In 1956 fellow Woody Boater Randy Mueller’s dream of one day ownig a Matthews Martinique Express began when he received his first set of brochures from the MATTHEWS Company in Port Clinton, Ohio with a nice letter from their sales manager, R.E. Reynolds. Randy was only 11 years old at the time, but now – over 55 years later, his perfectly restored 1956 42′ Martinique “Starlight Express” graces the waters of Gig Harbor, Washington.
In Part 1 of Randy’s Mueller’s story here on Woody Boater, we cover the first 33 years of his dream – up until he finally located and purchased the Matthews in 1989 at a marina in Long Island, New York. Part 1 ended in 1989 as he was preparing to have the boat transported by truck from Montauk, Long Island to her new home in Seattle, Washington. (You can see Part 1 of this story by clicking here)
Here’s what happened during the next 22 years, including an extensive 17-1/2 year restoration and subsequent re-launch of this unique 1956 Matthews Martinique Express.
“Starlight Express” Realizing A Childhood Dream (Part 2)
by Randy Mueller
Of the seven Martinique Express models produced in 1956 and 1957 we were able to locate only two still “alive”, both 1956 models. In retrospect, two ‘survivors’ out of seven is probably a pretty low attrition rate for a rather unusual boat that never shared the popularity of the other MATTHEWS models.
After three years of searching for the Martinique of our dreams, we finally purchased one of the two remaining survivors in 1989 at Montauk, Long Island, NY and had it transported back to Seattle, Washington to begin the long and expensive restoration process. The boat was then named “Knee Deep II”.
The boat arrived in North Bend, WA (just past Snoqualmie Pass) late Saturday afternoon, October 28, 1989. Since I had never seen the boat in person, when the truck driver called me Saturday night we made arrangements to meet at the truck stop on Sunday — his wide load permit did not allow him to travel on Sunday, so he was stuck there until Monday.
We did a ‘bunch’ of rebuilding at that boat yard for 2+ years until the budget expired. Shortly after the boat got here my wife and I had an opportunity to buy a small waterfront cottage on Gig Harbor Bay. It also needed to be totally rebuilt and a dock installed, so that began to consume our budget. After the Martinique was seaworthy we towed it down and moored it alongside our house.
That first yard replaced the transom banding structure and transom, stem, a few planks, gutted the engine compartment and replaced many frames, sheer & hog clamps, side decks, windshield, side coamings, a few small sections of plywood on the forward deck, reglassed the forward deck, and set the hardtop back on for her upcoming storage ’til the next phase began.
More pictures of the work at University Boat Service. Since the boat was ‘gutted’, a WHOLE bunch of substandard previous work/repairs were removed and absolutely everything was redone to MATTHEWS factory quality — the guys at University Boat Service were great craftsmen.
Some small ply patches were made to the forward deck and then deck glassed and foredeck hatches then reinstalled. We patterned the coaming from a friends MATTHEWS and then started adding the ‘gingerbread’ (coamings and windshield).
All this was completed by mid-1992, at which time the boatyard was being forced to relocate. We were spending $$$’s to rebuild the waterfront house so we decided to have the yard put the hardtop back on. We then towed it down to our place in Gig Harbor Bay and moored it next door until we got the dock finished. I tarped it over from the windshield to the transom, leaving it open aft for airflow. I built hatch dodgers so I could leave the hatches proped open without allowing rain in, plus left the ports open slightly. This allowed a lot of air to flow from bow to stern, and the bilges stayed bone dry.
We worked in the engine room bilges (sanding/cleaning) while the boat was at our dock. I still had my Ranger 37 sailboat (which I bought new in 1973), and finally sold that in 1996. All the while we were saving up $$$’s to continue with the Martinique, and in July 1999 loaded her onto a trailer bound for a yard in Port Townsend, WA. She remained there (indoors) until her relaunching in December 2006.
We still had to replace a bunch of transverse floors/frames throughout the boat and some longitudinal stringers/girders. A lot of the internal fasteners (that never saw water) were just steel and when they were punched out were nearly gone (below the heads). A lot of these were in the engine stringers and transverse floors — structural components! Moisture content in the wood over nearly 50-years had rusted them away. Everything was replaced with silicon bronze, a very large expense but worth it.
This shows the gutted engine compartment and interior to rebuild ALL structure. I didn’t want to be out there crossing a rough stretch of water and have to worry about whether we were going to arrive safely at our destination.
The ‘artist’ who put the name on Starlight Express was a true old time craftsman. He was an expert at applying gold leaf, and outlined and ‘shaded’ each letter. Since this art has almost disappeared from transoms, he had gold leaf left over from many years ago that was used here. He became a good friend and also painted the name on my 1955 Aristo Craft Torpedo that was at the 2010 Tahoe show. He recenty passed away from cancer — a great loss to the artist community. I was hoping he would be around to do my last restoration — my vintage unlimited hydroplane Miss Madison.
She FLOATS!!!!!! “Starlight Express”, my prized Martinique, was re-launched for her second time around in late 2006 –50 years after that childhood dream began, and 17-1/2 years after purchasing her. I had a friend that would do the top and upholstery, but not until we brought the boat home to the boathouse.
I had a pair of Chrysler 318’s totally rebuilt by a local Chrysler expert. The cylinders were not previously bored out — something this mechanic insists upon for anything he will touch. Dyno gave 240 hp each, equivalent to the twin 331 cu. in. Hemi’s that origanally came installed (which were 200 hp each).
The Matthews Boat Owners Association is still operating, but there is no website as they keep very busy with their travels and MATTHEWS business — no time to maintain a site. Matthews owners can contact: MBOA, P.O. Box 254, Higganum, CT 06441.
Special thanks to Randy Mueller for sharing this remarkable story of patience and perseverance with us here at Woody Boater. Now only one thing left to do… Ride the old Harley-Davidson over to Seattle in the spring and go for a boat ride! (Hint Hint…)