. Chad’s right on. According to Tony M’s book, when Gar’s brother Logan died, Gar lost the buffer between GW Industries and GW the individual and retired in 1942. I think based on the details of the boat and hardware it would fall between 1940 and 1942. That puts it in a late prewar catagory and let’s not leave out Gar Jr and his possible involvement with his father on something like this. Gar Forms???

    • Bob Shapton – Thanks so much for your candid comments today, this is exactly what we were hoping to see from the “Tin Can” story. Please keep them coming.

      Also – Thanks to everyone for your insight and comments.

      Over the last few days, I think I read Tony Mollica’s & Bob Speltz books until I wore the ink off the pages trying to find anything on the alumium Gar Wood development… But nothing.

      The “Tin Can” story will be listed on the Woody Boater home page for the next month under “Woody Boat of The Month” so hopefully we can continue to gather information on this wonderful, rare craft.

  17. The engine is thought to be original – can someone date that from the serial number? In all likelihood we’ll never know for sure if it is the original engine or not, but establishing a build date for the engine would be provide an interesting bit of information.

    I had thought it might have been a GarForm or Truscott prototype as well. As people are aware, Truscott ended up with some GW jigs and equipment and tried to make a go of producing some models from the GW post war line but calling them Truscott’s. Perhaps they were behind this?

  18. The big shout out to Lake Michigan. When I see that picture I can only see myself in my boat looking for Tin Can while I look at the dunes. Someone stop A. McC.

  19. As long as we’re speculating… Matt, it wasn’t Gar’s nephew, it was his niece. She learned a new skill while all her male cousins were away at war. She learned to rivet airplane parts together. In her spare time she wanted to apply her newly found skill but hated flying. So she built a boat instead, using some of the old plans and hardware that uncle Gar let her have years before. There ya go, Woody “Springer” Boater, Mastermind of cock & bull.

    Back to reality, this boat appears to have been meticulously built by skilled craftsmen who were very knowledgeable in boat building and in aluminum fabrication. The forward deck suggests they were emulating the traditional plank work typical of pre-war Gar Wood construction. She may remain a mystery until someone recognizes her and can fill us in on her origin.

    Meanwhile, Matt’s story wins, hands down…

  20. I just want to toss out one other avenue for the experts as far as design. In my research, a boat that most closely resembles Tin Can is pictured in Speltz book volume two page 156. It is a one off Post War 30′ Hacker sedan called ‘Comanche”. If someone has a scanner…. There you can see similar design points of interest that were mentioned earlier concerning the roof line, combing, and the barreled transom.

    Thank you for the kind words Paul H. and everyone else. I admit I have tossed and turned a little the last few nights over the impending exposure. However, after 30 plus years of collecting, primarily auto related, I have learned that great quality in design and execution rarely happens by accident. I’ve remained open minded over the possible outcome and am confident there will be a great story here. Tin Can deserves her history. I thank Matt, Chad, Texx and the Woody Boater community for your help and look forward to the continued dialog.

  21. OH god, all across the globe grown men are scrambling for there speltz books.. I love it..

  22. Chrysler M7’s were built from 6/27/41 thru 1/30/48 with a serial number range starting at M7-6401 to M7-34664. Total production is 28,263 but i do not have a year by year production breakdown. Engine in Tin Can is 26626 assuming it is original. I would imagine the bulk of the production was for the War effort.

  23. A few items.

    GW’s electric car looks much like a Mini Moke which was designed for WWII. One wonders which came first.

    Owning a 1930 custom one-off craft, I can fully relate to the uncertainty of not knowing much about the beauty sitting in your garage. I do hope the owners of this craft stay the course in researching the history as it eventually pays off.

    Regarding the steering wheel, I remember seeing very similar wheel on a circa 1930s Studebaker 4dr sedan. Just a thought.

    A critique for this boat. Considering that we often use our crafts when the weather is nice and sunny, I’d hate to be out and about on a 90 deg day and accidentally touch any of the aluminium bits – yeeooowwch !

    Designwise, it is a work of beauty though.

  24. That’s it! It’s a studabaker! All kidding aside. Is this a good time to introduce the concept of raymond Lowey?

  25. Just a quick note on the wheel, I think the shadows from taking an inside shot are distorting the shape of the wheel. The three spoke wheel is identicle in shape to the one that came on my post war 19.6 Deluxe Runabout which I assumed was one of Gar Woods standard wheels of the 1940ies.

  26. For those of you that are following the “Tin Can” story, fellow Woody Boater Brian Toye sent us a photo and link to AEC (Associated Equipment Company) a bus steering wheel supplier which shows a steering wheel similar to the original “Tin Can” wheel. The photo and link has been added to the bottom of the story.

    • To whoever doubts of Garwood the inventor doing secret projects and prototypes. I have a one of a kind custom, rear driven, Garform brass tiller steering boat, that was designed and built by Garwood Senior and Garwood Junior, when Garform first started. The tiller steering was instant in it;s turning abilities, as opposed to the drag that the steering wheel cable was, so as to Garwood senior, and his unpublisized projects, they are out there.

      I’m trying to find and contact the person where I have seen a similar boat on the north shore of Lake Huron, Where Garwood had his summer retreat and designed and built rare inventions that never came out.

  27. Cadmar – Thanks for your comments, we appreciate them. If you have any success finding the person on Lake Huron we would love to hear from him. Heck, if he has some knowledge about Gar Wood’s rare inventions, Woody Boater will just go there and interview him!

