The Seventeen Year Itch – Our Fairliner Torpedo Story (Part 1)


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Fellow Woody Boater John Lisicich and west coast restorer Bruce Bronson in the freshly restored Fairliner Torpedo (Hull # 32) “No Ka ‘OI”

Today we are featuring Part 1 of a story we call “The Seventeen Year Itch” from John & Sharon Lisicich in the great Pacific Northwest. Their remarkable 17 year odyssey to locate and restore No Ka ‘OI – a rare 1950 17′ Fairliner Torpedo is a wonderful example of their patience, dedication and passion.

With John’s help, we were also able to communicate with Allen Petrich – grandson of Western Boat Building Corporation co-founder Martin Petrich, Sr and son of Allen Petrich Sr who was the founder and head of Western Boat’s Fairliner Division in Tacoma, Washington. Allen provides some great historical commentary and period photos for John & Sharon’s story. Allen’s grandparents and John’s grandparents were very good friends and came from Yugoslavia at the same time. – Texx

Our Fairliner Torpedo Story! (Part 1)
by John and Sharon Lisicich
Owners of Fairliner Torpedo Hull # 32
No Ka ‘OI

Life is truly awesome and every day is brimming over with possibilities to achieve and get whatever you want! I have learned that just as Paul Meyer said, “Whatever you vividly imagine, ardently desire, sincerely believe, and enthusiastically act upon must inevitably come to pass!

All of my life I have had the uncanny ability to find whatever I was looking for. Every time someone said that something was “unavailable at any price” it became a challenge to me to find one. Most of the time I have found at least two! I did not know that what I had really done was to unleash the power of The Secret, and use the power to place my order to the Universe for what I was looking to find. It always works!

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Approximately 36 Fairliner Torpedo’s were produced by Western Boat from mid 1946 to August 1951, including a few special orders. The Torpedo used two versions of the Graymarine engine, the Phantom and the Fireball. The Fireball was the “hotter” engine. You will see different HP figures and they seemed to vary by year. The mounting points for the engine were the same, the hardware was the same and there was no visual difference. All gear was the same, interior, etc. There was no outward indication of difference. – Allen Petrich (Photo property of Western Boat Building Co/Petrich Family Trust)

No more is this clearly evident in unearthing and having restored my dream boat, the Fairliner Torpdeo. I have also learned that most anything you are looking for is usually only a few miles from where you at the time you want it. At one point in my life I wanted an automatic violin playing machine called a Violano Virtuoso, that we had heard was in a ladies basement in Federal Way. After two years of going door to door hunting and having someone hypnotized twice, we found it. But, that’s another story.


The Mills Violano Virtuoso stands among the most complicated and captivating automatic musical instruments ever produced. The musical arrangements are programmed on paper rolls and read by hundreds of wires that send signals to the violin and the piano mechanisms. Its musical versatility allows it to handle every type of music from Classical and Operatic to frenetic Ragtime tempos requiring half tone double stops. – Photo courtesy


The Violin strings are played by four rotary bows, powered by a variable speed motor. It is capable of playing all four strings at once to create four part independent counterpoint and with an octave available on each string, the violin can reproduce 64 notes. – Photo courtesy

My first stop along the journey was meeting Curt Erickson. (Curt is a well known wooden boat collector, historian and enthusiast in the Seattle area.) Curt had an 18 ft Chris-Craft for sale and was interested in trading it, or selling it. We had a beautiful restored player grand piano that we had discussed trading. So, he invited me out the lake to see the boat and test drive it.

I packed my Dad in the car and away we went. I had never driven a classic boat and was enthralled. I loved the throttle on the steering wheel and the beautiful wood. We got in the boat and Curt showed us the engine and educated us about the engine and the boat. Then, he handed me the keys and my Dad and I went for a spin. I was in my late 40’s and my Dad was in his mid 80’s.

When we fired that baby up and took off from the dock my Dad and I were all smiles. My Dad said to me, “Johnny, you are going to buy this boat, right?” He wanted me to take him to Dockton, WA in it to see where his father built his first commercial fishing boat in around 1908.

Fairliner Torpedo on Lake Oswego, OR.

Late 1940’s – Wally Worthington speeding across Lake Oswego, Oregon in a 17′ Fairliner Torpedo.

Well as it worked out, the boat started me on a fun and exciting journey. I will never forget the sound of the engine when we took off from the dock. I can still hear it today. Even though we never traded, Curt Erickson still came into my life to fulfill the dream. At that time I did not know that Curt had a Torpedo that was a perfect restoration candidate.

It was my cousin Scott Mullen, who really set this dream in motion. We were attending a memorial, in 1997, for an old Croatian fisherman, and at the dinner we were discussing boats and I had mentioned that I would love a classic wooden speedboat. Scott said to me, “why don’t you build a Fairliner Torpedo?” I knew Fairliners quite well but did not know about the Torpedo. Scott said that he had a set of plans that his close friend Allen Petrich, Sr., had given him and the seeds were planted. From then on it was a full on hunt for a Fairliner Torpdeo.

