An Ultra Rare Schillo Runabout Built In Chi-Town – The Social Thorough-Bred From 1929


For us, this story began almost four years ago. In February 2008 Woody Boater ran a story about a rare 1929 24′ Schillo Triple Cockpit Sportabout that, at the time was listed for sale at Jim Staib’s Fine Wood Boats in Illinois. The story was titled – “1929 Schillo, Help Save History, Help Save The Soul Of Antique Boating.” (You can see this original story which is preserved in the Woody Boater archives by clicking here)

Fast-forward to May 2010 when we were in Post Falls, Idaho attending the 5th Annual Resort Boat Shop Show & Shine event where we spent some time visiting with fellow Woody Boater and restoration expert Jim Winslow from McCall, Idaho. Jim mentioned that he had recently purchased the 1929 Schillo triple from Jim Staib and was planning to some day restore this historically significant wooden runabout. For us that was exciting news as we knew the boat was in good hands with Jim.

In The Real Runabouts VII, Bob Speltz provides some history of the little known Schillo Motor Boat Manufacturing Company. Bob writes,

“Though not a lot is known about the firm itself, we know a little more about it’s founder, Albert G. Schillo. Albert Schillo formed his boatbuilding operation in 1926. Magazine articles gave glowing accounts of several models offered by the firm in those first years.”

“Several different Schillo Runabouts were offered. The first was the 8-90 “Sportabout”, a 21’9″ length Runabout powered via a converted Curtis 90 HP airplane engine. This first Schillo Runabout could reach speeds of 35 to 45 MPH, which was pretty fast in 1926.”

“The craft sported a double planked bottom, the first layer was select Cedar with a glued layer of canvas between it and the outer planking, which was Honduras or African Mahogany… The larger 27′ Schillo Runabout was also available. This hull also came standard with a “marineized” version of the 90 HP Curtis but the big 220 HP Hispano-Souiza aircraft engine was also available. The most powerful Schillo Runabouts were fitted with the 450 HP V-12 Liberty aircraft engine.”

“In 1927 Schillo ran a full page ad in Motor Boating magazine discussing it’s all new 8-220 model. The boat offered seating for four in the aft cockpit, with engine mounted amidships and hidden seating for two more under a hidden hatch.”

“Local legend has it that Schillo Runabouts were very popular with the “Bootleggers” out of Chicago (due to their high speed capabilities) and sales flourished until the Prohibition Act was repealed. The original plant where Schillo boats were built was located in 3981 North Rockwell St., in Chicago, Illinois.” – Bob Speltz

Schillo Motor Boat Manufacturing Company operated from 1926 to 1929.

Here are a few shots of the rare 24′ Schillo Runabout before it left Fine Wood Boats a few years ago. Jim Staib noted that the boat had a new bottom installed but as you can see by the photos, some significant work was still required to complete the restoration.

Jim Staib had the instrument panel and gauges restored and they look fantastic.

So now fast forward again to August 2011… As we were en-route to Lake Tahoe, California to attend the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance, we made a point of going through McCall, Idaho to hopefully stop by Jim Winslow’s restoration shop to visit with Jim and see how he was doing on the Schillo restoration. It was our lucky day, because I called Jim from town and asked if we could stop by and 30 minutes later he welcomed us to his shop just outside McCall. Not knowing where Jim was at with the project, what we discovered was simply amazing!

The 80 year-old Schillo was well along in the restoration process and was in the varnish room and just in between coats of varnish the day we arrived.

It was the first time I had ever seen the boat in person and I can honstly say that the photos don’t do it justice. Not to mention how difficult it is to photograph a 24′ boat in a tight varnish room with a tiny point and shoot “pea-shooter” camera and my limited photography skills on top of that… But, here’s what we found…

The attention to detail that Jim Winslow has put into this project is truly specatcular, and we spent probaby an hour just going over the boat and appreciating what this boat stands for… After all, although not documented this could be one of the last, if not “the” last Schillo Runabout known to exist. Very cool stuff…

Then, like two kids at Christmas that just couldn’t wait any longer, Jim brought out some of the original hardware that has been re-plated and we carefully placed it were it was to be located on the decks…and the boat just popped! So we had to bust out the “pea-shooter” camera again and snapped a few more shots.

This particular Schillo Runabout had the unique “Hidden Hatch” aft, which to me now is a bit confusing because after studying the sales literature that Jim let us photograph (above) it makes reference to the hidden hatch being forward of the main cockpit, not aft.

However in Bob Speltz comments, he makes reference to the “Hidden Hatch” but not the location, forward or aft. Maybe Bob was faced with the same unanswered question… I have not spoken to Jim Winslow to ask him what he knows about the location of the hatch. When the restoration is completed, Jim indicated that the “Hidden Hatch” (car guys would refer to this as a period Rumble Seat) will be fully functional just as it was over 80 years ago, which is very cool…

Jim also mentioned when we met that based on his research, he thinks this boat was actually built in 1928 and sold as a 1929 model, for the record.

