Should Jimmy Durante Have Gotten A Nose Job?


The other day I was bitching about the original engine ups and downs of ownership. With several boats going at any given time, one of them seems to always be finicky. Never something clear cut. Can be the weather, or just something loose. But as I was going on and on about it, and wanting to throw a 350 in everything, it was pointed out, that the original engine is part of the experience of the boat.

Andy C’s original time capsule

Now, to have my own words thrust back at me is like… well, my 33 years of marriage. So, I have learned over the years to listen. It is part of the experience, and actually the experience, the emotion of driving a classic boat IS what its all about. It’s rather Zen. It’s all connected. The gestalt of classic boat ownership. Remove one part of it, and it becomes a copy, an unauthentic feeling. It’s no longer true and merely a visual, well, nothing.

Not a perfect photo, but a perfect moment! Far better than a perfect photo

Now, this is for me. I truly enjoy opening up a can of Whoop Ass in a 350 modern power in a 17 ft boat. LOVE IT. But it does change the feel. All the history is changed. Imagine Jimmy Durante with a nose job? Would be Jimmy Durante? The list goes on and On.


What about Cindy Crawford with no MOLE.

Or Lauren Hutton without that gap in her teeth. You get my point.

So, next time you.. I … start bitching about the imperfection of my old classic boat, I will bitch slap myself and say, ya.. That’s why you love her. And hopefully, remind my wife, that my flaws are why she loves me. Right? Right?


43 replies
  1. Runabout36
    Runabout36 says:

    Couldn’t agree more. Original power has always been 50% of the antique and classic boating experience for me. I’ve been and will always be a “flathead”.

  2. Rick
    Rick says:

    I agree with all of this but I would still love to go out pretty confident I was not coming back in towed by a pontoon. Of coarse the Harrison’s get towed back even with modern power so now I’m just confused.

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    The real answer is “MULTIPLE BOATS” just like Alex.

    The original Scripps power in one, modern V8 in another, wood, glass, straight drive, V drive, jet drive, now if he can just find the right Cruiser.

    • Paul H
      Paul H says:

      With significant pecuniary regret, I must assert that this approach has not really worked well for me……

      By the way, the problem behind my recent break down was identified a being caused by a broken timing gear on the crank. Never seen before by the shop that tore into it to diagnose the problem.

  4. DarthTrader
    DarthTrader says:

    Standing back and looking at the whole hobby, a large portion of the time is devoted to “messing around with our boats” varnishing, polishing, tuning, repairing, etc. For some, cruising is merely the punctuation for the time spent in the shop. It justifies the venture. What they really crave is the quiet time spent rubbing on their boat or contemplating with a coffee the subtle nuances of arcane subjects like zippers or rear-facing seats.

  5. Ronald
    Ronald says:

    Im all about the 350 after spending lots of time and money on old worn out cast iron rusting from the inside out, fighting expensive head gasket problems, hunting expensive bearings,gasket kits,rings etc. then having problems timing a flathead 6 cylinder with no timing marks, no manual and no one still living in my area to help. While I fully admire those with early boats that rebuild the Kermath,Scripps,Liberty etc. It will never be for me as I will install that 350.

  6. Dave Nau
    Dave Nau says:

    Does not matter how old or new it is. They’re machines – they break!

    Having another boat helps to mitigate the problem, but as Pail points out, even that can break down. Airplanes have at least two systems for everything, sometimes more. They are not perfect, either, but overall very reliable.

    Old cars break down. New ones also, albeit less often.

    Best option is to try to take it in stride, and if your boat is not running that day, go with a friend with a running boat.

  7. Mark
    Mark says:

    I have had the standard pinging at high RPMs, phantom oil pressure drop, etc. with my original KL but I have NEVER considered a re-power and never will.

    As long as I can get pahts to fix the old beast I am running and tinkering to the bitter end.

  8. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    In the beginning of my rebuild I thought about putting a modern four-cylinder engine in but I am so glad I didn’t, there’s something about looking under the hatch of an old boat and seeing that period correct engine. I am already on my second engine and having VanNess build me my third and so looking forward to it, a 90 hp fireball 90, you can never have too much horsepower. I say if you want a V-8 find you an old Cadillac engine or a flathead V-8 .

