The Legendary 1929 Dingle “Gerry Lo” – Fastest Boat On Lake Minnetonka in 1929
The legendary 1929 30′ Dingle runabout “Gerry Lo” had a rough ride after the historic Mecum / Warner Auction in late 2010. Much has been written about the auction, the role that “Gerry Lo” played in the subsequent fallout from the auction, so we don’t need to go there.
This one of a kind wooden runabout was custom built by Joseph Dingle Boat Works of St. Paul, Minnesota at a cost of $25,000. “Gerry Lo” was commissioned in 1929 for Minnesota inventor and businessman Frank Wolcott Griswold. After her original launch in 1929, with her original Capitol converted Curtiss D12 V-12 engine, “Gerry Lo” earned a reputation as being “The fastest boat on Lake Minnetonka.”
The 80-plus year history of the custom built Dingle was covered by historian Bob Speltz in his book The Real Runabouts I and is also well documented on the Internet. However good photos of “Gerry Lo” in the water are difficult to find and not that common… Until now.
Over the holidays fellow Woody Boater Dane Anderson shared with us some of his unique photographs from his many years of covering boat shows in and around Minnesota. And to our surprise, Dane had some great shots of “Gerry Lo” that we thought would be fun to share with the Woody Boater community today. The photos at the dock (above and below) were shot in September 2005 at Lake Minnetonka, MN.
At the time (and at auction) “Gerry Lo” was powered by a 1941 Rolls-Royce Meteor V-12 producing over 600 HP.
After seeing the Dingle runabout for the first time in 1976 at the 1st Annual Classic & Antique Boat Show on Lake Minnetonka – Bob Speltz wrote:
Mr. Frank K. Griswold, of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota decided he wanted a new inboard speedboat. He proceeded to contact both Chris-Craft and Hacker concerning the boat he wanted built, but seemed neither firm was interested, so Griswold visited with Dingle Boat Company, and they proceeded to build one of the finest custom inboard runabouts I or anyone else have ever seen!
Words almost fail to capture the true beauty of this fine boat! I am sure she was one of the only Dingle runabouts of her type ever built. Unusual equipment must include her “V” windshield as well as her chrome, oval style step plates.
Even her name is in script, chrome style writing in big letters along each side towards the bow. Again this boat is nothing but class all the way…
The Dingle Boat Works of St. Paul, Minnesota spanned more than 50 years of powerboat building at the head of the Mississippi River across from downtown St. Paul.
Bob Speltz – The Real Runabouts I
Below are a few more shots from Dane of “Gerry Lo” from the 2001 Whitefish Chain Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous at Moonlite Bay on Cross Lake, MN when the boat was owned by F. Todd Warner from Mahogany Bay boats. (By the way, you can click on any of the photos today to enlarge them)
Dane commented – “Todd always liked to load up the Dingle with passengers for the boat parades during the shows… and she always looked great out on the water.”
I can say that when I first saw this big hulk of a boat on the trailer at the Mecum / Warner Auction in 2010, I had a hard time trying to imagine what it would actually look like in the water, so these photos from Dane were great to see, and they provide a good perspective of just how she looked in the water a few years ago.
“Gerry Lo” was originally named after the children of the Griswold family – Geraldine and Lois Mary Griswold… I am not exactly sure where the 1929 Dingle is today, so I won’t speculate… but hopefully, some day the boat will re-emerge and once again grace the waters of America’s Lakes.
Since we first received the photographs of “Gerry Lo” from Dane, behind the scenes we have been having this (fun) ongoing debate about now to best describe the styling and overall architecture of the big Dingle. Some like the look, some don’t like the look… Some even think it’s ugly – but I won’t say who that is…
So today we are asking the question –
“In your opinion, what single word best describes Gerry Lo?”
And don’t hold back, we want to know – I have some money riding on this… (You are also welcome to provide additional commentary if you like) The winner of the best word (as voted on by a panel of experts) will receive a special Woody Boater prize pack.
A side note, in the above 2005 photos from Lake Minnetonka you can just see an outline of a red and white Higgins across the dock. I asked Dane and he confirmed that this is the 1955 Higgins 23′ Sportspeedster that was once owned by Dan Nelson at Nelson Boat Works in Minnesota.
At the time this was Dan’s go-to classic boat, which was later completely restored by Nelson Boat Works, and is now owned by the Ploetner family in New Jersey. “Foxy Lady” has won many top level awards throughout the country over the last few years and is a real treat to see in person if you ever get the chance.
