Circa 1951 Larson Boat Works catalog featuring the Cabin Outboard Special.

WHEN WE VISITED the impressive Mikkelson Collection Museum in Willmar, Minnesota back in 2010 (after the well documented Warner Auction), for me one boat always stood out from rest of the huge collection of Larson boats.

That boat was a very original, mint condition 1955 Larson 18′ Cabin Outboard Special powered by twin 25HP Johnson Seahorse RDE outboards. The late Paul Mikkelson (1937-2019) loved Larson boats and was always willing to share his extensive knowledge and history of the Larson marque. He described the Cabin Special Outboard as an “overnighter” with it’s wooden hardtop, unique retractable picnic table and seating / sleeping area arrangement.

Paul was a wonderful soft spoken man, and that day in 2010 his description of the Cabin Special took me back in time to the 1950s in Minnesota when the boat was truly used as a utility craft. Imagine back in the day, loading up the boat with the wife & kids, some overnight gear, food & supplies for a few days of exploring some of Minnesota’s beautiful 10,000 lakes? Or using the Cabin Special to deliver mail to the isolated cabins situated around the lakes? Or for a two day fishing trip?

Long time fellow Woody Boater and historian Lee Wangstad is also an expert on the Larson Boat marque – we reached out to Lee for his thoughts on the Cabin Outboard Special.

Lee commented“I believe that to really get to the beginning of the Cabin Outboard Special you have to go back to the pre-war Larson Boat Works inboard line. The first image is from the 1939 catalog and shows a 19-1/2’ inboard utility.”

From the 1939 Larson catalog.

“The cabin was offered on all utility models and was continued until the war interrupted production. Larson Boat Works built boats of compressed seam cedar strip construction with white oak ribs. The inboards had a patented hull design that allowed a round bilge, yet provided a square chine for better lift at takeoff. That’s another whole story.”

“After the disastrous fire in December 1949, the decision was made to discontinue inboard boat production. With this decision came the dedication to produce a broader line of outboard boats, and the Outboard Special was born. This line included boats in 14, 16, 18, and 20 feet in length. Designed for the largest outboards available, and built with the largest northern Minnesota lakes in mind, they were quite popular with sportsmen and women that were willing to head out into big waters.”

A brand new Cabin Outboard Special in the new Larson Boat Work showroom, now equipped with overhead fire sprinklers.

“The cabin option was offered soon after its introduction in the 18 and 20 foot versions. Big and beamy, they were the ideal boat for these endeavors, with an open area at the stern and a cabin that provided protection against any weather situation that might arise. In 1952 the 18 footer had a 65” beam while the 20 foot model measured 74” in beam. In 1953 the beam of the O.S. 18 grew to 73”, while the O.S. 20 remained at 74”.

“I believe that the round “porthole” windows came about in 1955 and continued through 1956, the last year of production for the Cabin Outboard Specials. It was replaced with a larger 21’ flying bridge outboard cruiser.”

“By the time that the Outboard Specials were introduced, Larson Boat Works had grown their market to include the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Iowa, as well as a large dealer in Miami, Oklahoma.”

“There is often a discrepancy in lengths of the boats. In the Larson catalogs it is stated “Lengths of all our outboard boats are taken along the gunwale.” This applies to all the catalogs that I have in my possession, from 1939 through the mid-fifties.”

A 1951 Cabin Special restored by father & son team of Peter & Alex Johnson – (Dane Anderson photos).

“As with any Larson boat at the time, it could be ordered to suit both the needs and tastes of the owner, with many leaving the factory with personal custom touches. Paul Larson was very adept at pleasing his customers, as well as his dealers.” – Lee Wangstad

How Many Larson Cabin Outboard Specials Survived?

Recently, a great story was published in the Fall 2020 ACBS Rudder magazine by Tom McGowan featuring “MR FRANK” a well preserved 1955 20′ Cabin Outboard Special that now resides on Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey.

In the story Tom noted the existence of 15 Cabin Boats – 9 in Minnesota, 2 in Wisconsin, 1 of each in Illinois, Michigan, Montreal, Canada and “MR FRANK” in New Jersey.

Roger Moberg in his classic Larson outboard – (Dane Anderson photo).

Our friend and long time Woody Boater Roger Moberg from Minnesota (nephew of boat builder Paul Larson) reached out to us to ask if we could help locate any current Cabin Boat owners. Roger noted that he has tried communicating with owners listed in the ACBS Directory with not much success.

Roger notes: “Please tell the “Woody World” we are looking for sleuth’s. Putting out a BOLO (as the cops would say) to find any and all Larson Cabin Outboard Specials that may be hiding in barns, groves, behind the woodpile, etc..”

“The “gang” has been known to hide in very secure places as well as out in the open. Their old stomping grounds were in areas where they might have found work in the early and mid ‘50’s hauling mail, working for guides or other people in “off road” places like northern Minnesota, Michigan, Maine, Canada, etc..”