I have not communicated with Jim Winslow since we visited his restoration shop in August, so we are not sure where he is currently at with the project, but if we get any new information or photos from Jim we will post them to this story as an update. I can hardly wait for the day when this rare Schillo Runabout is re-launched and hopefully will get the opportunity to see it in the water, doing what it was designed to do after all those years!

A footnote to this story. The same time I arrived at Jim’s shop, a customer also arrived with his awesome ’54 Greavette Shearliner “Carolita”, for Jim to do some minor mechanical tweeks. He joined in on the fun we were having looking at Jim’s Schillo and I admit we got a little carried away… I must have left the varnish room three times and then was drawn back in to admire the Schillo just one more time before I left on my journey to Tahoe. However, by the look on his face, after an hour, Jim’s customer was beginning to loose his sense of humor… Just kidding of course, he just thought we were nuts. We had a great afternoon touring around Jim’s shop and yard discovering some other very interesting and rare wooden boats, but that’s for another day…

If anyone out there in Woody Boater land has any other information on the Schillo Marque, or the whereabouts of any other boats, please let us know. I’m sure Jim would like to hear from you.

Thanks again to Jim Winslow for allowing us in to his restoration shop in Idaho and for sharing this unique piece of wooden boating history with us here at Woody Boater.


21 replies
    • Rick
      Rick says:

      A fine looking boat. The Schillo Marque Club has how many members? Or Will he be sitting at the meeting all alone?

      • matt
        matt says:

        Your never alone in a Schillo owners meeting.. That cricket chirping can be a good pet and wonderful companion.. Take him boating as well.. They are good luck after all.

  1. tommy holmes
    tommy holmes says:

    nice boat, love the Thorough-Bred tag line.
    I’m off to a boater’s holiday party in Holland, MI just next door to the old CC Plant of Holland – now and forever a toxic contaminated site- maybe I’ll light a candle.

    Happy Holidays!

  2. Allen
    Allen says:

    I am kinda bummed we didnt get a story on Sea Ray or Hatteras or something…..hey even a good article on those red laced hood ornaments would work too……but after imagining all the good varnish fumes you must have encountered it made me smile again, knowing that that was still hope for woodyboaterville.
    Everyone have a safe and joyous Christmas and for those of you in the northern areas of North America…..just go massge a striped deck or a smooth plank and smile that Spring is only about 13 more Saturdays away. Lucky guy to save this part of history and share it with us……woodyboater mites.

  3. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    Great lines. Did he lengthen the upsweep a bit to make a less drastic bend in the deck planks? Kinda looks like it.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Not sure but we will try to find out. Of course that was quickly becoming all the rage with the Chris-Craft guys in ’29.

      Frank refers to the “Fall Away Stern” – This particular design element of Jim’s Schillo was very attractive and deserved the term “Looks fast standing still.” Probably best appreciated when viewed in the water, which I hope we will do some day.

  4. DON & MOLLY
    DON & MOLLY says:

    This will be one of the nicest boats to Payette Lake, probably the oldest also.
    Can’t wait to see it grace the waters here. Give me a call Jim on the first run. I’ll be there to help.

  5. Paul H
    Paul H says:

    Fantastic to see such a unique and rare boat being restored and brought back to life. I can’t wait to see this one – hopefully soon.

  6. Tommy holm
    Tommy holm says:

    Ok, I,m back from the Holiday Boaters Party in Holland, Mi – not that anyone cares – but CHris Smith III and Chris (Mark) Smith IV want to wish u woodies a CC Merry Christmas and to keep those CC boats varnished!

  7. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Beautiful! Does the prop seen in the “before” transom shot actually belong with that boat??? If so, that implies very large displacement, low rev original power – Liberty perhaps?

    Merry Christmas!

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Hi Dick – Good to hear from you as always.

      When I was with Jim in August he mentioned this boat may have originally been powered by a big 220 HP Hispano-Souiza V-8. He was planning to install modern power for now… Just wait until you see this boat, I know you will be impressed.

    • Jim Staib
      Jim Staib says:

      That is a 24X18 prop. Just being stored there. When I got the boat it had a 12X13 and was powered by a Gray 140. I sold it with a 165hp Chrysler straight 8.

  8. Texx
    Texx says:

    Today we received the following comment from Ed Schillo:

    The restoration is beautiful. Our Uncle, Al Schillo would have loved it. He built it.

    Ed Schillo

  9. John Schillo
    John Schillo says:

    I’m very happy to see this part of family history. My father stuck to building kayaks and canoes.

  10. Ed Schillo
    Ed Schillo says:

    Al Schillo was my great uncle. Our dad raced uncle Al’s hydroplanes. Uncle Al and our grandfather Ed raced Mercers in the Indy 500

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