This story began over a year ago in August 2011 during the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance show in Lake Tahoe, California. That’s when we met these two guys – Jordan Heath and Chad Knickerbocker from Pleasure Bent Boats in Castro Valley, California.

Jordan and Chad were at the Tahoe Concours with a beautifuuly restored (and fairly rare) 1955 16′ Mercury Sabre which won First Place in the Utility Class at Tahoe that year. The 1-1/2 year restoration of “Sabre” as it’s named, was originally completed by Jordan & Chad back in 2007 for her owners Karl & Peggy Petermann from Oakland, California. At the time it was restored to be a correct original user boat, representing the southern California built Mercury marque.

Here’s how Jordan describes the boat on their website…

“The 1955 16′ Mercury Sabre: Introduced in 1954 the Sabre was Mercury of Burbank California’s fastest boat with speeds of 40+ mph. The boat was very popular with families at the time who wanted an affordable boat for water skiing. This boat was purchased at the 1955 Oakland Boat Show. Karl and Peggy Petermann acquired the boat from the original owners after sitting in the weather for 30 years.”

1955 Mercury Sabre – Clear Lake 2007

Here’s what “Sabre” looked like when it was first purchased from the nephew of the original owner in San Leandro, CA back in 2004.

And here’s what “Sabre” looked like when it was presented at the 2011 Lake Tahoe Concours. In June 2011 they decided to refresh “Sabre” and enter the boat in the Tahoe Concours. So with only four weeks before the show, the boat was completely gutted, motor removed and stripped to bare hull, sanded, re-varnished, bilge color upgraded and new flooring installed.

With attention to detail and originality as the priority, “Sabre” made it to Tahoe on schedule.  At the time, Jordan and Chad also officially launched what is now known as Pleasure Bent Boats, their restoration shop in Castro Valley, California.

The (beautifully restored) original 244 Greymarine M-135 Continental based engine.

The success that both Jordan & Chad experienced with “Sabre” at Lake Tahoe in 2011 was of course due in part to the quality and workmanship they put into the project, but also the great deal of research they did on the Mercury marque.

Since then, Pleasure Bent Boats has gone on to be one of the most knowledgeable shops in the country when it comes to the California built Mercury boats. They have bought and sold a number of Mercury’s from around the country and currently have three Sabres (’56,’57 & 58′), a 1954 Mercury Ski Tug and a 1949 Utility in their inventory. Of course they do restore other wooden boats as well and recently completed a Chris-Craft Capri.

Now to the rest of the story – fast forward to August 2012. When Matt & I were in Algonac last June, fellow Woody Boater Greg Lewandowski asked us we have ever heard of Mercury Boats, as his friend was searching for some information on them. We remembered what we had learned from Jordan and Chad last year at Lake Tahoe and offered to inquire for Greg. In July we called Pleasure Bent Boats and spoke to Chad, who was very helpful and passed the contact information on to Greg and his friend.

During our conversation with Chad, he mentioned that in their travels, he and Jordan had found a rare 1947 Ventnor runabout and asked if we would know who they could contact to learn more about the Ventnor marque. I suggested that I would give it some thought and get back to him. Then, when we were at the Lake Tahoe Concours this year, we met up with Jordan and we had the opportunity to talk more about the Ventnor they had discovered.

Based on the limited information they have gathered from a few contacts they have made in the eastern US, the Ventnor they have is a first series 1947 21′ Tailfin of which there are only 3 known of this particular example.

According to Jordan (and as you will see below) because of the current condition of the Ventnor they have, portions of the intermediate deck structure / bridge deck between the front and rear seat is missing and in order to restore the boat correctly, they are searching to find a simliar Ventnor from the same period to document and take off dimensions to ensure the details are correct on what’s missing.

They have been able to locate some Ventnor literature from the period, but the key thing is finding the same model either with or without the “tail fin” (they came both ways from the factory) that has the original arched decking bridge between the front and rear seats. Jordan mentioned that he has left phone messages with several Ventnor owners listed in the ACBS directory but have yet to get any responses.

So we offered to help get the word out for Jordan and Chad in the hope of finding the structural information they are looking for.

