Award winning wooden boat restorer and enthusiast Dave Wright passed away Wednesday at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, CA. He had suffered a massive heart attack on Sunday morning. He was 73.
Brian Robinson and his father Tim were close friends of Dave’s – their restoration shops are located in the same area of Southern California, and together they shared their passion for the hobby for many years.
We received this from Brian Robinson last night –
Dave was a retired high school math teacher. Always an engineer, Dave got heavily involved with boat building and rebuilding engines for a Blown Gas Hydro race team. In 1974, one of his early smart real estate moves was purchasing a teardown waterfront home on Lake Tahoe. A few years later he and Linda sold it and bought the vacation home at Lake Tahoe they still own, just two doors down from the first place.
It was there sitting on the front porch that he would watch all of the wooden boats going across the lake to the boat show each August. In 1985 he bought his first Chris-Craft that he named after his drink of choice Old No. 7. After having the boat professionally restored he thought he could do it better, so he began buying and restoring boats.
In 1996, after his neighbors in Laguna Beach became fed up with his makeshift tarp boat shop attached to his house overlooking the beach, Dave and Linda bought a 30-acre avocado ranch in Fallbrook, CA. This gave Dave plenty of room to put his vast collection of boats and engines, while continuing to operate the avocado operation.
Dave was a outstanding boat restorer & vintage engine builder, and completed nearly 40 antique & classic boat restoration projects. He did it all with great talent and attention to detail. From building his own engines, casting his own parts, to doing body and fender work on the trailers.
If you asked Dave what he did for a living he would always quietly answer – “A Farmer.”
Dave was an amazing friend to so many. Words cannot begin to describe what a genuinely great guy Dave was. – Brian Robinson
Last night I received a phone call from fellow Woody Boater Dave Anderson, President of the SoCal ACBS Chapter where Dave Wright was a member. Dave Anderson was also a close friend of Dave’s and Dave Anderson was devastated by the news of Dave Wrights passing.
As we spoke over the phone, Dave shared a great story with me about Dave Wright, that once again describes just the kind a person Dave was.
Last fall while attending a classic boating event in San Diego, while cruising around the San Diego harbor, Dave Anderson had some problems with the vintage transmission in his South Coast 22′ lapstake “Wicked Wahine”. With some help from his pals, they managed to tow the lapstrake back to the dock for repairs.
Once at the dock, Dave Anderson got out his old operating manual to determine what the problem was with the transmission.
Dave Wright heard that Dave Anderson was having trouble and went down to the dock to offer his assistance. Dave Wright was always more than happy to offer help or share his incredible depth of knowledge with his fellow boaters.
Dave Anderson said when Dave Wright arrived to help, he was dressed in his Sunday best, including wearing a turquoise Lake Tahoe Judges shirt – maybe not the proper attire for repairing a transmission in the bilge of an old boat – and Dave Anderson was concerned about that.
Without hesitation, Dave Wright climbed on board the lapstrake to offer his assistance. Soon after they removed the cover from the transmission, Dave Wright grabbed some tools and made the necessary adjustments to the transmission. Dave Anderson started the boat and it ran like new. Dave Wright emerged from the bilge of the lapstrake with a clean shirt and trousers, as if nothing ever happened.
Dave Wright had that magic touch – with people and old boats. – Dave Anderson
I had the pleasure of visiting Dave Wright at his boat shop after the 2012 Lake Arrowhead Boat Show last June. Dave patiently toured me around his facility, and he even took me out to see his impressive collection of old and rare grey boats that were waiting to be restored.
Dave walked me through a perfectly restored Liberty V-12 engine he recently completed (shown above in the testing photo), which was scheduled to be installed in a very rare 1924 33′ Hacker designed & built runabout originally built for and owned by Henry Ford.
As we went through the original construction details of the 90 year-old Henry Ford – Hacker, it was evident that Dave Wright loved working on these old Hackers more than any other type of wooden boat. His passion for the John Hacker designed & built boats from the early days was remarkable, I could hear it in his voice and see it in his expressions. That same passion spilled over to the vintage Liberty engines he restores. Not only did they look magnificent, Dave knew how to make them run, and run well.
I will always remember the day I spent with Dave at his shop in Southern California, and fondly remember Dave Wright as a knowledgeable, passionate man. Dave always had a smile and a kind word to share.
I will miss Dave.