Actually – Every day is a good day to go for a cruise aboard Thunderbird… providing it’s boating season on beautiful Lake Tahoe and not snowing. But hey – here at Woody Boater we live in a virtual world where it’s always boating season – right? The only place where Lake Tahoe is virtually open year round – kind of… It’s Saturday, use your imagination!! This is how we chase away those “winter doldrums” if that’s possible. I know our friends in Eastern Canada are doing that at the Toronto Boat Show this weekend.
Earlier this week we received a wonderful video courtesy of fellow Woody Boater Thomas Bottenberg and ace photographer Steve Lapkin from H20mark.com featuring the legendary Thunderbird on Lake Tahoe.
But first, a brief history for those of you who may not be familiar with this elegant Hacker Commuter.
THUNDERBIRD is a rare 1939 – 55’5″ Huskins Hacker-Craft powered by twin (1100 HP) 12-cylinder Allison V-1710 (2) engines. Based on the streamlined designs of John Hacker, Thunderbird is a commuter boat featuring a distinctive stainless-steel cabin top that was built for millionaire George Whittell who was fascinated with the late aircraft, automobile and boat technology.
Enamored with the lines of his personal DC-2 airplane, Whittell requested the boat’s hull and cockpit be built to resemble the fuselage of his twin-engine aircraft. He also specified the boat’s fit and finish, from double-planked Honduran mahogany to gleaming crystal accents.
Built in 1939 at a cost of $87,000 by the Huskins Boat Co. of Bay City, Michigan – she was launched at what is now the Tahoe City Marina on July 14, 1940. Thunderbird’s original twin 550 hp Kermath engines were replaced in the 1960s with twin 1000+ horsepower Allison V-12 aircraft engines.
The Hacker-Craft is now owned by the Thunderbird Preservation Society, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and protecting Nevada’s natural, cultural and historic treasures. Thunderbird is berthed in her original 1940 steel boathouse at the Thunderbird Lodge National Historic District on Lake Tahoe’s east shore.
Thunderbird Lodge is open for public tours from June through September. Learn the fascinating story behind this classic yacht at http://thunderbirdtahoe.org/yacht or by Clicking Here.
(Description courtesy Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance website)
Considered to be one of the most beautiful wooden vessels of the 20th century, Thunderbird was commemorated in 2007 by the U.S. Postal Service on a postage stamp.
Thomas Bottenberg – Friend of Steve Lapkin (and self confessed serial wooden boat owner) and partner in Tahoe Runabouts, a fractional use program for wooden runabouts – commented in his e-mail…
Texx – Steve Lapkin and I arranged this shoot summer before last, when three of us were operating a small charter operation at Lake Tahoe using classic Hacker runabouts with Greg Barraclough and Dean Woolery.
We shot the surface footage after Steve spent some quality time hanging out of a helicopter for the aerial footage. Steve’s Protector was fast enough to easily maneuver around Thunderbird. I think that’s why the clip is so cool; so many angles…
When Yachting magazine did a feature on Thunderbird last year, Steve showed them this footage and they wanted to use it on their website. Steve said no thanks. So this is a Woody Boater exclusive!
Thanks to Steve Lapkin from H20mark.com for sharing his fabulous video and photographs with us today. To learn more about Steve and also purchase any of his photographs, you can Click Here to visit his great website.
Also, thanks to Thomas Bottenberg from Tahoe Runabouts for sharing this video with us today. Check out the Tahoe Runabouts website by Clicking Here – It’s an interesting concept that I didn’t know existed in the wooden boat hobby.
The video sure helps chase away those “winter doldrums.”