There is a great deal of history on the Internet about the classic Ventnor marque, their boat racing heritage and the interesting connection that Mr. Adolph Apel / Ventnor Boat Works, Inc. had with their Canadian associates, Minett-Sheilds, Ltd., of Bracebridge, Ontario, which makes for some interesting reading. You can Click Here to see one of those stories…

Here are a few excerpts from late 1940’s Ventnor sales brochures for similar sized runabouts… It’s cool stuff. Unlike the wonderful resources we have with clubs such as the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club, which has a ton of information on hand, or Frank Miklos and Tommy Holmes with the wealth of information they have over at the Century Boat Club, Ventnor infomation is not that common.

January 1948 Ventnor Price List

And here are a few shots of what Jordan & Chad’s 21′ Ventnor runabout currently looks like.

As you can see, much of the original decking structure is missing… But the boat is certainly “saveable”, providing the accurate structural information can be found in order to restore the boat correctly.

Then, as it turns out, just a few days ago we recieved an e-mail from another fellow Woody Boater, Cobourg Kid in Ontario, Canada (Thanks Kid!) to let us know about a similar 20′ Ventnor runabout that was listed for sale up in Montreal, Canada. However, Jordan suspects that this 20′ model has a different deck design than the 21′ they have.

Click Here to see the listing and also a photo of the 20′ footer below.

So back to the original question, “Who You Gonna Call” to learn more about these very cool Ventnor runabouts and see if we can we help Jordan & Chad from Pleasure Bent Boats find the infomation or contacts they need to restore this “finned” boat from the 1940’s back to her former glory – and solve the Ventnor Challenge?

You can also Click Here to learn more about Pleasure Bent Boats and cruise through their website to see and learn more about both the Mercury line of boats and see some more cool ventnor information.


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19 Responses to “The Ventnor Challenge – Like Ghostbusters “Who You Gonna Call?””
  1. frank Miklos

    This looks like an early one.. We have the remains of Ventnor RA-2016.. Which needs to be completely re-built… I have photos of the boat back to 1947 or 8. We believe ours is a 1947… the man who bought ours new then bought a twin engine 23′ in 1948… ( that boat is now called Velocity). then neighbors of ours bought the 20′ in around 1948 or 9. I have many photos of that boat from back in the day.. That perticular boat had a new bottom installed in the winter of 1954-55. The original bottom lasted only 8 years… Ours has the straight 8 Chrysler… Funny thing is they called it a 20′ boat it is actually over 21′. Ventnor’s were not the best boats built… but they are very cool looking… Note: there are lots of things wrong with the boat in the listing. Boat does appear to be a 1947 . The windshield is wrong… It had the vented windshield brackets you can tell because they have new deck vents over the front of the windshield… so that pushes the windshield back to far on the deck. It is missing the bowlight/lift combo… vents are wrong, finn light appears to be wrong., Interior completely wrong, (missing the large 1/2 round crash pad. and steering also completly wrong… Ventnor boats changed almost boat to boat… but all of the things wrong with this boat are not close to being correct… (don’t use this boat as a guide to restoring the other one..)

  2. Brian Robinson

    John Matzen’s FLASH is just up the road from you in Cotati, CA. His is the same model, and has the original Chrysler Royal 8. Like Frank said, the 20′ runabout actually measures over 21′. FLASH is the same way. It was a very, very original boat to begin with (out of the Furth Collection in the early 1990s). John is in the directory if you have not talked to him already.

    Also John Schei in Gold River, CA restored the twin-engine 23′ SHAZAM that the Ploetner’s now own.

  3. Jack Schneiberg

    Larry & Kathy Lange of Lange Custom Woodworking have recently completed restoration of a Ventnor. I do know the length or the year of the boat – but seem to recall it as a 1947.

    The link above is to their photo album of the project. The Lange’s have 88 1st award places for their stable of boats and this one is absolutely beautiful. If you click on any of the photos – it will enlarge with a description. Their contact information is at the bottom of the photo page

  4. Cobourg Kid

    In summary the information submitted thus far by Frank M , Jordan and original ad copy strongly suggests to me that:

    1. The Ventnor hidden in the St. Beatrix barn is very likely the exact same model and year as Jordans and is therefore a hither to unknown 4th known surviving example of this rare hull.
    2. That the st beatrix ventnor is pretty much complete with the exception of the front bow light-hoist cleat, bow bullnose, steering wheel , crash pad and windshield frame. All of which is fairly easily dealt with.

