Picture 30

We got a fun email from Dr. Christopher E. Matt AKA El Cameno with this fun story about the insane restoration of a vintage Switzer Craft.  The pictures and video tell a great tale of ones mans obsession to go Woody Boating..

Picture 1

The approximate chance of an average person living in the US being struck by lightning in a given year is estimated at 1 in 500,000 as per Wikipedia.

Picture 2

Upon closer inspection, this boat was complete and solid without any evidence of wood rot. That in and of itself spoke volumes of the original owner’s care. It was then decided to have this boat stripped of its old finish, sanded, stained and varnished all by Robert Ginke of Wisconsin.

 

Picture 3
However, the chances increase significantly if one is familiar with the human lightning arrestor better known as Steve Stevenson of Wisconsin. How’s that? Well, it’s because of his uncanny ability to find a rare wooden boat and strike a deal that’s somewhat analogous to the speed of a thunder bolt.

Picture 4

 

Picture 5

Prior to varnishing, a challenge occurred when trying to determine the manufacturer of the rub rail. In all sincerity, it appeared the same as the edging found on 1950’s Formica top kitchen tables used as a youth. The exact dimension could not be obtained, so the next larger size was ordered and was ripped to the original dimension by Robert.

 

Picture 6

 

Picture 7

 

Picture 8

Before you realize that you have been struck, you find yourself somehow driving away with an unexpected newly purchased vintage wooden boat attached to your vehicle, as Steve smiles and waves goodbye to you with his right hand, while clutching a wad of cash in his left hand. Our twenty plus year friendship is firmly grounded, yet I’m always shocked as to how lightning fast he is able close a vintage wooden boat deal.

Picture 9
How did Steve know I’d be the buyer and what did I purchase? Well, because both Steve and I have spent a great deal of our teenage years navigating the pristine waters of the beautiful Chain O’ Lakes in Waupaca, WI, he knew that his find was representative of the wooden boats we admired during our spirited youth. His acquisition was a 12 foot mahogany plywood Switzer Craft runabout. This 1952 model was known as the “Lightning 25”. What an unusual shape that was considered ahead of its time with it’s gently rolled deck secured in part by a rounded transom.

Speaking of engine...what engine should be used to power the set-up? I do understand that a personal  interpretation of the word ”complement” is within the eye of the beholder. In addition being from  Wisconsin, at times, seems that the Mercury marque is the preferred engine of choice. However,  growing up with Johnson outboards personally dictated that an OMC would be the complementary  engine much to the dismay of Steve. He has politely learned to put up with my preference of Johnson  engines. He also had the uncanny recommendation as to where to obtain a very nice 1947 Johnson 22  horsepower PO-15 Johnson.

Speaking of engine…what engine should be used to power the set-up? I do understand that a personal interpretation of the word ”complement” is within the eye of the beholder. In addition being from Wisconsin, at times, seems that the Mercury marque is the preferred engine of choice. However, growing up with Johnson outboards personally dictated that an OMC would be the complementary engine much to the dismay of Steve. He has politely learned to put up with my preference of Johnson engines. He also had the uncanny recommendation as to where to obtain a very nice 1947 Johnson 22 horsepower PO-15 Johnson.

Picture 13

Engine restoration included painting it 1947 Sea Fog green, an aesthetic color that initially was questionable, however one that grew on you to “fit the bill”.

 

Picture 15

 

Picture 16

Tank restoration is always fun, especially what one finds, not only on the outside but also on the inside of the tank.

 

Picture 17

 

Picture 18

Meanwhile, Steve had a source for an OB 40 model Tee Nee trailer to pull the completed project on. Parts were sandblasted, painted and assembled. Because the bow of the Switzer Craft sat higher on the trailer than the Tee Nee hidden winch tower, a tower winch extension was customized for the proper height. Additionally, the boat has a turning fin attached to the bottom necessitating a unique set of customized bunks to allow clearance for the turning fin when winched upon the trailer.

 

Picture 19

 

Picture 20

 

Picture 21

 

All in all, she came together quite nicely both on the trailer and in the water after approximately 2 years of restoration.

Picture 22

 

Picture 23

 

Picture 24

 

Picture 25

Overall the restoration experience with “Lightning” was well worth the endeavor saving yet another piece of American design and engineering from the scrape yard. Boating today with this combination on  the Waupaca Chain O’ Lakes once again brings back those fond memories indelibly engrained as a youth  from years gone by.

The heck with statistics. If I know Steve, I’ll probably get struck again when least expected.

Picture 29

And if you enjoyed reading the book, here is the movie.

You might like...
« « Previous Post         |         Next Post » »
13 Responses to “Struck By Lightning! A Classic Boat Love Story.”
  1. Texx

    Great story El Camino, nice work too… Hey look Brian, it’s a Barrelback outboard!

  2. m-fine

    I like the engine choice. A big Merc tower of power is a wonderful thing but not a good match, and a little Merc is not as kewl as the green Johnson.

  3. John Rothert

    Really great story and movie! knuckle buster with water slide decals…now that is devotion personified….thrilling looking boat on the water!!!
    thanks,!!

    John in Va.

  4. Jim Staib

    Switzer Craft Started here in McHenry, IL under a department store. At some time they moved to Crystal Lake, IL.
    I met Bob Switzer long ago. He would tell stories of sitting in the tavern and drawing a boat on a bar napkin. Next day he would go to work and build it. His object was to bend plywood as far as possible.

  5. Randy

    I can’t believe the ‘brochure’ photo with five people in it — must have been kids.

    Boy, I’ll bet Texx was absolutely drooling over that nice pontoon boat!!!!!!!!

    • Kentucky Wonder

      People were smaller and lighter back then, in the days before Big Macs, Whoppers and XL Grande Burritos.

      The historical picture is just like both classic and modern advertising for boats in that scantily clad women outnumber fully dressed men nearly 2 to 1. Not complaining, just noticing.

  6. Bill Anderson

    Nice to see some one else with small wood,,also I think there is another one being restored down south, very nice job and story watch Steve ,,Bill

  7. Doc Brinkman

    PUTTING THE “CLASS” IN CLASSICS…
    “The difference between men & boys is the price of their toys”. The good ol’ Matt-adore at it again! This guy has total class and unbelievable taste for classic American craftsmanship. His passion and love for the genuine and original brings these back to life. Who says you can’t go back in time? Kudos Chris & crew….show me more!!!

  8. Walt

    Beautiful boat and nice job on the restoration of the boat, motor and trailer. I know everyone likes big comfortable boats that you can cruise for hours and take half the neighborhood along for the ride but you really can’t beat the fun of small outboard boats.

  9. H Smith

    Read this on Friday. Never thought that I’d see the boat on Sunday and get to take a ride. Awesome boat Chris, great way to end a summer on the Waupaca Chain. Thanks!

  10. Ed Schlicht

    Looking for knowledge of 1950s kit boat….I acquired one and I’m stumped.. looks kinda like a PM 38 but not ???? Where should I look