I Bow Down To Hot Rodding History


What is under that hood?

I got an email from Herb Hall from Sierra Boat Company telling me about a very special 16 Racer that is for sale. Now this is no ordinary 16 Racer, not that any of them is ordinary. But this one is one of a handful of insane hot rod versions.


Yes Hot Rod, and in my book, as perfect as any hot rod car of the era. The 1950’s and 60’s.

Well done hot rod

Back in the day when hot rodding cars became a “thing” the same went for boats. And these little racers were the Go To ones to have. Like a Shelby Cobra, how large of an engine can you put in the smallest car.

Grab the wheel. NOW GRAB IT HARD

Well, the Cadillac engine was the engine for sure. And then the souping up started from there. YES. I said Cadillac engine.  I spoke with Jim Staib at Fine Wood boats who had one of these, and use to race against this one for sale now at Sierra Boat Co. It can go 80mph.. 80! The stock speed is around 35. But this is hot rodding and a different art form.

Duel Quad Cadillac power. DEAR GOD!

And as crazy as this seems. And how rare these are. Leaving it as a hot rod may be the smarter choice. Like Stinky it appears to have been glassed over. This must have been the thing to do as well. So there is a precedent for classifying these glassed over hot rods in a category on there own and not messing with them like any hot rod of the day. Clearly this was trend and therefore a value in our classic boat history.

Pleated seats, hot rod wheel. I wouldnt change a thing

What would you do? Leave it, or restore it to original?  The boat is not listed on Sierra Boats website, So email Herb Hall and you have a chance to scoop this up for your collection before it goes live. herb@sierraboat.com


38 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    It is cool and I would leave it alone, but I also think that is a boat you could get hurt in if you don’t know how to handle it. Keeping it right side up could be a challenge!

  2. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    They used to race these in Northern Illinois. Mine had a 390 Caddy with a full race roller cam and flat top pistons. It idled at 1200 rpms which was almost on plane. Big fun but a second or third boat.
    I still have the engine but it needs exhaust manifolds if anyone has a set.

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      Keep it Hot Rodded!!

      Jim your comment of idling at 1200 rpm on plane reminds me of sitting in a marina a couple of years ago when a lobster boat named Wild Wild West came into port. He would simply put it into gear and the rpm’s would jump. They were coming in from the Lobster Boat Races at Long Island, Casco Bay, Maine and were headed to the Portland Lobster Boat Races the next day.

      Wild Wild West dominated the race scene that year.

      Unfortunately most of them are being canceled this year.

    • Steve
      Steve says:

      I have a pair of cast iron Barr Cadillac V8 exhaust manifolds that came off my 390. They are both cracked from being frozen. The local cast iron repair shop quoted me about $100 each to repair them. I would consider letting them go for the cost of shipping. I live in the Seattle area.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I would have thought glassing a race boat would make it heavier and slower. Maybe you could strip it back to wood and get to 90!

    On the topic though, definitely keep it a hot rod. Factory original is boring after a while. These boats have history worth preserving and sharing.

  4. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    Hot rods are cool. keep it as is!

    Did not know there was such a thing as lobster boat racing. But guess I shouldn’t be surprised. People will race anything!

    While I’m foot to the floor & wishing for more at 109 mph, in the MINI at the end of Grattan’s front straight – 80 on the water sounds absolutely terrifying.

  5. tom
    tom says:

    The only thing I would do is change out the steering wheel to something closer to original.Otherwise the boat looks awesome with the dual quad caddy and large dual exhaust.

  6. Mercstun Howell
    Mercstun Howell says:

    That is thee Engine for customs & hot rods which started in the early 50s and I dont think it ever stopped. It was the go to replacement along with Oldsmobile engine for the Flathead V8s. I built my merc to be a period correct piece so I had to put a 1951 caddy 331 in it and I love it.
    What an outstanding boat ! I can’t even imagine the fun that would be. Great post today Matt. LONG LIVE TRADITIONAL HOT RODS , CUSTOMS and BOATS.