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Later on, Scott and I met up and he gave me the plans to copy, I went to see (wooden boat restorer) Bruce Bronson at Bronson Boat Works in Gig Harbor, Washington and introduced myself. It was a very dark and rainy March day and he was just leaving. So we went back to his shop for a few minutes and discussed boats.

I hauled out my plans that Scott had given me and asked Bruce if he could build me a Fairliner Torpedo. He looked at the plans and said that they were not really complete enough. Then he said, “I could do it, but why don’t you just buy mine instead?” It was really a hulk of a boat and a collection of lumber hanging in his rafters.

Below are a few photos of the Torpedo (Hull #32) before we started. It was literally a planter box with no sides, hanging in Bruces’s rafters. This was about March 1998 when we bought the boat. Check out the missing pieces in one of the photos, or the pile of wood tied together that used to be planks. At some point someone had fiber glassed the bottom. It was truly firewood and Bruce resurrected it. (Warning: These photos are not for the faint of heart… – Texx)

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We struck a deal and journey was under way. Thanks to God, Sharon, Scott, Bruce, and Curt Erickson, we were on the way to an 17 year boat ride that is truly a fun thrill ride! Curt continues to be a source of parts, and information to Bruce for our dream boat. According to Curt’s records this was probably the last fully completed Fairliner Torpedo that left the factory.

I owe even more thanks to Scott Mullan for his recent gift of an office chair from the Fairliner plant that has a tag on the back that states is was the property of the four Petrich brothers. Scott bought the chair when it was donated to the Slav Hall rummage sale many years ago.

Scott also gave us a gift even more rare than the Fairliner itself, the gift of a rare Western Fairliner tool box. Scott was given the tool box by Nick Sumich when he was cleaning out some old stuff. Many years ago Scott told me he had the box. Now that the boat is completed, Scott has gifted us the original plans, the office chair, and the beautiful tool box, with all its character. It all needs to stay with the boat.

John & Sharon Lisicich

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The rare Western Fairliner toolbox recently gifted to John & Sharon Lisicich from their friend Scott Mullan.

Thanks John & Sharon. Stay tuned to Woody Boater tomorrow for Part 2 of “The Seven Year Itch” story. Restorer Bruce Bronson transforms the rare 60 year-old Torpedo from a planter box to beautifully restored wooden runabout, looking just like she did when she left the Western Boat plant in Tacoma, WA in 1950.

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Fairliner Torpedo (Hull #32) being brought back to life at Bronson Boat Works in Gig Harbor, WA.

We also have some more history on the Western Boats and the Fairliner marque along with some great original plant photos from the 1940’s courtesy of Allen Petrich.

And of course, the successful re-launch of No Ka ‘OI

Happy Holidays!


29 replies
  1. Bob Menzel
    Bob Menzel says:

    Great story to brighten a dreary Monday morning. Looking forward to reading about the restoration. Thanks Texx.

  2. Steve Moreau
    Steve Moreau says:

    Completely amazing story! I also can’t wait for tomorrow’s story and pictures. I have to say though john’s face looks like a lil boy on Christmas morning getting what he has longed for all year! Bruce’s face look like what i imagine Davids looked like after defeating Goliath. I am wondering what will Bruce do with the new found space in the rafters? Will that be in the story tomorrow?

  3. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    What a GREAT story!

    I think I would go crazy waiting 17 years to get a boat I had purchased into the water to take a ride.

    I am so glad you are following up with “The Rest of the Story” tomorrow. I am still waiting for Brian to write the next chapter of the EVANGELINE story.

      • John Lisicich
        John Lisicich says:

        Aloha Doug!
        Happy Wednesday and Merry Christmas!
        Love to catch up with you when you get time. My email is
        I really don’t know much about cruisers, but Dair Long who designed the Torpedo also did some cruisers. Allen Petrich really knows a ton about them.
        I would be more than happy to share is contact info when we trade emails.
        All the best to you and make every day the best day of your life!!
        John Lisicich

  4. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    I don’t think “time” is something we can factor in when starting a project like this. I certainly didn’t start out thinking it would take me 6 years to do my Century Imperial Sportsman. Nor did I believe I’d still be planking the bottom on my Palomino 4 years in. On Saturday, I was listening to “Car Talk” on NPR. Either Tom or Ray, not sure which one, retorted to a listener by saying: “Time is what God invented so everything didn’t happen all at once.” Dam ‘near drove of the road laughing as the images flashed across my mind………………………………..

    • floyd r turbo
      floyd r turbo says:

      RIP Tom Magliozzi. He and Ray were a couple of guys I thought would live forever if laughter truly is “the best medicine”. Didn’t learn much about car repair but certainly did about life. What a void to fill on Saturday morning.