Here’s what the Higgins looked like before she was restored, with Dan at the helm in 2001 at Moonlight Bay, MN. (I hope I have my facts straight on the ’55 Higgins, if not – Don P. and Dan Nelson please jump in)
Thanks to Dane Anderson for sharing these great photos with us today.
I’ll get this started.
A utility runabout wannabe.
(no graceful lines)
I like this boat and her looks. That makes some sense as I’m usually more partial to the contemporary end of the scale and I think the “Gerry Lo” was ahead of her time.
Oh sure, there’s things I could pick at (like the use of Douglas Fir to frame the engine hatches) but they are minor.
Being more utilitarian in design I believe the lack of design fanfare lends to the understated elegance of this craft.
But if one word is all I get… I’d use “EFFICACIOUS” as this boat get’s it done. … in spades.
The two pieces of this boat that interest me are the Curtiss D12 and the Rolls Royce Meteor. I have no word to describe the rest of it.
just says it all.
Has the ownership of the boat been resolved?
Mecum “bought it back” and paid $100,000 to settle the suit. I am not sure if he then owned it or if Warner ended up with it again. It seems like either one would be likely to have resold it.
“Oil Burner” Note the extra 8 bottles in the engine compartment.
This may be one of those cases in the in person version is better than the photographed version. I have seen this boat at the Warner Auction and its a beautiful boat. Maybe some make up for the photo shoot might help.. Or bigger boobs. That always helps.
I like its Brute-ish looks.
dimensions aside, I would say “nondescript”
Style wise, it just never did it for me. Intersting yes, but that is due mostly to the size and power choice.
How about “dis-proportionate”? It seems like it’s trying to hard to be several different boats at once.
I’d also like to support Matt’s call for bigger boobs.
“Bauhaus” maybe is the woody boat version of the much unloved “International Style” of architecture of the 1920’s.?
Proof, Bigger Boobs help EVERYTHING, its like bacon and cheese
You missed a golden opportunity to replace the old lady in a trench coat with MikeM in a trench coat, looking up at the boobs.
The one with the sewn-in pant legs?
Given that our Zoomer also is a one off custom boat made the same year as the Lady Gerry Lo (neither of which fit the mold of a proper craft it seems) I have an obvious bias.
Fellow Woodyboaters seem to think thus far that the Lady above fails to be one stylish boat or is trying too hard to be many boats in one.
Amazingly, the only English word with three Ys also happens to describe a rare astronomical event involving three heavenly bodies. A syzygy is the alignment of three celestial bodies in a straight line, commonly the Earth, the Sun and the Moon.
Given that, IMO, the Lady above does in fact align up all of her various attributes to form a singular, beautiful line.
Therefore my word for her:
My one and only viewing of the boat in person was at the Warner auction. Based on the auction my one word description would be “overpriced.”
I’d say with the size of those hooters and engine, “restrained”.
My word is squat. The bow looks too high and the transom too low together.
The problem is the stain.. too brown..It needs some C.C. red .
NEXT contest is to decide what the lady in the raincoat is saying to the…ummm….blonde…..in the boat. Again, just one word…..
The Dingle ate my baby!
Having been involved in the restoration of the Gerry Lo, here are a few observations; the Dingle Boat Works built bigger displacement hulls mainly for river usage, this would be the only runabout produced. So with the cruiserlike oak framing covered in 5/8″ thick tightgrained Hondurus mahogany, it has to be the heaviest runabout out there!. After the V-12 Rolls-Royce was installed, we did get the beast past 50mph., but it takes a city block to make a U-turn, handles like a Winnebago!!. After working on a variety of big runabouts, I think Mr. Griswold made a deal with his local boatbuilding shop to build him a custom runaboat based on but not to copy the 30′ Sea-Lyon. The scoops, steppads, gas cap, fender hooks & Nav. lights are exact copies from Sea-Lyon. Also the construction methods & basic lines are very similar. Overall I think Mr. Griswold influenced the design specifically as a user for his family. He was known to take it out every day he could (Minnesota weather) and bring as many people as could climb aboard. He also built a custom boathouse/bunker with cradle on tracks that lowered into the lake. Suggest in depth search on Frank J. Griswold, his accomplishments thruout his life are highlighted with this boat and how he used it, circa the Depression!!. Final observation; ( I promise ) Mr. Griswold built his vision for a boat, and used the hell out of it, till his dying day. The restoration of said boat went the direction of new owners who lost that vision, which resulted in a cluttered, bejeweled, showboat. The Gerry-Lo is a unique, stand alone creation, I have fond memories working on her, being one of kind & the history behind her creation puts the Gerry-Lo high on my list of boats to experiance!!!.
