THE SUBJECT OF REPRODUCTION OR REPLICA WOODEN BOATS always generates a lively debate among classic boating enthusiasts. Almost everyone has an opinion about reproduction boats, depending on their view of the hobby.
One of our jobs here at Woody Boater is to keep you, our viewers, up to date on the trends & advancements in the hobby, and what’s happening out there in real time as it evolves – hopefully in a non-judgmental way.
Back in April we published a feature story on the rare (and very popular) 1936-37 19-foot Chris-Craft Special Race Boat. The story included a section on our friends from The Wooden Runabout Company – Mike Teusink & Kirk Wingard, who are producing CAD/CNC designed 19′ Special Race Boat replicas in their Holland, Michigan shop. (If you missed that story, it can be found in the Woody Boater archive by Clicking Here).
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. With the 155 HP engine in 1936-37 the racer had a speed rating of 45-47 MPH.
Fast Forward to September 2015.
We were excited to see one of the new 19-foot racer’s that Mike & Kirk built at the recent Woods and Water show on Gull Lake. We were even more excited when they offered to let us shoot “Jitterbug” on Friday afternoon during the show – which then led to a fun boat ride. This gave us an opportunity to see the finished product on the water and experience the performance first hand.
Mike notes: “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.”
“Jitterbug’s design is strongly influenced by the special race boats (both 16 and 19 feet) but is not identical to either. We see it as something similar to what Chris-Craft might have built in the special race boat line if they had continued production into the early 1940s. I like to call it a “barrel racer.” – Mike Teusink, Wooden Runabout Company.
The best part about custom building your own wooden race boat is that you can choose whatever colors you want, and personalize the boat to your own tastes. Want to use period correct hardware? – do it! Want to use different hardware? – do it! Want to paint the bottom with a non-correct color? – Do it! Want to use a modern V-8 for power? – do it!
The custom car hobby is largely made up of folks that just have fun being creative and innovative with their rides. You can build whatever you want, any way you want, and you don’t have to worry about a judge “judging you” for your choice of engine or hardware or color scheme. Personalize it any way you want and everyone appreciates you’re creativity.
So why not apply that same philosophy to a wooden boat and just go have some fun? You get the look and impressive performance of a pre-war wooden racer with modern technology and construction methods. With the Wooden Runabout Racer – you can either have it built turn-key, partially finished or built it yourself from a professionally designed kit.
We were actually impressed by the color choices on the bottom and upholstery Mike & Kirk selected. The color combination certainly made the boat stand out both at the dock and on the water as you can see. A reflection in some ways of the pre-war era.
Retro colors are an area that (Woody Boater publisher) Matt Smith has a great deal of experience with. I asked Matt to chime in with his thoughts on Jitterbug’s color selection.
Another way into this is that the Blue is Chris-Craft Blue, inspired from the engine color and top paints on Cruisers, and the gold, is from boot stripes and bottoms from pre-war Chris-Crafts like the 25′ Sportsman.
Color preferences change over time of course, and despite how we think we recall history, mostly in black and white, its fun to find that bright colors and contrasting colors exisited. Rocket blue on 1947 Chris-Craft Rockets with blond wood interiors… Like orange and pigskin, or apple green and gold. Exploring colors of the day, can sometimes be a way to add a special something to your boat.
The 1940s are tough years, since it was the end of an era, and thus colors would shift, pre-war, to post-war, post-war colors were much more optimistic, and pre-war colors were really more Art Deco and Moderne inspired. – Matt
The 19-foot Racer performed very well with the Ford 302 V-8 engine – easily reaching almost 50 MPH. Kirk noted that they were still breaking in the fresh engine so they didn’t want to push it over 50 MPH quite yet. They were also working with Holland Propeller to fine tune the customized Acme prop for this application, choosing to slowly test the props to find that perfect balance.
Although my experience with these racing runabouts is limited, I was very impressed by how stable the boat was at speed, and how it felt entering a wide turn while maintaining the same speed. Never did the racer feel “spooky” when it approached almost 50 MPH – and Kirk is also a very experienced pilot which certainly helped. Kirk was confident that once the engine is completely broken it and the prop tests completed, that it will comfortably exceed 50 MPH.
Although Reproduction / Replica boats are not for everyone, this was one impressive wooden boat. Thanks to Kirk & Mike from The Wooden Runabout Company for taking the time to share their latest creation with us at Gull Lake. For more information you can visit them at their website by Clicking Here and see the entire CNC development including video.