TODAY’S STORY BEGAN with a simple e-mail we received a few months ago from fellow Woody Boater Bill DeGlopper.
“Texx – I found this book while cleaning out my Dad’s stuff. He was a founding member of the Niagara Frontier Chapter ACBS. This 1941 Popular Mechanics book was in the family forever. Journalist Alan Fredericks knew Dad well.” – Bill
The first thing that comes to mind when you read the title on the cover of the vintage Popular Mechanics magazine – Build a Boat for Pleasure or Profit – is “Things have sure changed since the good-old-days when people simply went out and bought a kit or a set of plans and a truckload of lumber and built the boat of their dreams in their garage… Those days are long gone!”
But wait – IS the idea of building a wooden boat long gone today?
Not according to fellow Woody Boater Matt Byrne and the guys at The Wooden Runabout Company. (Matt & Lisa Byrne from Aurora, IL won the coveted “Best Restored” award at the 2012 ACBS International Meetings and Boat Show in Table Rock, Missouri for “Miss Lisa” their stunning 1939 19′ Gar Wood Custom Runabout)
But first – Some brief history.
1936 Chris-Craft Full Line Brochure
New Chris-Craft 19-Ft. Special Race Boat
New to the Chris-Craft fleet is this advanced 19-ft. Special Race Boat. Already proud possessor of the official world’s mile speed record in the 225-E class (47.619 m.p.h.) it is a revelation in design and appointments from the flare of its streamlined, rakish bow to the aft cockpit which is entirely concealed by a removable hatch cover when not in use. Finished in beautiful Yale blue and white exactly as illustrated-or, in any combination of colors you desire, with genuine leather upholstery to match, at no extra cost. Power is furnished by 155 h.p. motor; with a speed rating of 45-47 m.p.h.
Noted Chris-Craft historian (and long-time fellow Woody Boater) Don Ayers wrote an outstanding Retrospective about the 1936-37 19′ Special Race Boat in the Spring 2006 Brass Bell (the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club’s quarterly publication). The comprehensive piece included detailed production information and history of this now – iconic wooden boat.
Don began his Retrospective as follows:
Collectible: An asset of limited supply that is sought for a variety of reasons, including, it is hoped, an increase in value. This word is certainly an understatement when applied to the pre-World War II 19-foot Special Race Boat. Nearly all of the myriad Chris-Craft models have a special place in the heart of someone – often many someones – but few are in the category of the 19-foot Special Race Boat. It is one thing to have a low production run, but quite another for that run to be so unusual in scope. The “19-foot Racer,” to which the boat is commonly referred, has no equal with respect to an odd production record, especially for a “stock” boat. – Don Ayers
Chris-Craft only produced 51 (fifty-one) of these 19′ Special Race Boats in 1936-37 (Hull # 19000 to 19050). They were offered with three different engine configurations – Chris-Craft KA; Lycoming UHE; Grey Phantom 6; – and even today are considered by many to be one of the best performing 19′ boats produced due to their light-weight design and construction.
Although most of the 51 mahogany hulls were painted when they left the Chris-Craft plant in Algonac, less than 10 left as varnished hulls. As noted in the Chris-Craft Archives, the popular post-war 19′ Racing Runabout was evolved from the pre-war 1936-37 19′ Special Race Boat.
As you can imagine – today these 19′ Special Race Boats are very rare and sought-after by collectors. The fact that they were designed and built as light-weight hulls from the factory also means that they may not have had the same life span as some other pre-war wooden Chris-Crafts.
So if you have an original one – congratulations. For those of you who are interested in owning an original 19′ Special Race Boat – good luck finding one! However – depending on what you’re objectives are, our friends Mike Teusink & Kirk Wingard at The Wooden Runabout Company in Holland, Michigan may have another option for you to consider. A 1936 Chris-Craft Special Race Boat Replica.
From their website – At The Wooden Runabout Co. we combine old-world craftsmanship with modern technology to produce boats for a new generation of boat owner. We have CNC design (Computer Numerical Control) and production capability in-house. On the design end, this enables us to show you exactly what your new boat will look like before a single piece of wood is cut.
It also allows us to customize our existing designs to your preferences. On the production front, CNC machining allows us to produce parts with a degree of precision and repeat-ability previously unheard of in wooden boat building. Perhaps most importantly, the labor–and cost–involved with constructing the boat is reduced dramatically due to the perfect fit of each part.
Our CNC router is capable of cutting at speeds up to 1500 inches per minute. We utilize a vacuum hold-down system to keep parts secure while milling, and the spindle is capable of turning the cutting bit at 21,000 rpm. With this tool we are able to mill parts quickly and accurately, thereby reducing costs and increasing quality for our clients. In the good old days boats were literally built to the “rule of thumb” meaning that if it was within a half inch tolerance it was close enough. With this tool we can dial in tolerances to within a few thousandths of an inch.
Contact us or visit our website to find out what we can build for you. – Mike & Kirk
This is a relatively new venture for the guys at The Wooden Runabout Company. Currently they offer a number of options depending on how much work you are interesting in doing yourself, based on your skill level and budget. They can provide you with the CNC wooden components similar to what Matt Byrne decided to do, which is assemble the frames and structure at their workshop and then complete the balance of the woodwork and assembly in your garage or workshop. Or Mike & Kirk can build the boat to various levels of completion at their workshop – right up to a turn-key water tested craft. They would be happy to provide further information on request.
They have recently completed a “barrel-stern” version of the same basic hull design which looks very impressive.
Matt Byrne decided to work with Mike & Kirk at their shop in Holland, Michigan to assist with the initial assembly and structural work on his new 19′ Special Race Boat Replica. He also acted as the official shop “gopher” that weekend, which comes with the territory. Matt Byrne has actually worked with Mike & Kirk on other projects in the past, so this wasn’t a difficult transition.
Matt has also developed a fun website detailing his progress as he moves along with his 19′ Special Race Boat Replica project. His plan is to install a marinized Chrysler 318 V-8 that he found for a reasonable price. He plans to have the boat completed some time in 2016. You can check out his website by Clicking Here.
Special thanks to fellow Woody Boater Matt Byrne for sharing this exciting and innovative project with us today. Also to Mike and Kirk at The Wooden Runabout Company for opening up their photo gallery for us today. There are more photos and information on their website. These guys have a solid reputation throughout the classic boat hobby and are very committed to their craft, and bring some state-of-the-art technology forward.
This is proof positive that you can still build a wooden boat in your garage.