Made my day with that story, Fredster!
Nice to hear from the man that helped restore this wonderful watercraft.
I have sat in the boat (Mpls winter boat show) and have seen her in the water. She is very, very impressive.
No, she does not have the lines of a CC barrell back and that does not mean she is the red headed stepchild of the boating world.
I have those same fond memories my friend!
Mermaid “fenders” are attached to the boat. Mermaid “bumpers” are attached to the chest.
That is a nice boat.How big is the gas tank on that ??Must be huge.
The gas tank is Double D
Thanks for filling in the Griswald history. The Gerry Lo always struck me as having design elements 20 years ahead of its time. I now see the Sea Lyon influence in the flat deck.
I forgot to mention in the story today that the original Capitol converted Curtiss D12 V-12 engine from “Gerry Lo” still exists, and resides in Minnesota.
That would be a nice piece to get your hands on. An early 1920’s engine that weighs about the same as a 50’s/60’s CC 283 install but puts out 440 hp. Slap one of those in a 17 deluxe…
I am thinking the cost to restore the Curtiss V-12 could take your breath away…
Nah, I know A shop that can probably do it for a few hundred grand.
I believe the owner of the engine is Lee Anderson, the fellow who purchased the boat at the auction in 2010. The engine is fully restored and hopefully it will be reunited with the boat in the future. This should return the boat to the correct bow-transom level at rest. Yes the boat hangs quite low at the transom I believe do to the RR Meteor engine that is currently in the boat. Lee would have been the perfect owner for this boat being the owner of many high end boats and understanding what it takes to return a boat like the to original condition. To bad for all the monkey business at the auction.
BEMINNESOTA – Thanks for your comments and the update on the Curtiss V-12.
We were under the impression that Lee purchased the Curtiss from the Martin Smith Collection earlier in 2012. Martin Smith purchased the Curtiss from legendary restorer Tony Brown, who had it for 30 years.
It would sure be great to one day see Gerry Lo and the Curtiss reunited.
That boat gives no tingle to my dingle.
John in Va. Still stuck in the bilge….
Y’know, my first car (a ’55 Porsche Speedster) was kind of ugly (homely looking) when my dad said that it was going to have to do if I really wanted a sportscar (I think he was getting tired of me dragging him around looking).
After staring at that car in the driveway for a few months it actually began to grow on me and I came to see its’ true beauty and classic lines.
You need to savor beauty to truly appreciate it.
So can we say your single word would be “savor-it”
I kinda like the high bow low transom look….
Sean- can you ‘splain me the exhausts on this little speeder? There seem to be too many….
It’s not my boat….
It’s not my boat….just liked the look of the hull, that’s all.
I think the ones in the transom are where the jet-flame comes out.
Upon a closer look, those risers actually dip back into the engine compartment to exit at the transom
I pulled it from Winstead, MN to Petoskey, MI. Not long before the auction. I couldn’t believe how heavy it was!!! Trailer brakes and all, it still felt like I had a freight train pushing me. You could have launched her in my pool of sweat by the time I got out of Chicago.
Great story Russ – Thanks.
I can say your not the first classic boater who has told me how crazy it is towing through Chicago… (Not to mention the increased weight of a 1929 Dingle)
Hears another shot of the exhaust detail for the boat Sean posted, just fyi. I spoke with this guy at Gravenhurst Show ’cause I have a flatbottom v-drive that this boat is patterned after. For a contemporary boat, I like the lines considering the speed it is capable of and that’s north of 70 easily.
1650 CI !!!!
I think all one-off watercraft of the golden age of boating are special, especially examples that have survived the ravages of time to this day. I don’t think anyone should criticize them…the Dingle was a dream that was realized, used, and appreciated by it’s owner and his family. Having worked on the boat myself, I appreciated it for what it was, although I wasn’t a big fan of what was decided for the boat at the time…mostly the decision to install the Rolls motor when the original one was available, and also the alterations made to the decking making it into a triple cockpit boat. In my eyes this was a very historically important boat that needed to be preserved as delivered. My greatest wish for the Gerry-Lo would be that it would find a new home on Lake Minnetonka or sone other lake in Minnesota…it should stay where it would be most appreciated.
The Gerry-Lo has a lot of meaning to me. It was built for my Great Uncle Frank W. Griswold. My mother had a lot of fond memories of the boat that was named for her cousins. One day I would love to see it in person, especially on Lake Minnetonka.