“Jitterbug” The Barrelback Racer – The Best Of Both Worlds?

Jitterbug 1

“Jitterbug” dancing on the waters of Gull Lake, Minnesota. (Dane Anderson photo)

THE SUBJECT OF REPRODUCTION OR REPLICA WOODEN BOATS always generates a lively debate among classic boating enthusiasts. Almost everyone has an opinion about reproduction boats, depending on their view of the hobby.

One of our jobs here at Woody Boater is to keep you, our viewers, up to date on the trends & advancements in the hobby, and what’s happening out there in real time as it evolves – hopefully in a non-judgmental way.

Back in April we published a feature story on the rare (and very popular) 1936-37 19-foot Chris-Craft Special Race Boat. The story included a section on our friends from The Wooden Runabout Company – Mike Teusink & Kirk Wingard, who are producing CAD/CNC designed 19′ Special Race Boat replicas in their Holland, Michigan shop. (If you missed that story, it can be found in the Woody Boater archive by Clicking Here).


1936 Chris-Craft Full Line Brochure featuring the new 19-Ft. Special Race Boat. – Photo courtesy Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club Archive / Don Ayers

Chris-Craft only produced 51 (fifty-one) of these 19′ Special Race Boats in 1936-37 (Hull # 19000 to 19050). They were offered with three different engine configurations – Chris-Craft KA; Lycoming UHE; Grey Phantom 6; – and even today are considered by many to be one of the best performing 19′ boats produced, due to their light-weight design and construction. With the 155 HP engine in 1936-37 the racer had a speed rating of 45-47 MPH.

Fast Forward to September 2015.

We were excited to see one of the new 19-foot racer’s that Mike & Kirk built at the recent Woods and Water show on Gull Lake. We were even more excited when they offered to let us shoot “Jitterbug” on Friday afternoon during the show – which then led to a fun boat ride.  This gave us an opportunity to see the finished product on the water and experience the performance first hand.

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Shooting on Gull Lake in the late afternoon provided some great light to showcase the boats craftsmanship and attention to detail – something Kirk & Mike are known for in the hobby. (Dane Anderson photo)

Mike notes: “At The Wooden Runabout Co. we combine old-world craftsmanship with modern technology to produce boats for a new generation of boat owner. We have CNC design (Computer Numerical Control) and production capability in-house. On the design end, this enables us to show you exactly what your new boat will look like before a single piece of wood is cut.”


CNC – CAD designed 19′ Special Race Boat – The Wooden Runabout Company photo.

“Jitterbug’s design is strongly influenced by the special race boats (both 16 and 19 feet) but is not identical to either. We see it as something similar to what Chris-Craft might have built in the special race boat line if they had continued production into the early 1940s. I like to call it a “barrel racer.” – Mike Teusink, Wooden Runabout Company.

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Kirk & Mike from The Wooden Runabout Company – Two fine craftsmen looking to the future with technology. (Dane Anderson photo)

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The distinctive pre-war Barrelstern design gives “Jitterbug” a traditional look, with performance to match. (Dane Anderson photo)

The best part about custom building your own wooden race boat is that you can choose whatever colors you want, and personalize the boat to your own tastes. Want to use period correct hardware? – do it! Want to use different hardware? – do it! Want to paint the bottom with a non-correct color? – Do it! Want to use a modern V-8 for power? – do it!

The custom car hobby is largely made up of folks that just have fun being creative and innovative with their rides. You can build whatever you want, any way you want, and you don’t have to worry about a judge “judging you” for your choice of engine or hardware or color scheme. Personalize it any way you want and everyone appreciates you’re creativity.

So why not apply that same philosophy to a wooden boat and just go have some fun? You get the look and impressive performance of a pre-war wooden racer with modern technology and construction methods. With the Wooden Runabout Racer – you can either have it built turn-key, partially finished or built it yourself from a professionally designed kit.

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Powered by a (more) modern 235 HP Ford 302 V-8 coupled to a Velvet Drive transmission, the nimble 19-foot racer performs like a champ. (Dane Anderson photo)

We were actually impressed by the color choices on the bottom and upholstery Mike & Kirk selected. The color combination certainly made the boat stand out both at the dock and on the water as you can see. A reflection in some ways of the pre-war era.