    You can contact us directly at texx@woodyboater.com


  28. Thanks for the post CADMAR! I hope you can bring to light some more GW inventions.

    Of course, now we need to see pics of your Garform.

  29. My research on hardware and steering that Garwood used it was also used on other types of boats, like the Garform boat had the same hardware, also Peterbourgh Wood Boats of Ontario, Canada, where Garwood visited on numerous occasions.

    Here are some links to identify a Garwood steering wheel of that type, with a Peterborough, it is not the same design of crossers in the steering itself, like the Tin Can.

    Garwood steering

    Peterborough steering

    As you can see, they are not the same type of steering wheel.

    It would be nice to see what would come out of the woodworks from this Garform topic, if it was to kick off, since GW Junior and his Garform boats never went far in its developments, thats what makes them so rare and unique at the beginning of the fibreglass stages of boat building.

    I have been told that when Garwood participated in making a prototype, or an invention, he would always leave a plaque, or a stamp on it of his initials. Any custom boats built by the Garwood company would come with authentication bill of sale matching the documentation of said boat and motor type and matching numbers.

    Hopefully this has been of some help to the steering topic.

  30. It is Gar Wood, not Garwood or GarWood. (pet peeve), both his name (Garfield Wood) and boat company brand.

  31. HA.. Clarity, I have to google it to remind myself all the time. By the way, I looked up Garforms, Or is it Gar Forms.. Regardless they are very cool

  32. I was all excited thinking Chad just provided the best clue to determine the actual date, Post War Pre War, that Tin Can was built. However, the same wheel was also offered on 1941 Plymouths. Plymouth as well as Gar Wood must have used up Pre War inventory in their Post War productions. It is an interesting note that suppliers did supply both Auto and Marine industries. The wheel in question was made of a Bakelite (early plastic) compound.

  33. A little late to the party, but…

    Another hint may be the hull construction. On Gar Wood boats of that period the intermediate frames where rabitted into the keel and chine. Not sure if anyone else constructed boats like that. This may not help out on the pre-war post-war issue but may be another clue that the boat was manufactured by Gar Wood.

  34. How do you set yourself up to get notifications on topics when a new reply has been posted (like Boat Buzz)? I signed in and created passwords and all that but haven’t been able to figure out how to do it. With this old post maintaining high participation it would be neat to know when someone chimes in. Am I missing something?

  35. Well, just wrapped up three long days in the Gar Wood archives at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, NY. I promised Texx I would do some digging on this boat and I went through everything. The entire ledger, every photo album, every document… everything. I found nothing on Tin Can. I even tried to track the engine serial number – not listed. Sorry. I tried.

    • Brian – Thanks very much for your effort during your visit to the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton. We appreciate it and I know Jeff Knudsen appreciates this as well.

      The mystery continues…

  36. Lonestar opened it’s first production in grand prarie Texas in 1949..

    This boat was designed just prior to that and has LONE STAR BOATS written all over it !! 🙂 I own 9 of them, all aluminum rivited from the 50’s and none are for sale..
    I has he same designs as the bigger Lonestars..

  37. I wish I had looked more carefully at “Tin Can” at ACBS, Lake Geneva, and intended to, but . . . Anyway, I disagree with “The craftsmanship is of too high a standard to be built in someone’s back yard.” There are many guys in the old boat fraternity that do finer work (IMHO) than any commercial boat builder, so maybe we should not be mislead. Can someone describe the extent of aluminum used in “Tin Can?” i.e., Are there structural members of aluminum? As in airplane ribs? Thanks.

  38. To mislead was never the attempt in exposing the mystery of the true origan of Tin Can. To oversimplify, Tin Can is a fantastic boat who derserves her history. For those who have taken the extra effort to observe here high level of construction, the overwelming responce is she was built with great skill that would not be available to the average person no matter how extensive the facility employed was equiped. Larry Mayea, someone in the highest regard as a boat builder and who restored Tin Can still marvels at her high degree of execution. To answer the question, Tin Can would fully function as a boat if all her wood were removed. Her ribbing and associated inner structure is all aluminum channel. In closing anyone is more than welcome to observe her up close. My intent is for Tin Can to be enjoyed and appreciated by all in this hobby and to give credit for the unknown who built her.

  39. Jeff, Thanks for the reply and please forgive my crude wording. I didn’t mean to imply anyone was misleading anyone. It’s good to know the aluminum is structural; not only sheathing. Thanks for your reply. I really like Tin Can.

  40. Hi, I think you all are looking in the wrong place. It has always been told to me and I have documentation from old Gar Wood Society magazines that the only way to tell for sure if it is a Gar Wood or not is by the cutwater. All Gar Wood boats had a straight cutwater and Tin Can does not. Tin Can’s cutwater looks just like the Hacker line drawing you have posted. Thanks and good luck, Don

  41. Whilst the rivetting is good and fair, the use of proud rivets instead of flush is really rather crude, especially on the hull. I would refer you to the English Albatross and Delta speedboats. They were built in the 50s and 60s by the same men who’d built Spitfires during the War and were all flush rivetted to such a high quality that my boat, which hadn’t exactly been cossetted in its life, could not show a single visible rivet over the entire hull. The aluminium used for the boats was a sea-water proof type and so were the rivets. The Pearly Miss line of aluminium utility boats had proud rivets and were much cheaper and less well thought of. Cheers, Martin

  42. Oh, By The Way….over here in Blightly, AEC aren’t a bus steeringwheel company they’re a whole bus company, or were. The big red double deckers on all the postcards were built by AEC, usually with Gardner diesel engines.