    3.As the owner indicates the original Chrysler Crown engine is available its also possible that he or she may also have the missing hardware making restoration simpler and less costly.

    4. Jordan’s ventnor ( sorry to say) is in a very unfortunate state . Its not only missing the hardware, the engine and pretty much everything above he deck line is entirely gone.What is left (the hull) looks like it too will have to be removed and entirely replicated with new wood .

    Given the current economy and low resale values of even the most collectible boats it’s hard to justify spending the gazillions required to replicate Jordan’s boat and when it is done how much of it will in fact be original Ventnor?

    Given the above if I were Jason I would (finances permitting) buy the st. Beatrix Ventnor and restore it. Not being an advocate of destroying rare hulls I would mothball his current hull and store it in a nice dry place until the economy improves and wealthy collectors again start thinking about paying silly money for rare woodies

  5. Jordan Heath

    Thank you to everyone for the very fast and helpful responses.

    Frank, we are very interested in your project and will try and get in touch with you soon.

    Actually the boat does have almost all of the hardware and engine. Some key items left to source are the fuel tank and integral gauge.

    She has had a rough life but we like a challenge.

  6. Texx

    Thanks to everyone so far who has commented and provided some great information on the Ventnor runabout. This will certainly be helpful for Jordan and Chad as they continue their research.

    I tend to agreee with Cobourg Kid’s thoughts about the current market conditions. This weekend, as I work in my office, I am carefully watching the Barrett-Jackson auction in Las Vegas with great interest.

    Having attended a number of these classic car auctions over the years and with my knowledge of this classic car market, I think it’s safe to say that many of the cars going across the block at the Barrett-Jackson auction are hammering well below what they would have sold for even 3 or 4 years ago. In some cases close to 50% less.

    Another sign of the soft market conditions throughout the country.

  7. frank Miklos

    Just another note. We believe the boat on the first photo (pamphlet cover) is our boat 2016. Everything matches including the coloring of the deck planking. If you note the front deck planking. from the king plank out there are light planks then the get darker ours matches that boat exactly… Also all other features match that boat exactly. Actually the man driving looks like the original owner.. Guy Gully.. We know he went to the Ventnor Factory… We wondered if this photo was taken on his test run at the factory…. Look at the photo of the original owner and his wife… The woman in the factory photo resembles Guy’s wife, but I’ve been told that the woman in the factory photo is a secretary at Ventnor… (no verification of that) fun stuff CSI at work..

  8. Catherine Van Duyne


    I enjoyed this article very much. I stumbled a cross this looking up Ventnor on pinterest. My father and uncle worked at the original Ventnor Boat Works with the Apels and went on to build the fiberglass surfboat us today on the Jersey shore.
    My Mom is the model waving in the first picture!

    I have quite a bit of info on the Ventnor Boat works if anyone is interested I can scan and email it or post it to pinterest.

    • Texx

      Hi Catherine – Thanks for chiming in. We would love to see what you have or if you can scan a few items and e-mail them to us, maybe we can work together and do a follow up story on the Ventnor marque.

    • Jon Rosenbaum

      Hi Catherine,
      I have a 1947 Sportster from Ventnor located on Gull Lake Michigan. It has not been in the water since 1991. I plan to restore it and am looking for any literature. Really appreciate knowing how it can be restored to pristine factory condition but in a cost effective way.
      Jon Rosenbaum
      122 Heather Ridge Rd.
      Battle Creek, MI 49017
      7660 9th St N.
      St Petersburg, FL 33702

  9. r visser

    I am looking for a head gasget for a
    graymarine six 244 ,100 horse power
    Can you tell me where i can find it
    please let me know
    regards r visser

    • Texx

      Thanks for commenting on Woody Boater.

      We recommend that if you can find any numbers or identifying information from the old head gasket that you call or e-mail that information to Jim Staib at Fine Wood Boats in McHenry, Illinois.

      His contact info can be found on his website at

  10. Estus White

    Jordan, I was wondering if you got into the Ventnor project, and would give an update?

    Estus White

  11. Jon Rosenbaum

    Here is me with my Ventnor, located on Gull Lake in Richland Michigan.

    Jon Rosenbaum