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The custom gauges and dashboard with the contrasting blue crash pad makes “Jitterbug” unique – personalized to the owners preference. (Matt Smith photo)

Retro colors are an area that (Woody Boater publisher) Matt Smith has a great deal of experience with. I asked Matt to chime in with his thoughts on Jitterbug’s color selection.

Matt notes:

Another way into this is that the Blue is Chris-Craft Blue, inspired from the engine color and top paints on Cruisers, and the gold, is from boot stripes and bottoms from pre-war Chris-Crafts like the 25′ Sportsman.

Color preferences change over time of course, and despite how we think we recall history, mostly in black and white, its fun to find that bright colors and contrasting colors exisited. Rocket blue on 1947 Chris-Craft Rockets with blond wood interiors… Like orange and pigskin, or apple green and gold. Exploring colors of the day, can sometimes be a way to add a special something to your boat.

The 1940s are tough years, since it was the end of an era, and thus colors would shift, pre-war, to post-war, post-war colors were much more optimistic, and pre-war colors were really more Art Deco and Moderne inspired. – Matt

1940's Vintage Colors

Vintage color chart above courtesy RetroRenovation.com

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Then after snapping a few hundred photos of Kirk & Mike in “Jitterbug” it was time to do one of those always exciting mid-lake switcheroos – Mike jumped in the photo boat and I jumped in the racer for a high performance ride around Gull Lake with Kirk. – Texx (Matt Smith photo)

The 19-foot Racer performed very well with the Ford 302 V-8 engine – easily reaching almost 50 MPH. Kirk noted that they were still breaking in the fresh engine so they didn’t want to push it over 50 MPH quite yet. They were also working with Holland Propeller to fine tune the customized Acme prop for this application, choosing to slowly test the props to find that perfect balance.

Although my experience with these racing runabouts is limited, I was very impressed by how stable the boat was at speed, and how it felt entering a wide turn while maintaining the same speed.  Never did the racer feel “spooky” when it approached almost 50 MPH – and Kirk is also a very experienced pilot which certainly helped.  Kirk was confident that once the engine is completely broken it and the prop tests completed, that it will comfortably exceed 50 MPH.

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Heading out on Gull Lake with Kirk for a fun test ride in “Jitterbug”. (Dane Anderson photo)

Although Reproduction / Replica boats are not for everyone, this was one impressive wooden boat. Thanks to Kirk & Mike from The Wooden Runabout Company for taking the time to share their latest creation with us at Gull Lake. For more information you can visit them at their website by Clicking Here and see the entire CNC development including video.


22 replies
  1. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    Love the bird’s eye dash and the retro red-faced gauges.

    Would love for them to put up some more details and pics.

    This looks to be a timeless design, one that McKerer himself would be proud of.

    Great work Mike and Kirk!!

  2. Pappy
    Pappy says:

    Terrific article and a terrific boat. Although our boat is an “original” and we try our best to keep it that way, I welcome the influx of reproduction boats and their builders and owners. Think about the number of boats of this genre we are seeing in shows and in WB. New blood is needed for survival of the hobby and a true old boat is not for everybody. This whole discussion reminds me of a Billy Joel song that came out at a time when the face of music was changing. He said: “It’s still rock and roll to me”

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      Great Analogy Pappy!

      I Love all these boats! New, old, replica, reproduction, or restored it does not matter.

      After reading this story I would really enjoy putting my personal touch on something like this 19’er but will probably never spend the money to do so.

  3. Matt B
    Matt B says:

    I hope to have my Wooden Runabout race boat finished and in the water next year. I will get back to work on it in the next couple weeks. Somehow Mike and Kirk managed to finish theirs before I did, go figure. It’s been a fun project and can’t wait to see the end result.

