And as we know, Chris Smith and Gar Wood were at the forefront of the market in the mid to late 1920’s, amongst a number of smaller boat builders, all fiercely competing for sales. Unfortunately, many of those smaller builders didn’t survive the Great Depression which began in 1930 – but Chris Smith and Gar Wood were the exception.
Sold as a 1927 model only, the 26′ Baby Gar Jr. model was offered by Gar Wood as an entry-level runabout – junior to the now legendary 28′ & 33′ Baby Gar. The Baby Gar Jr. was offered with a 100HP Scripps Model F-6 marine engine (good for 30-32 MPH) or the 150HP Scripps G-6 marine engine (good for 38-40 MPH).
A total of 103 Baby Gar Jr. models were produced for 1927 (Hull No. 2701-27103), 78 open runabouts and 25 sedan models. The open runabouts sold for 3,500.00 to 4,000.00 depending on options & engine choice.
Gar Wood Boats being a relatively new company, for 1927 they also produced an impressive 19-page catalog specifically for the Baby Gar Jr. model, to promote the Gar Wood brand and also the features and benefits of the Baby Gar Jr. – we have included a few of the pages from the 1927 catalog in today’s story which came courtesy of Baby Gar Jr. owner Giles Briggs in the UK. Very impressive for 1927. – Texx
Gar Wood historian Anthony S. Mollica Jr. best describes the history and development of the 1927 Baby Gar Jr. in his book Gar Wood Boats – Classics of a Golden Era
In 1927 Gar Wood had introduced a totally new boat that they would call the Baby Gar Jr. It was a striking 26-ft runabout with speed options to 40 miles per hour and offered at one-third the price of the 33-foot Baby Gar. There was also an elegant sedan model of the 26-foot Baby Gar Jr. that would account for nearly 25 percent of the year’s sales.
The 26-foot hull was planked in choice African mahogany, upholstered in French blue Spanish leather, had all monel metal fittings and was finished with eight coats of clear lacquer. This was the first mention of the use of lacquer by Gar Wood. The brochure stated that “Lacquer is a radical improvement in boat finish, unaffected by the sun, ice, gasoline, salt water or exposure to ordinary heat or cold. More durable than any varnish.” The use of lacquer was a surprising, but short-lived, alternative to varnish.
In 1927 alone Wood built and sold 103 Baby Gar Jr. runabouts and sedans. It was a remarkable sales record for the new company. The company also introduced another model in midyear (1927), a 28-foot runabout called the Baby Gar 28. The company built only seven of the 28’s that year, but it was a superior boat to the popular 26-foot Baby Gar Jr.
A cost analysis showed that the 28 could be built for slightly more cost than the 26-footer and would command a much higher selling price. In a move that must have surprised observers, Wood decided to drop its best selling boat for 1927 in favor of the 28-foot Baby Gar. – Anthony S. Mollica Jr.
And now that we have you up to speed with the history of the 1927 Baby Gar Jr. model, here’s the rest of the story.
Last year we were contacted by fellow Woody Boater Giles Briggs from Cheltenham in the UK who has a 1927 Baby Gar Jr. that he pulled out of a barn in Bristol in 2010, where she had been since 1952.
We did some research and although 103 of these models were produced by Gar Wood for the 1927 model year, to our knowledge only three are known to exist today. One is “RUMBA” owned by Carlos and Susie Rodriguez of Newcastle, CA. This beautiful example of a rare 1927 Baby Gar Jr. appeared at the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance in 2011.
The current whereabouts of the second Baby Gar Jr. is unknown, but was confirmed in a 10 year-old record by Tony Mollica Jr. And the third is the UK boat that Giles currently owns. Here is the remarkable story on the Baby Gar Jr. he calls “The Little Ship of Dunkirk”…
I have a 1927 26′ Baby Gar Jr. here in the UK, she needs full restoration. There are two amazing things about her history.
1. She was supplied to the UK and was owned by Betty Carstairs who I am sure you know raced against Gar Wood in the late 1920’s. After inheriting a fortune through her mother and grandmother from Standard Oil, Carstairs also purchased her first motor boat. Between 1925 and 1930, Carstairs spent considerable time in powerboats and became a very successful racer, although the Harmsworth Trophy she longed for always eluded her. She did take the Duke of York’s trophy and establish herself as the fastest woman on water.
2. She served throughout WW2, the most remarkable part was she took part in Operation Dynamo when the British Army were trapped on the beaches of Dunkirk and had to be rescued by civilians from the UK in their own boats.
For me the Dunkirk story is amazing and to think she is not just a rare Gar Wood but a famous “Little Ship of Dunkirk” is just incredible. The British force that first went into Europe was 250,000 strong and had to be rescued off the beaches of Dunkirk shortly after, the government at the time refused to send the Royal Navy large ships to save them because of mines and the German air supremacy. It was left to the requisitioned now called “Little Ships of Dunkirk” to save the men, many boats made the trip to both UK and waiting ships three times under heavy fire, 68,000 troops never made it back.
She is still wearing her navy paint and was on a 1940s Bofor anti-aircraft gun carriage when I pulled her out of a barn in Bristol in 2010 where she had been sitting in storage since 1952. Giles notes:
“The old guy I purchased the boat from said he purchased it off the quay side in Brixham in the 1950’s. Interestingly enough this is where your US troops were based before the D day invasion. Brixham was protected by anti-aircraft guns take off their carriages and dug into the cliffs above the town (they are still there), and I think this is probably why my Gar Wood was on a gun carriage just simply because it was surplus to requirements.”
We only found a stamped number “28” on the hatch, the main beams the engine sat on have been replaced to fit the wider DUKW engine, there might be some more numbers, but I think they will only be found when the boat is restored. The transom has been striped but in bright sunlight you can still just make out her name “Thunderbird”.
These two parts of her history make her very unique and the reason I am contacting you is although I don’t really want to sell her, but I don’t think it is fair to leave her unrestored in a barn in the UK. I realize now that I may have to let somebody else bring her back to her former glory.
It would be great if you could do a story on her as I would love to try and uncover more of her past as I think she is historically important and her future should be secured.
Kind Regards – Giles Briggs
Battery Megastore UK LTD.
Although we are not in the business of selling boats here at Woody Boater, we thought that this was an interesting story with a ton of history and if we can help Giles find a new home for the rare Baby Gar Jr. that would be great.