Last week when we did a report on the Lake Chatuge show, the folks at AristoCraft showed up to the party with a VERY cool custom version of there signature boat. They called it “Firecracker” and we fell deep in love with it right away. Now, Aristocrafts definitely are not mistaken for other designs and adding some custom attitude normally wouldn’t be needed, but this for sure ramps up the fun and the way I would want one. And of course, that’s already happened. Someone walked in the door and ordered one right away! I smell a trend. Here is the story on Firecracker and the new work on the new one! Take it away Scott!
Ever wonder how some boats get their names? Wonder if it’s personal, or there’s more of a story behind it? We recently named a boat Firecracker, and there’s definitely a story to it. Firecracker started its life as a 1955 model Aristocraft Torpedo 14. I answered my phone one day from a friend in the industry asking if I was interesting in purchasing an Aristocraft that had “slight” damage. (It wasn’t so slight..) I said sure I’m interested, what sort of damage? He said it was in a house fire…
Well, since I am apparently unable to say no to anything boat related I said sounds like fun, I’ll take it! (Fun, really…?) So I had the boat delivered to my shop and got to work trying to figure out what I had gotten myself into. Upon inspection I quickly noticed that the hull and sides were in pretty good shape, the decks were in rough shape from the embers falling on them.
So I went ahead and removed the decks and started cleaning out the inside, then stripping and sanding the whole boat down. After the hull and sides were stripped I needed to decide what to do with the sides in the rear where it would typically get the light stain. The fire embers had landed on this area and darkened it and burned the veneer in places so something new had to be done. Wanting something unique, I decided the maple and mahogany on my shelf would make a nice addition. So I started off planing the mahogany to 3/4″ and the maple to 1″, then ripped them each into 1/4″ strips.
Once I started laying them up on the sides, I started getting excited as I saw it taking shape. Once the glue dried and I was able to sand it down you could really see the contrast and it was beautiful. I am actually still very happy with how it turned out, and have already had another customer that is having a Torpedo being built decide he wants it done to his as well. So something that started out as a necessity turned into a new option being offered.
From there, I replaced the deck and started the varnish work, opting to leave it a natural finish and let the amber varnish do its thing. The next hardest choice was the bottom color, but at the end of the day I felt that red represented what the boat had gone through (fire) so decided to stick with that theme.
Once the bottom was painted I was able to go ahead and finish the interior and the trim work. Now came the hardest part of all, the naming process. As with the bottom color I knew I wanted to keep to the fire theme, so all of us at Aristocraft got in on it. I set out a notepad and as anyone thought of a name they would write it down. After we had a good list then we started crossing out names one at a time. When we made it down to four then it turned into a debate session and Firecracker became the name for the revived Torpedo.
The last thing I needed was a motor, and it was only two weeks until the Lake Chatuge boat show. I had already registered the boat so I had to take it, but still needed either a paddle or a motor. A local boat club member, Craig Miller, said he had one in a barn that might work. It hadn’t been run in over 16 years, but hey, what’s not to like about a challenge. I got the Mercury Merc 500 and had a week and a half to make it run again, so I got to work removing the lower unit, distributor, carbs, plugs, fuel pump, and anything else I needed to rebuild. After rebuilding all of the removed parts and reinstalling them the moment of truth came… I turned the key and it started! Kind of. After a few more adjustments we had her running pretty good. No time for a test run for the boat before the show so we just had to hope for the best. At the show it ended up doing great, it floated and it ran, what more could you ask for!