StanCraft Varuna 2

The stylish StanCraft Varuna 19 complete with period vinyl-ish Landau top.


While traveling through northwestern Montana recently, I decided to make a quick pit-stop in the community of Lakeside (on the western shore of Flathead Lake) for a cold drink of water and a splash of fuel for old Harley-Davidson. That particular day it was hotter than a biscuit in Montana – and when ambient temperatures get close to 100 degrees on an air-cooled motorcycle, it often feels more like 120 degrees as the hot air passes through the engine, and not even the breeze off the lake seemed to help that afternoon.

H-D - Copy

The old air-cooled H-D lets you know when it’s hot outside, no temperature gauge required. But I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

And short of staying in the air-conditioned gas station all day, the best way to cool off is to simply get back on the bike and continue riding into the evening, as I wanted to get another 200 miles under my belt before dark.

In the rush to get back on the road, I noticed an old fiberglass boat parked in the lot next to the gas station. Now normally I don’t pay much attention to old fiberglass boats on the side of the highway with For Sale signs on them, as there seems to one every few miles these days, but for some reason this old boat caught my attention. So I grabbed my iPhone and shot a few “craigslist style” photos as I made a quick 360 degree loop around the boat (better known as a “ride-by shooting”). Sixty seconds later I put the iPhone away and hit the road.

StanCraft Varuna 1
It was a classic fiberglass StanCraft 19′ Varuna model with a sliding / removable hard top which appeared to be in very original condition for it’s age (although my knowledge about StanCraft fiberglass boats is very limited). Not surprising that a StanCraft boat would be found in the Lakeside / Somers, Montana area – as that’s where the original StanCraft plant was located for the first 50-ish years before relocating their facilities to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho in the early 1980’s.

StanCraft Varuna 3

The first commercial introduction of sterndrives was the Volvo Penta “Aquamatic” at the 1959 New York Motor Boat Show. Mercury Marine founder Carl Kiekhaefer introduced a MerCruiser outdrive in 1961 at the Chicago Boat Show. By 1962, 16 manufacturers were producing sterndrives. There was also the Outboard Marine Corporation (O.M.C.); however, due to several patent wars, O.M.C. ceased production. – Wikipedia

In the side window of the boat was a weathered photocopy of the boats description by the owner, no mention of the year but I am guessing it’s from the mid / late 1960’s or early 1970’s based on the Mercruiser I/O and the rear deck vents that looked like mid-60’s Century Resorter vents.

The description on the weathered paper said: 19′ StanCraft Varuna 120HP Mercruiser I/O; Tandem Trailer; Sliding / Removable Hardtop; Double Hull with Full Floatation; Runs Great / Economical. (and included a phone number which I have if anybody out there can’t live without a StanCraft Varuna)

StanCraft Varuna 4

I have a feeling somebody was either drinkin’ or forgot to bring the measuring tape when they applied the registration numbers to this boat…

The interior layout was simple and typical of similar boats from that period, and the upholstery / floor colors & vinyl-ish looking “landau top” reflected the automotive design features of the period.

StanCraft Veruna 5

StanCraft Veruna 6
For the next 200 miles, as I rode along daydreaming and looking for deer to spring out of the Montana ditches, I kept thinking about the boat in Lakeside, and that it looked very familiar for some reason. After I returned home I went to the old Woody Boater photo archive (which is massive by the way) and discovered why the StanCraft Veruna looked so familiar to me. I found some photos that I had from Robert Miracle of the classic AristoCraft Nineteen model that Robert shot on Lake Chatuge, Georgia in 2011.

I remembered the unique design of the AristoCraft with it’s sliding top and the “arched” transom. Hopefully the Turner family will chime in on this, but I think the AristoCraft Nineteen model was produced from the early 1960’s to the late 1970’s. However the flat, boxy windshield and side-glass on the StanCraft certainly hurts the overall appearance, looking far less elegant than the Aristocraft.

As we know, it was common for competing fiberglass marques to mimic “design ques” back in the day, but up until my pit stop in Lakeside, I had never seen this top or transom style used on any other fiberglass boats (other than the AristoCraft) from that period.

