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.”
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 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.
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?