“Two sizes 18’ and 20’. Some enclosed, some not. Different window configurations. Cedar strip construction and outboard powered. No reward given for information in locating, but a great deal of satisfaction for the finder and muchly appreciated by the 15-20 owners already out there!”

The grey Cabin Boat that was purchased at the huge Mikkelson Collection Auction back in May 2012 by Todd McGonagle who identified it as a family boat. We’re not sure if it was ever restored – (Dane Anderson photo).

A 1952 Cabin Special owned by Denny Van Berkum – (Lee Wangstad photo).

Soooo, that is my long winded lead-up to asking the Woody Boater community if anyone out there knows the whereabouts of any Larson Cabin Special Outboard boats or has any photos to help fellow Woody Boater Roger Moberg in his Search for the Remaining Siblings?

Special thanks to Lee Wangstad and Dane Anderson for assisting with today’s story.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone! and please stay safe.

Texx
_________________________________________________________

« « Previous Post         |         Next Post » »
44 Responses to “The Larson Cabin Outboard Special – In Search Of The Remaining Siblings”
  1. Greg Lewandowski

    Hi Texx and great to hear from you again. That is truly a rare and unique watercraft. I have never seen one show up at any of our Michigan events, but if I do, I will have the owner check in with you. I hope others in the WB community can provide more information.

  2. Rabbit

    I follow an artist from Minneapolis on Instagram @drcoggins. He appears to have a 1955 18’ Larson enclosed outboard at his cabin on Pine Lake in Northern Wisconsin. I’m not sure if his is included in your tally. His cabin, like the Larson, is “preserved”, in the best sense of the word. His Instagram is beautiful, with great photos of his simple vintage cabin. His son David Coggins is a noted menswear writer and blogger.

  3. Matt

    Here is one of the images from his instgram page. WOW. I tried to link to it and for some reason it wont. Great page! Thanks Rabbit

    • Roger Moberg

      Thanks, Matt. Pristine! Where is Pine Lake in N. Wisc?
      Would LOVE to see more of your boat! Jet Lag

    • David Coggins

      What a great story! This is my Larson at Pine Lake. I’m David Coggins. We bought the boat from Todd Warner in 2005 and recently had it fully restored. We love it.
      I’ll send more photos. @drcoggins

  4. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P )

    Cool Boats! I never knew they existised until now. I will keep a lookout. Good to hear from you Tex.

  5. Tom McGowan

    Thank you for great write up about our boats. Really appreciated. I even learned how to measure my boat so it matches the 20’ on the original bill of sale.

  6. Roger Moberg

    Guys, thank you, thank, thank you for such a fine article and with some info I might have never had if it were not for TEXX, Dane, Lee, combining your efforts on this part of Larson history. As humble as Paul G. Larson was, I know he’d be appreciative of this honor and his shy smile would brighten the day. Already, you guys helped us find one more “lost” Larson Cabin Special up in Pine Lake, Wisconsin. We Swedes would say it in two words: Tusen Tak! (That’s a “thousand thanks” !)
    Jetlagroger

  7. Jim Staib

    We wait YEARS to have a story from TEXX and I expected to have mention of his Harley, Camping on a pontoon, hiding out in Cuba to avoid the virus. Well it was good to hear from him. Maybe more often?

  8. Mike Green

    Greta story and great to hear from you. I hope all is well my friend.

  9. m-fine

    You know it’s a TEXX story when it is long, packed with incredible research, and every single word is spelled correctly and grammatically correct. It’s been too long Texx, we miss you and the contrast you bring.

  10. John Rothert

    for sure it has been to long texx…keep the good stuff coming, be safe and like Jim says…fill us in on your life and times.

    Great story.

    John in Va.

  11. Wicked Wahine

    Aloha Texx! Mahalo for the research and a fine article
    Happy Thanksgiving!

  12. Mike P.

    Larson made an aluminum version called a Crestliner Voyager Hardtop that had the same lines and cabin as the woody Cabin Outboard Special. It was made in ’55, ’56, and ’57 with very limited numbers. I have a 1956 one which is next up to restore, mine even has a Larson steering wheel.

    • Chug-A-Lug

      Thought that design looked familar.My brother-in law had an aluminum one that needed restoring.Sadly he’s gone now but boat might still be out there(5 miles south-2 miles east of Warroad,Mn.)

    • Larry Forget

      MIKE . Great Comment on this GREAT STORY.. A handful of collectors have same 18 ft style in Aluminum with the CrestLiner and other buyers seeking. pintrest has bunch of photos. 56 seems to be polished silver, with the 57 year in white paint & green stripe.

  13. Mark

    My boat was originally delivered to Captain Mikkelson’s Marine Base in Sparta New Jersey.

    Any link to the museum ?