  5. Tuobanur
    Tuobanur says:

    Great story beautiful boat, now I don’t feel so bad about my 16 year project,,,,,going on 17 years. 😀

  6. Pappy
    Pappy says:

    Great story about an awesome looking boat. Also pleased to see acknowledgment of the Secret….one of the most powerful tools in my box, for sure. Can’t wait for the “rest of the story” tomorrow.

  7. Leif Eriksson
    Leif Eriksson says:

    What a great story, and great acknowledgment of what The Universe can do for you if you let it, and have a little faith and patience and the willingness to tell The Universe what it is you need. This has worked well for me, bringing me people, parts, information or whatever else was required for a given project. I can hardly wait for tomorrows instalment. My wish for you all in 2015 is “to let the saw dust fly”.

  8. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    One of my all-time favorite boats – the Fairliner Torpedo! Years ago I was privileged to spend an afternoon in one, delivering it back to it’s owner after a boat show on Lake Washington. Truly unique. I had forgotten about “The Secret”… think I’ll revisit it. My son and I have begun a restoration I intended to complete in the ’80’s – my ’64 Morgan. My GarWood sedan still sits in the garage – 25 years and counting awaiting restoration. “Sindbad” was a 14 year project. (off and on) Then there’s me, but we won’t go there…

    Incidentally – in case anyone is wondering where the header shot was taken – Puget Sound, near the mouth of Gig Harbor off the south end of Vashon Island. Salt water, folks – where these boats were intended to be enjoyed! 🙂

  9. Steve L
    Steve L says:

    Bruce Bronson must be a busy guy… His work was also featured in a story on Woody Boater about D.D. Gorgeous, a Chris Craft Barrel Back! Nice work Bruce!

  10. Elliot Schwartz
    Elliot Schwartz says:

    This is more of a story about John than the Fairliner. I have known and worked with John for about 45 years. What comes out of this story is what I have known for all these years–that John is one of the most genuine “good guys” that you will ever meet. His spirit and personality are one of goodness and positivity, clearly shown in his quest for the Fairliner. I am honored to know John and value the fact that he is one of my best friends.

  11. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    Truer words were never spoken; ” I have also learned that most anything you are looking for is usually only a few miles from where you at the time you want it.” Several years ago, I was on a quest to find a 1970-71 Chevy El Camino to do a custom restoration on, and wanted a good rust free body to start with. I started looking in the south, and call on one. In talking to the girl in South Carolina who owned a 1970 Elky, she sees by area code, and asks where do I live. Sure enough she was from Holland, Michigan, and the car was in her Dads pole barn, only 20miles south of me!!!
    Bought it on the spot, cause it was an Arizona car.
    Then just two Summers ago I wanted to get a small outboard and narrowed it down to one of three marquees. In October of the year, I was at a classic car show and what rolls down the street, to be entered in the show, but an old pickup pulling a 1959 Lake N” Sea. AND it was for sale!
    Scary how things work out, eh??? I kinda got to watch out for what I wish for, running out of funds…

  12. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    John, your other statement; “All of my life I have had the uncanny ability to find whatever I was looking for. Every time someone said that something was “unavailable at any price” it became a challenge to me to find one” Also hit home to me. Not having a lot of extra funds most of my life, it was a challenge to get the money to close the deal, once I did find what I wanted. It also became part of the
    “Quest”. In 1998 I even names one of my motor yachts “Dream On” ( Dream until your dreams come true…”)

    • John Lisicich
      John Lisicich says:

      Aloha Troy!
      Happy Christmas Eve!
      I don’t have a video for you to see. However, there are many up on you tube. Just search Violano Virtuoso and lots of videos will show up. Be forewarned that some of the machines are not in the best playing condition and sound sort of like two cats in a garbage can. However, when you hear a good one, it will bring tears to your eyes. The history of the machine and the inventor, H K Sandell, are truly amazing. We rebuilt 3 of the machines and it is truly a work of art and electromechanical engineering. If you ever want to talk fairliner, violano, player piano, sunbeam tiger or alpine, or tube stereo gear, or Bose feel free to email.
      John Lisicich

  13. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    I can’t even find my other sock let alone my dream boat, but then again, I have about 10 dream boats. Seems like one of them would be easy to find. Of course then there’s the cost.

  14. John Baas
    John Baas says:

    Wait…what?! It’s Monday!? It should be Saturday…the day after the Holiday party. You mean I passed out and stayed out for three days? That’s it….no more monkey business for me!

  15. reddog
    reddog says:

    is it just me or does bruce bronson look like hes dead tired of hearing about fairliner stories or hes been up all night trying to finish this guys boat so he wont have to listen to anymore of his violin machines on youtube.. just kidding your boat did turn out real nice

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