“Emily” – 1937 Thunderbolt To Appear Back In Clayton! This Alone Is Worth The Trip!

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Thanks to fellow Woody Boater Steve Moser who is going to be bringing one of our top favorite boat models to Clayton this year. An amazing 1937 Century Thunderbolt. What’s even cooler is below is some original BW footage of her in action from back in the day.

Fantastic footage

Shipped to Philadelphia PA in 1937 to Lee Fishman of Rittenhouse Street. No information was found on Fishman to date.
Sometime in the early to mid-1940s the boat was purchased by Cleo F. Pineau of Williamsport, PA. He was quite a colorful man with a colorful history. Check out Links: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cleo_Francis_Pineau

During the time of Pineau’s ownership, “Emily” successfully raced on the Susquehanna River and most notably in the Lock Haven Jaycee’s Powerboat Regatta still occurring today.

One story related by Mr. Gehret’s daughter, Suzanne, is that the day before the Lock Haven Regatta the boat was tested and left at a dock about 20 miles downriver from the race site. Race day morning, the boat was found submerged. It seems some fellow competitors stood on the boat until they sank her. Mr. Gehret and a group of friends raised the boat and got it running in time to make the race and win. Seems the boat was well known up in these parts during that time period.

Looking like garage art for sure where she sat for some time

In June of 1954, the ownership of “Emily” was transferred to Robert Gehret, a long time friend of Pineau and Plant Manager of Radiant Steel Products Company which Pineau owned. During that time she continued to race in the area and was also was used for pleasure. Mr. Gehret’s daughter, who helped with much of the history, remembers the boat well but, because Mr. Gehret stopped racing it when the children were little none of them remember riding in it. The Gehrets owned a larger cabin cruiser which was deemed a safer ride. The Thunderbolt was used by the family up until the 1960’s. She was sold sometime in the mid to late 1970’s and pretty much fell out of sight. In the 1990’s, the Gehret family attempted to find the boat to no avail. It was a wish of Mr Gehret’s to see her one last time before his passing in 2009. We have no real information on the boat during this time.

In 1983, while in school study hall, I spotted the Thunderbolt advertised in a Sun Gazette classified ad in Williamsport, PA. (Who says you get nothing out of study hall?) While my father and I were just getting into wood boats, I remembered reading a story “Has Another Thunderbolt Been Found” in a copy of the Thoroughbread Century Owner magazine handed down to us from a family friend. With that information we decided to make the 40 minute ride to check it out. Prior to going, I convinced my father to bring a flatbed trailer “just in case” we might like the boat. It was good we took the trailer, because the boat was purchased and she came home that night. Knowing it was an important find and needed to be restored correctly, we put her away in a barn where she sat for the next 30 years.

Oh ya! Found! Okay, not found in this shape, this is later, but you get the idea

An ironic side note is we purchased the boat less than 10 miles from where the Gehret family resided.

More like this shape – Clayton 2013

During that time other boats came and went, but the Century stayed secured until we met Bo and Kathy Muller. In 2013, the Thunderbolt went to the Clayton Show. Bo took a closer look and arrangements were made for her restoration.
In September of 2017, “Emily” was relaunched in Lake Winnepasakee for the first time in over 50 years.

Bottom off

Oh! That is cool. A boat thats cooler upside down!

Looking great

She is ready

In late September of 2017, “Emily” was taken back to Williamsport, PA. We met with Mr. Pineau’s daughter and the Gehret family to see the boat and take her back on the river she used to run. It was a special day since Steve and Suzanne were able to take a ride in the boat that had sat in their backyard for many years. Andree, Pineau’s daughter, chose not ride in the boat. She cherished the memory of riding with her father, but she was pleased to see the Thunderbolt back on the river.

Wonderful! PA 1937 A

Let her rip!

Like a centerfold- Turn On’s: Ripping varnish off in the water, Long rides full throttle, Screaming out on the lake. Turn Off’s – Being tied up, waiting in the barn, and winter!

Boat lust. Is that okay?

I love this photo!

This weekend “Emily” was at her first show in Skaneateles, NY. She will head up to Clayton the next weekend, and to Harvey’s Lake the following weekend. Are you headed to Clayton! She will be in the water and we will be capturing photos of her in action!

18 replies
  1. Andy in Middletown
    Andy in Middletown says:

    For any0ne close enough to go, Harvey’s Lake is a wonderful little boat show on a nice sized lake, with boat houses ringing the shore. It’s a wet and dry meet with two ramps to get your boat in the water if you don’t have a show slip. Worth a day trip for sure.

  2. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    I’d also like some information on the engine in Emily. A similar shape ‘barn find’ was at our Boatshow last year. We’re looking to restore her and the engine choice will be key.

  3. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    Not sure if it is a Century Thunderbolt. Were there other Thunderbolts also with the step hull?

  4. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    Century placed Gray Marine Phantom Four-62, 143 cu. in. At 3600 rpm in 1937 Thunderbolt models.

      • Tommyholm
        Tommyholm says:

        Century had relations with Universal , Blue Jackets but I don’t see it advertised with the Thunderbolt 1937 or prior.

  5. Ian
    Ian says:

    the hull design on the century thunderbolt was way ahead of its time; in fact this design is now being used by many companies today incorporating a step and a shingled bottom ; the fireball 6 cylinder engine was heavy relative to the power output and the boat was unable to make use of the full step as a result it plowed water; had they been able to reduce the engine weight or increase hp substantially to give the boat more lift; then the step would have been fully activated; the firefly boat design with a similar bottom but outboard powered worked better because of the change in Center of Balance with the outboard .

  6. Lee Wangstad
    Lee Wangstad says:

    Did anyone else notice the facial expression of the driver in the video? Pure jubilation! That captures what vintage boating is all about, even if this was taken when vintage boating wasn’t vintage. Uncontrollable ecstasy. Been there before?

  7. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    The 1937 Thunderbolt is 14’ in length with a beam of 54”. Freeboard ran 16” to 12” at aft. Miles , it is a Century it does a 100 mph.

  8. tommyholm
    tommyholm says:

    just to clarify, Century Thunderbolt models were 14′ from 1931 to 1937. In 1938-1939 a “gen II” model of 15’6″ was made. Designer Robert Rioux rendered a 1999 for the Century Boat Club.

  9. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    I came to this discussion late – the 1938 Century Thunderbolt that I am PRESERVING for Ron Johns – Karl Johns son – is a slow and steady process. Much of the original wood has been preserved with new fasteners, a new back keel, and 2 bottom planks. It has the stepped bottom but not the shingle planking. This model came standard with the Gray Phantom 103 hp and was quoted by Century to be capable of 45 mph with that engine option

  10. Roberta
    Roberta says:

    Thanks, Jack, for sharing. I think the hull shape confused me a bit. The change from 14′ to 15’6″ in 1938 explains that. Can’t wait to see it completed. Let me know if you need any wood resawn or planed.

  11. Charlie
    Charlie says:

    Here’s my 1939 ventnor 3 point hydro barn find from Harvey’s Lake, PA. Pulled it out in 2014. Still undergoing restoration. Powered by a Ford flathead V8-60 with a Lehman marine conversion.

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