  4. Woodenrunabout
    Woodenrunabout says:

    If Matt Byrne can get his act together, maybe we can have some runabout racing at Mount Dora next year. He forgot to stipulate in his contract that our boat needed to be slower than his. ?. -Mike

  5. rdaley
    rdaley says:

    I found this article to be very interesting and thought provoking.
    With that quality of material cut to those exacting tolerances there are probably many more people out there with the skill to tackle a project of that scope, particularly if there were good technical back up, be it detailed how to plans with email or phone Q and A
    Troy brings up the question that Iam sure many have HOW MUCH?
    While at woods and water I spoke with many members of the viewing public who had a common question How Much does one of these boats cost ? It was a question I heard over and over.
    I think most of the general public think a wooden boat is completely out of reach until you tell them some prices ranges at which point there reaction is Thats not so Bad.
    Now we are not talking Evangeline here. This may be one part of our hobby that we do not talk to the general public enough about. Just a thought.

    • Woodenrunabout
      Woodenrunabout says:

      The costs of our boats is indeed an area that is still largely taboo. I usually tell clients that they can get into a classic wooden boat for anywhere from 20k-100k. The range of the boat market is part of what makes our hobby more accessible than many would expect. Similarly, the barrel racer discussed today has a variety of accessibility levels. A turn-key boat with custom trailer, custom-built motor, and full warranty like Jitterbug puts the price in the 70k-80k range. However, if someone has experience and wants to do much of the labor themselves, they can start with a framed-up hull for approximately 1/10 of the cost.

  6. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    The football seats would be way too firm, unless you go with the Patriots version and deflate them a bit.

    Now baseball glove leather seats with big hand stitching…

  7. tommyholm
    tommyholm says:

    BTW, the boat received a Platinum level award in the contemporary class.
    as far as the cost goes, it’s calculated the Dutch method, “as far as a dollar will stretch”.

  8. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    That boat is really, really well done. And the lines look ‘right’ which which is something a lot of new builds lack. As I said to Mike and Kirk at Gull Lake, also referencing the Morin 30′ next to them – those two boats got it right.

  9. sandy alan squitieri
    sandy alan squitieri says:

    I am a believer in this technology, it looks very well done. Nice to see more of these types of craft emerging!

    This is my CNC boat with 20 degrees of deadrise, she tops well over 50 mph.

    • dreed
      dreed says:

      I have seen a picture of your boat before, and fell in love with it. Could you let us know the story behind it? Who made the kit? Who did the work?

  10. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    Being an old Tool Maker , I love the CNC new boats ,especially the Blue and White racer. The originals will have their place in history , collectability and value, but there is much plenty of room for new boats in the hobby. My hat is off to the effort , great workmanship and offering options for the customer to purchase a kit or completed boat.

  11. John Bailey
    John Bailey says:

    Brilliant! From reading their web page, the CNC does not sound as much about ‘saving’ wood, as it does the exactitude of each cut. How many hours of shaving and fitting and re-fitting are saved? Getting to the tolerances they state, each production boat will equal the last. They can also probably scale up or down.

    Wonder how many of the other woody boat makers are tonight looking through CNC catalogues for their shops?

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Sadly we didn’t have time to Photoshop myself out of the image. Now I have to grow a beard and install some Just For Men hair products…

  12. sandy alan squitieri
    sandy alan squitieri says:


    the boat is a Saetta (lightning in Italian). Her name is the Valerie Ann(after my late wife). She urged me to get the boat instead of buying the kit.. the boat is the brainchild of Kevin Kimball from Kimball aviation just a few miles up the road from lake Dora. mt. Dora Florida. Built in 2010.. I first layed eyes on her dec. 2012. Its a long story on how I ended up with her… but in the end she was mine by mid 2013.
    She has an Indmar 330hp V-8 with V-Drive. her top sides were a collaboration with Marco Picarini a designer for Pagani motor cars of Italy and her bottom was designed by Spoonberg Yacht Design from St. Augustine Florida.
    The decks feature maple inlays and a cleanly designed hardware (pop up cleats etc…). The split windscreen is attached using bi-plane strut braces barely visible but at speed the windshields do their job very nicely while allowing a bit more easy access to the deck which I kinda like. They are about 1/4 thick.
    The entire boat was built using the cold molded method with System 3 Epoxy system. She runs very dry and fast and handles fantastically!

    There is a lot to list on this boat for this space so maybe someday a story would be cool. Here she is at rest at Lake Dora last new years eve.

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