  9. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P )
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P ) says:

    350s are not always the answer, Look at the Harrisons. Mine cracked both heads last summer. No one can figure out why? Water pumps were all working with proper engine temp. $4it happens. Put new heads on it, going to try again this summer. Have multiple boats! If one is acting up use another. Besides two are more fun to look at.

  10. Sean
    Sean says:

    I rebuilt my Greavette with the original Mercruiser 250 cid I6 and could not stop spending $ to get it to work right. So I ditched it for a Mercuiser 4.3 V6 and couldn’t be happier. The handling & ride of the boat is exactly the same but, better! I can’t help but believe this is what was intended by the boats designer. If my boat was valuable (like a Ditchburn), I’d keep an original lump in there. If my focus in the hobby was shows, I’d have to keep the original but, I don’t and it ain’t so I’m not looking back!

  11. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    Having a very understanding wife (I do!) or significant other helps a lot in the “enjoyment” of engine breakdowns. So far, being able to diagnose and at least temporarily fix on-the-water problems adds points in my column and maintains harmony. We can even laugh about it later.

    As with any boat BUT PARTICULARLY those with old engines, carry spares of common things, hoses and of course tools to help save the day. Broken timing gear? Yeah, repairs not gonna happen on the water.

    • Jerome
      Jerome says:

      I admire anyone that has the patience and money to deal with the frustration of the old engines. During my 30 years of antique boating I have always had modern power and had the original boat engine seating on the shelf waiting for the next owner to pick up the challenge.

  12. Briant
    Briant says:

    I’d agree with Sean…got an old original woodie worth its weight in gold, then keep the original troublesome power plant. But if you’re like me with our one off 1930 craft that will never fetch a pricey sum, make the switch. We have never been towed back home and in fact have towed eight home over the years since 2006.

    Still got the rumble rumble….the speed….but also a boatload of fun memories with my wife and kids and other friends and families on the water in many places.

    Tinkering to maintain or improve is one thing, but fixing while the clock is ticking on the vacation with the family breathing down your neck ain’t worth it.

    • Ronald
      Ronald says:

      Amen Briant, A hot summer day stranded out on the water while your girlfriend/wife and children/grandchildren are all looking at you is no fun.

  13. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    I work best under pressure and with an audience watching. For my next trick, I’ll make this 65 year old piece of tired iron run.

  14. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    As Jerome so rightful stated: “I admire anyone that has the patience and money to deal with the frustration of the old engines.”
    The older I get the less time and patience I have to deal with things that go wrong, whether it be in Classic boats or cars.
    I had a beautiful 1971 Thunderbird, that gave me nothing but mechanical problems from the day I brought her home till the day I was lucky enough to sell her three years later.

    And like others stated, precious time out on the water with family, is not fun when interrupted by any sort of breakdown.

    Each of my last several Classic boats all had modern power, wiring, etc, and I can say I have not had any mechanical problems, except for a bilge pump failure in Traveres that almost sunk in new Lyman, if it were not for Matt Smith to the Rescue!

  15. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    A mix of old and newer motors suits me i dont have this dispro as my back and knees could not take it

  16. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Dayem Paul! The timing gear on a reverse rotation 350 is a pretty substantial hunk of metal. Must have been a bad casting.

    As for V8 vs period correct, just buy a 60’s boat where the SBC IS period correct and you get the best of both worlds. In theory.

  17. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    My philosophy has always been – “If (insert manufacturer here) had it available, they would have used or offered it.” While I fully appreciate and admire the “keep it original” mentality and results, particularly in rare or preserved models, it does not suit the kind of boating we pursue – ie: cruising the islands of NW Washington and British Columbia (salt water), various rivers and lakes, often for several days at a time. I restore keeping in mind that if the next owner wants to put original power or systems in place there is nothing to prevent it, but I’m putting in “modern” power, closed cooling, contemporary communication and safety systems, then grabbing friends and family and heading out. Done right, nothing gives it away until the hatch is raised or motor started and most of the time we make it back with few or no issues. Smiles all around! 🙂

  18. tparsons56
    tparsons56 says:

    I love the looks, sounds and history of original engines but sometimes fate intervenes. I have a 1924 Fay and Bowen that originally had a Fay and Bowen Engine but the company has been out of business since 1929. This boat came with a modern replacement engine [probably one of many over the years] so trying to find an original engine and/or parts for an original engine does not seem practical or logical.

