A few weeks ago, we received an e-mail from fellow Woody Boater Kevin Fitzke who is interested in building a replica “Flyer 13” wooden racer, which was originally designed by Bruce Crandell back in the 1930’s. The smallest of the Crandall Flyers, the 13 ft. – 91 cubic inch class boat plans are available for sale online from classicwoodenboatplans.com – but when we started to look into this further, we discovered some intersting history on these little Bruce Crandell designed racers.
Here’s the original e-mail from Kevin Fitzke…
Hello WoodyBoater Crew,
I was wondering if you (or your viewers) have any information about Bruce Crandall and his “Flyer 13”, 91 cubic inch race boat? I have the book “Cutwater” written by Robert Duncan, which features a replica “Flyer 13” built by Ralph Glass and John Clark – perhaps built from original Crandell designs / plans.
I’m interested in building one of these boats, using detailed plans from classicwoodenboatplans.com but I would like to find out more information on the boat, the designer and more photos if possible. I’ve been looking around for information on the 91 cu in boat class, like where to get hardware, drive train, etc and just general information – but not finding a lot. Maybe there just isn’t much out there or I’m looking in the wrong direction….
Thanks for any help you can give! – Kevin Fitzke
I have to admit that, although I have reviewed the plans of the “Flyer 13” and some of the other cool wooden boat plans on the classicwoodenboatplans.com website, my knowledge of the Crandell designed race boats is very limited. But I remembered that fellow Woody Boater and Contributor from Sweden – Anders Værnéus (from Swedish Classic Boats) was knowledgeable about these Crandell designed racers. So I sent Anders an e-mail late at night (next day for him) and he responded within minutes as usual. When he responded, Anders was at a boat show in Sweden, but the next day he sent us this. – Texx
Texx – Until 1935, Bruce Crandall was a totally unknown name in Sweden. If you had asked 10 members in the Royal Swedish Motorboat Club if they knew the name Crandall – all of them would have answered ”no idea”.
But the same year, the editors of the Swedish magazine Motornyheterna (Motor News) realized that the boat racing hobby needed an injection – some new ideas and some new way of thinking. Their plan was – of course – to add more value to the magazine, but also to open up possibilities for every reader to get in touch with boat racing in a very simple way.
In one way or another, the editors on Motornyheterna came in contact with Bruce Crandall and the self-building designs that he had produced the year before. They made a deal and Motornyheterna started to sell complete drawing kits of five different boats for racing – three outboard racing boats and two inboard hydroplanes.
The idea became a great success. Orders for drawings came from all over the country and soon Motornyheterna started to publish pictures from proud owners on self-built race boats.
As you can imagine, the quality of the finished boats was of course very different. Some of these boats were built by some very skilled boat yards and were really great looking, but most of them were built in garages, barns and in narrow basements. But no one has a clue about how many boats that really were brought to life.
Today, 75 years later, we can see back. The Swedish Classic Motor Boat hobby has been alive since the beginning of the 70’s. And over the years, only three boats have been found here in Sweden from the Crandall-era. Only three out of maybe 100 or so that may have been built. But these three were all found in almost complete original condition with everything there except their original engines.
The most well known of the three is “Phantom” – a 91 cubic inch-racer, found abandoned in the mid 80’s in a boatyard outside Stockholm and today restored to a fantastic original condition. Her engine, a Gray Phantom 45, came new out from it’s original wooden box after 60 years under a bench.
The other inboard is the bigger sister to Phantom, built for a flathead Ford V8 in1937. Today she’s lying unrestored waiting for the future. But her condition is remarkable. A dream project if I say so.
And last – and also the smallest – is a A-class single step outboard hydro from 1936. Built in a series by a carpentry factory in mid-sweden in 10 pieces. She’s complete but in need of some wood work.
But when you talk about Crandall here in Scandinavia – you must also mention another boat. Built in a garage in Norway’s town Bergen, by the very skilled amateur builder Tom Heggem. Tom usually built canoes but when he found the drawings on the double ended, twin stepped 135-cubic inch Crandall-hydro, he fell in absolute love with it. He sold the canoes and started immediately to build a replica.
As always – Thanks for your help Anders. Among other things, Anders is the Publisher of Swedish Classic Boats / Classic Boater magazine, a bi-monthly magazine which is dedicated to the popular classic boating hobby in Sweden and is one of the leading wooden boat publications in all of Europe. The photography is spectacular. Here’s a few pull outs from one of their recent issues.
Anyway, getting back to the original question that Kevin Fitzke asked us for help with – If anyone out there in Woody Boater land knows where any of these original or restored Crandell designed racers are in America, any information or direction you could help us with would be apprectaed, as Kevin moves forward with his boat building project. We know what we published today isn’t exactly what Kevin is looking for, but it’s a good start.
We also know there is a very experienced & knowledgeable group of builders and restorers up in the north east, like Mark Mason and Bill John, who are experts when it comes to these old vintage race boats. Hopfully we will get a chance to meet them while we are at Lake Dora next month, as they will probably be involved with the race boat gathering and demonstrations a few days before the Sunnyland Wooden Boat Festival.
Thanks in adavance – Texx
Story Update: Feb. 23, 2013
Earler today fellow Woody Boater Doug P. provided some additional information on Berg Boats in Bellingham, Washington and the replica Bruce Crandell racers that they have produced. From the Berg Boats website, here is one example, a very nice 14′ 91 Cu.In. 1930’s class racer named “Tashtego”.
We really enjoy reaching out to the Woody Boater community to learn more about a specific marque or model of classic wooden boat. Keep the info coming.