Century 1939 Thunderbolt Model, Richard T. Johnson, Builder


This 1939 Century Thunderbolt Model was built from a kit but required quite a bit of cutting and shaping of parts to complete. The interior framing is mostly balsam wood but the topsides and decking are mahogany. The hull is plywood. It’s not 100% complete but all that’s lacking is the external hardware. I believe that the model was the incentive that kept my wife’s brother alive much longer than anyone ever thought possible.

He had a terminal lung disease (industrial related, not a smoker). He started building this at least a year after doctors advised him and us that he could not possibly live another 6 months. He took great pride in his workmanship on the model, as is visible. He took even greater pride in his survival skills by continuing his doctors visits every 6 months for the next year and a half after starting the model. He completed the interior the day before his last and was satisfied with his accomplishment. He gave it to our son-in-law saying “do what you want with that, I’m done.”

The model has a battery powered variable speed motor drive and rudder steering with remote controls. The motor is under the visible hatch forward of the windshield, the batteries fit under the cockpit removable floorboard. There’s a hidden removable decking section behind the seat for access to the steering control components. I don’t know much about model building and how they work but we’re going to take it out for a trial run this Spring as a tribute to Richard, the most intelligent and courageous man I’ve ever known. We’ll try to get a video to show later.

It would be awsome to have a full size original of this great racer. Century built the first of these in 1931. They were only 14′ long for the first few years but were lengthened to 16′ for the ’38 & ’39 model years. Visit the Century Boat Club web site for more about this beautiful boat.

2 replies
  1. woody boater
    woody boater says:

    Great story. Great Model, Great Boat. The Thunderbolt is on top of my list. For the next project. Thanks Al.

  2. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Woody Boater, I’ll keep my eyes open for one. You’ll be the second to know about it. It would be good to know someone with a full-size one. The twins have already out-grown the model (4 months old now). We need a follow-up photo in a real one.

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