    I have seen another Fay and Bowen at several boat shows but it never leaves the trailer. It could be that the owner does not want take a chance with such a rare and valuable boat but I like to use my boat. Nothing beats a slow cruise at sunset with a nice bottle of chardonnay!

    • tom
      tom says:

      Agreed ,nothing draws attention like lifting the engine cover on my Shepherd,revealing the original Chrysler Marine Hemi.

  19. Scott from Iowa
    Scott from Iowa says:

    Modern power is great until you get that sick feeling when lifting the hatch as your boat is being judged…..All the work, time, and $$ gone because the motor isn’t correct…..

  20. Michael A. Hill
    Michael A. Hill says:

    “…it was pointed out, that the original engine is part of the experience of the boat.”

    Ok, by extrapolation, how does that apply to the rest of the boat? A 5200 bottom certainly very significantly changes the very structure of the boat, as well as it’s character. It’s now no where near the boat it was originally, and very much changes “the experience of the boat”. What about the hullsides? The deck? The materials used to finish the boat? At what point, in the course of repair, replacement and restoration does one renew a piece or part, or substance that crosses a line, and you now no longer having the experience of an original boat?

    Everything is a compromise. Where the compromise is made is always a matter of individual preferences and requirements. Its just a damn boat. The real value of “the experience of the boat” comes in many forms, but is mostly related to the experiences of ownership or usage and the personal relationships resulting from that.

  21. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    34 comments and no one pointed out the girl riding on the bow of the boat in the post card? Dang.

    I like original, unless its inadequate, in the case of the Ace (hey, I made a rhyme) in my U-22. I now have a 283 in it that is the perfect motor for that boat. I was going to put an MBL in it until this 283 became available.

  22. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    I sorta chuckle when I say I’m putting modern power in my boats – the motors and CC conversions were modern 50 years ago… Reconditioned with new ignition, carburetors, etc. now, but the overhead valve V8 motors have been around for a long time – not exactly modern in the true sense of the word!

  23. Steve Bunda
    Steve Bunda says:

    There is a place for all engines , boats and owner preferences. There will be preserved boats with original equipment , resto mods and everything in between. Heck if it burns gas , makes noise , and takes you out on the lake in style! Better than rowing.

  24. Reddog
    Reddog says:

    On that note…..” Goodnight Mrs. Calabash wherever you are.” ….Also I was wondering who was driving the boat that the girl was riding on the deck?

  25. Max
    Max says:

    A friend, who is a fanatic restorer who loves his boats, three years ago had huge health health problems, lost his business and is now very poor, spent big $$ on a Cadillac powered Cobra from Switzerland. Paid huge to keep Caddy running, result was crap reliability. Now he regrets anything spent on original engine and has the attitude original power should have been pickled and set on a pallet and replaced with Crusader power. It would have been a fraction of what was spent for still crap Cadillac.

  26. Ollon
    Ollon says:

    If it goes in the water, especially salt water, it’s gonna break no matter the age. Keep it original, learn everything you can about engines and fix or rebuild it yourself. It’s all part of the fun.

  27. thomas d
    thomas d says:

    My ’47 Deluxe Runabout came with the original K engine, “rebuilt”. it lasted abut two years after I got it. never really had trouble with it but it didn’t like more than two people in the boat, 3 & 4 and it struggled. when it went south I thought about a rebuild but 5-6 k plus shipping was out of the question for me. I found this 283 with hydraulic transmission, my favorite engine, for only $150.00, runs like new. jumps up on plane, throttle back and glides down the lake. I’ve only had the nerve to get it up to 55. only way you can tell it’s not an original boat it open the hatch.

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