  7. Scott mccollum
    Scott mccollum says:

    I have a 1947 Carousel 16’ dual cockpit v-drive I bought 35 years ago and have added wood finish to the top. It was originally glass over wood except for wood bump rail and dashes and had and still has a Buick 364 nail head. Been clocked at 72 mph. Only met one person years ago that ever heard of one who said his dad used to drag race one down in Texas. If anyone has ever heard of a Carousel boat before, please let me know, I have no information on it at all.

  8. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Great boat – Scary – But really cool! Correct me if I’m wrong here, but it seems the Tahoe area (and other high altitude/dry climate lakes) has a high percentage of boats with glassed bottoms, allowing them to be enjoyed safely without the pre-soak routine we are all familiar with. Primarily on those that have not been totally restored with epoxy or 5200 methods.
    Keep that one as is and go fast! 🙂

  9. Jerome
    Jerome says:

    I would also leave the boat as a hot rod. But Greg is write. In the wrong hands this boat could be dangerous. While at high speeds she will do whatever it wants!!

  10. Chase Fulbright
    Chase Fulbright says:

    Matt, you should buy this hot rod and let me buy stinky and bring it back to Georgia!!

  11. Scott Dunsmoor
    Scott Dunsmoor says:

    Hi Matt – Rich Hughes helped me “Hot Rod” my 19′ Gentlemen’s Racer – Falcon. Painted the Crusader 350 to match the new upholstery and I custom fabricated and mirror polished my own exhaust manifolds and carbonator cover. It turned out great and caught the attention of some of the folks at the 2019 ACBS AGM in A-Bay.

  12. Herb Hall
    Herb Hall says:

    Glad everyone like this hot rod racer. A few comments, the bottom is glassed , but not the rest of the boat. Sierra Boat alum and top restorer Tony Brown, replaced the deck and refinished the boat some years ago. Testament to his work, it has held up very well. The paint is a bit dull, but not bad. The engine is either a 365 or 390, I’m trying to figure that out. For all of it’s power, it is surprisingly well behaved. Sierra took care of this boat for a long time, so I can probably dig up some records.

  13. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    If I remember right there is a number on the side of the block to determine year. Year tells CID. Probably take a kid to crawl in there and see it. Mine had extra fast steering maybe two turns lock to lock. I think yours was owned by Bill Dodd when it was in Illinois.

    • Tommyholm
      Tommyholm says:

      I published CCC serial number schema in a past issue of the Century Boat Club’s Thoroughbred newsletter for your reference.

  14. Steve
    Steve says:

    Cadillac 390 is in my 1959 Cruison 18’ restoration project. I have not had her on the water yet, but I’m guessing I will be the first one to the gas dock.

  15. Mike K
    Mike K says:

    i have a 390 cal connell for my streblow project. just rebuilt it and fired it up!. the first cal connell cadillacs were flywheel forward (331, 360) when they went to the 390 they were flywheel rear, mine also has the 72c velvet drive.

    • Steve
      Steve says:

      Mike, I would like to compare engine details with you. My engine is a Cal Cannel Knockoff. Some things are the same and other things are different. I see the water passage on your intake manifold has been blocked. Mine is intact. My engine is flywheel forward with a Paragon transmission. There are other subtile differences too.

  16. Jimmy
    Jimmy says:

    Boat should at least get a proper 5200 bottom before you try and hit that 80mph. You don’t know what’s going on under that thin layer of fiberglass added many years ago.

  17. Mike
    Mike says:

    I have a 1941 Chris Craft 17’ special that was glassed over and painted red white and blue .. the engine hatch doors were modified to allow for an air scoop . It had no engine when I bought it as a grey boat . .. you guys make me think of re- glassing it and putting in as big an engine as possible …
    Has anyone re -glassed a boat ? How big of an engine can you fit in a 17 ‘ special?

    • Steve
      Steve says:

      I re-glassed my 18′ runabout. Getting the old glass of was harder than re-glassing. My boat is plywood. Not planks. Don’t expect to gain any structural strength by fiberglassing.

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