The classic AristoCraft Nineteen

A great shot of a classic AristoCraft Nineteen model on Lake Chatuge , circa 2011. Note the arched transom and unique sliding top design. – Robert Miracle photo.


 
Pair of AristoCraft Nineteens

Robert Miracle captured this nice shot from a bridge, looking down on Lake Chatuge, GA and a pair of AristoCraft Nineteen’s, which shows the sliding tops & interior layout, with the I/O – similar interior layout to the StanCraft Varuna model.

Unlike many other wooden boat builders from the early days, StanCraft boats have been around since 1933 and many classic StanCraft boats (both Wood and fiberglass) can still be found throughout the Pacific Northwest. And they are still building wooden speedboats and pleasure craft today.

Early 1960's StanCraft photo.

Classic StanCraft boats have graced the shores of Lakeside, Montana and Flathead Lake since the 1930’s. – Photo courtesy StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats Facebook page.

From the StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats website:

StanCraft Wooden Boat Company was founded back in 1933 by W.H. “Billy” Young and his son Stanley C. Young. Stanley later married Delores and had three children Joyce, Syd and Bruce. The company was originally built on the shores of Caroline Point, Flathead Lake in Lakeside, Montana. It was Flathead Lakes 1st boat building factory. The business was later purchased by Stanley’s oldest son Sydney H. Young and his wife Juliette in 1970.

Rare photo of a StanCraft 19′ Split Cockpit Runabout – Photo courtesy StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats Facebook page.

In the early 1980’s Syd & Julie and their two daughters Sydney and Amy moved the company to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho where they continued to produce custom built StanCraft boats along with providing general repairs, restorations, maintenance and storage for their clients. Being the second generation, one of Syd’s main focuses in the late 1990’s became redesigning boat bottoms to achieve better performance and provide a more enjoyable ride. Today StanCrafts are not only sought after for their beauty but also for their buttery soft, level ride.

Vintage StanCraft Ad – Courtesy StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats Facebook page.

The company is now in its third generation with their youngest daughter Amy and her husband Robert A. Bloem. They purchased StanCraft in 2010 after co-managing the company for the previous 8 years. StanCraft Boat Company employs a seasoned crew of craftsmen, mechanics, and upholsters.

Along with their existing classics, the new “3G” designs StanCraft is making today have taken the company into the powerboat realm. The Missile, Flash XM, Shooter, Arrow and Wave Dagger are just a few of the models produced in the last few years. At StanCraft, there’s nothing we love more than creating something beautiful that rides fast, level and smooth. The future of StanCraft as in the past lies in our passion for design, performance and above all customer service. – StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats

2014 32' StanCraft Rivelle 320 at Lake Coeur d'Alene.

A modern 2014 32′ StanCraft Rivelle 320 on Lake Coeur d’Alene.

Lakeside and Somers are nestled on the northwest shores of beautiful Flathead Lake and Blacktail Mountain. The two distinct towns are neighbors on the bay. Located 8 miles south of Kalispell, the communities are the destination spot for locals as well as tourists. All four seasons in Lakeside and Somers offer something for everyone, from skiing the slopes of Blacktail Mountain to sailing and boating majestic Flathead Lake.

Vintage 1959 Flathead Lake brochure featuring StanCraft boats – Photo courtesy StanCraft Custom Wooden Boats Facebook page.

Always carry a camera, you never know when you might want to be involved in a “Ride-by Shooting” some day…

Texx
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22 Responses to “A Ride-By Shooting In Lakeside, Montana!”
  1. don vogt

    A very nice, and well-deserved, salute to Stan Craft, Texx. Although they are focusing on higher end boats now, they seem to continue to do well. Currently there are several newer models on Hayden Lake, and they always attract favorable notice as they cruise around the lake.

  2. Troy in ANE

    May have to get me one of those I Phones after all, my flip phone just takes crappy pics and I don’t carry a regular camera often enough.

    Great history and story.

    Have good travels and I hope you make it to the ANE on that Harley one of these days.