    • Texx

      Hi Mark. If you are looking for more information on the Mikkelson Collection Museum, we did a number of stories on the museum (before it closed) and the eventual museum auction in 2012. Just type in Mikkelson Museum in the search box at the bottom of the Woody Boater home page to see those stories. – Texx

  14. Dick Dow

    That was a great day at the Mikkelson Museum when we were “in the neighborhood” for the Mecum auction! Paul was so gracious, the extent and quality of the exhibits incredible. One of the highlights of my time in this hobby. The pictures brought it all back to life. I hope a few more of these boats see daylight as a result. Thanks Texx – Welcome back! 🙂👍🏻

  15. Rich Johnson

    Thank you for the great article Texx. Lots of information. This is my Larson Cabin “Annetique” that I am working on. I excided to own and restore a piece of Larson history.

    • roger moberg

      Thanks for that additional pictures Rich. Best wishes as you continue getting her ready to go! Rog

  16. Ron in Seattle

    Matt, thanks for sharing Texx with us! Well thought out story, spelling correct, grammer, etc. Good to to hear from my friend Lee in there too! Thanks Texx! But he doesn’t do it everyday… Happy Turkey Day! Stay home, Stay Safe.

  17. Dane

    Thanks Texx,
    Great story on the background of these boats. I’m impressed with the last photo in the story of the Denny VanBerkum boat underway. An 18 foot cabin boat up on plane running flat and scooting right along with a 35hp Johnson. Pretty amazing.

  18. Texx

    Thanks for all the kind words everyone.

    Yes, still travelling the highways and byways of the country staying in 2 star motels – just the way I like it.

    Hope to contribute a few more stories to Woody Boater in the new year. – Texx

  19. Alex

    Interesting story. Never seen one in the wood. Thanks Texx. Cool bike, btw.

  20. Jeff Larson

    Our Resto shop rescued Ann a few years back off the shoreline of Lk Vermilion, ne Mn – We believe she is a 21′ Flying Bridge Outboard Cruiser that appears to have been retro-fitted with a 1960 80hp Volvo IO –
    We were told Volvo drives were introduced to Larson around 1957??
    The boat itself is registered as a 1954?
    It was rumored to have originally hauled mail around Frasier Bay in Lk Vermilion before being purchased for private use –
    After its boathouse fell into dis-repair Ann was moved to the shoreline where she sat on the Gator for years until we got a phone call from the new property owner who was getting ready to light the burn pile it if we had no interest in it – whew!
    Anyways shes safe in our cold storage and any information about this model would be most helpful –
    Thank You! Jeff

    • Dane

      Jeff,

      It’s great to see one of these. Noted Larson historian Lee Wangstad has a nice Larson history write up in the library section of Fiberglassics. According to his Larson history the 21′ Cruiser appeared in 1958 as a replacement to the Cabin Specials. The molded flying bridge top appears to have been optional. IO power wasn’t listed until 1961 but that doesn’t mean that it was impossible to have a custom or a prototype. The outboard transom was a molded fiberglass attachment off the back of the boat. Here is a photo from the fiberglassics library page.

      • Jeff Larson

        That is a great brochure pic -Thank You!
        Ann does not appear to have had the fiberglass flybridge option but does have a folding canvas top complete with wooden framing/bows – Al the other options listed are there except cushions-
        The VP is a Aquamatic Transmount Drive w/ Morse Controls – A couple service records show it as a 1960 80hp- It also has the original Transom Mounting Template w/parts catalogue n instruction manual-
        The stern deck and motor box are fir plywood stained to match the boats mahogany – We’ll have to look closer at the transom for any sign of the fiberglass attachment mounting holes –

    • Dane

      Jeff,

      After a little more looking tonight, I see that Bob Speltz has a 1955 advertisement for the 21′ Cruiser in Vol 4 of the Real Runabouts.

  21. Jeff Larson

    That is a great brochure pic -Thank You!
    Ann does not appear to have had the fiberglass flybridge option but does have a folding canvas top complete with wooden framing/bows – Al the other options listed are there except cushions-
    The VP is a Aquamatic Transmount Drive w/ Morse Controls – A couple service records show it as a 1960 80hp- It also has the original Transom Mounting Template w/parts catalogue n instruction manual-
    The stern deck and motor box are fir plywood stained to match the boats mahogany – We’ll have to look closer at the transom for any sign of the fiberglass attachment mounting holes –

  22. Mike Peters

    I know of a Larson OB cabin cruiser near Sturgeon Bay,WI.
    I think it could be for sale.
    I can follow up if anyone is interested.

    • Roger Moberg

      Mike, Would appreciate your contacting me in regard to the Sturgeon Bay boat. Jetlagroger@gmail.com is one way to reach me. And my thanks to Dane A for alerting me your note. we’ve now found three additional OS series boats since Texx put out that fine story.

    • Roger Moberg

      Mike, Would appreciate your contacting me in regard to the Sturgeon Bay boat. And my thanks to Dane A for alerting me your note. we’ve now found three additional OS series boats since Texx put out that fine story.