  3. Al Benton

    Texx, Thanks for coming clean and admitting that you’re guilty of a “drive-by shooting” while passing through Montana.

    Now if we could get you to admit that not long ago a random fiberglass boat parked at a service station anywhere in the USA might not have gotten much attention here on Woody Boater for fear of being run out of town.

    Thanks for noticing this one and for adding the interesting history of this boat builder who went full circle; wood to fiberglass and now back to building Woody Boats. Fascinating!

  4. Wilson

    Texx:

    Good story…..First ran into Syd Young on an early trip to Coeur d’ Alene…Found him to be not any an excellent craftsman but a real gentleman….And we saw some of those new StanCraft boats at last year’s ACBS annual meeting out there….Wow !…Pretty impressive boats….Thanks for the ride thru StanCraft history.

  5. Paul H

    I would suggest real early ’70’s based on not only the windshield but the dash and steering wheel, which I assume to be original. You’re right about the boxy windshield – it really hurts the overall look of this boat. Very clunky styling and it just doesn’t seem to match the top. Otherwise, it looks like a serviceable enough design and rather typical of the time.

    There are some very nice large, vintage wooden Stancraft cruisers on Flathead and nearby lakes. This “looks” like if might be fairly easy to return to usage, but who can tell from pictures?

    • don vogt

      cool! i remember seeing the predictor in about 1956 when it made the auto show circuit. About that time the lincoln continental mark III, i think, had that similar styled roof, with the inward sloping rear window that i think moved up and down?, so i guess stan craft came by it honestly.

  6. brian t

    Those registration numbers may look goofy while the boat is on the trailer, but when the boat is on the water zooming about on the water – those numbers will be nice and level.

    The kids and I drove by Flathead this summer – that baby is one huge and beautiful lake – went on and on and on….

  7. brian t

    Hang on a minute. I just spent a few minutes clicking away over at the StanCraft website. Perhaps some of you out there can help get an understanding of this.

    I have been visiting WoodyBoater now for close to three years and why in the heck has it taken that time to find out that there actually is another boat builder out there who has been building boats for over 80 years?? Really? I mean there is someone other than Chris Craft out there??

    Don’t get me wrong here – I am not mad at Texx and Matt. I just would like to know why everyone and his brother knows about CC but nothing of these other builders. Why is it that when someone walks up to our Zoomer – a custom one off boat – do they ask if it is a CC?? Every bloody time. They don’t ask if it is a StanCraft or anything else.

    Is this all due to a great marketing department at CC over the decades or what? I just find it a bit amazing that I have been on the water since I was six months old, here in the great Northwest, and somehow, somehow, I have not seen nor heard of StanCrafts before today. I may have seen a fiberglass one but not a wood one from the early days.

      • brian t

        Doug – we’re in Portland.

        And about that link – holy mackerel, my CPA would have a fit if I even showed him the pics! Beauty though, just wow.

    • Doug P in the PNW

      Brian, in which NorhWest are you located?
      The StanCraft name is possibly as prominent and at a recent show in Coeur d’Alene more prevalent than other models

    • Kentucky Wonder

      Chris-Craft is the name everyone knows because they built about half of the classic wooden powerboats ever put on the water. The other half is comprised of Century and the other, smaller boatbuilding operations. Kleenex and Coca-Cola are other brands that so dominated their market, they became synonymous with it. When someone guesses your boat to be a CC, just smile, say “Good guess,” and explain what your boat truly is.

  8. Jim Staib

    Texx,
    Were you intrigued by the boat or sizing up those back to back seats wondering if they folded out. Probably better than a pontoon boat in a pinch.

  9. Texx

    brian t – One of the many highlights of the StanCraft marque is the rare Torpedo stern boats from the late 40’s and early 50’s, and the modern version that was featured at the 2013 ACBS International in CDA. (Wes Yandt photo)

    • don vogt

      thx texx, yes, those were some of the cars that adopted that type of roof styling. seems odd now but at the time was thought to be pretty cool.

  10. randy rush captain grumpy

    Texx: All I could think of when I saw that ad for the boat was a Russ Myers movie!