They’re Only Original Once – 1961 Carver Commuter 18′ Lapstrake
ON DECEMBER 29, 1961 F.L. McCUNE FROM MINNEAPOLIS, MN purchased a brand-new Carver 18-foot Lapstrake Commuter from the family business – McCune Outboard Marine Co. in Denver, Colorado. It came with a 75HP Johnson outboard and a Tee Nee trailer.
According to the original Bill of Sale, the package cost:
– 75HP Johnson Outboard Motor – 1,043.50
– Carver 18′ Lapstrake Boat – 1,495.00
– Tee Nee Trailer – 346.00
Total Cost 2,884.50
The new Carver was then delivered to Bay Lake, Minnesota where it lived for more than 50 years, until November 2013. It stayed with the original owner until 2000, when it was purchased by Bruce Carlson which he added it to his impressive marine collection also on Bay Lake. Bruce Carlson was fellow Woody Boater Dane Anderson’s cousin.
We were first introduced to the all-original Carver back in the summer of 2013 while in Minnesota for the Gull Lake Classic Boat Show. At the time the Carlson family was preparing to let a portion of the collection go so that more people could see and enjoy what Bruce had assembled over the years.
Although the Carver had not been in the water for many years, we were immediately attracted to the raw originality of the boat, a proverbial time capsule right down to the period correct life preservers, dealer installed tops and nearly perfect original upholstery and instruments – it was all there.
Mr. McCune (the original owner) re-powered the Carver with a newer 1969 Johnson 85HP which was also purchased from the family dealership in Colorado. Not uncommon to upgrade the outboard for a newer, larger motor back then.
Later that year, in November of 2013, a portion of the Bruce Carlson family collection went over to the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria, which was a perfect move for everyone involved. (We reported on that story which can be seen by Clicking Here)
At the same time, Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service became the new owner of the Carver and he eventually located a period correct 1961 Johnson 75HP outboard identical to the one that was installed on the boat when it was new.
Fast forward to July 2015 – When we decided to return to Minnesota to cover the Gull Lake Classic Boat Show in August, we thought it would be fun to enter the Carver in the boat show and use it for a shoot boat. We contacted Dave Bortner and he arranged to have the Carver ready for us to use. Better yet, Dave even entered the boat in the show for Dane & I which was appreciated.
With some help from his engine expert Ed, and Dane, they worked out a few minor issues with the 1961 Johnson and we launched the Carver on Friday the day before the show for a tour of the Gull Lake chain of lakes which was a blast.
In preparation for the show we did some basic interior cleaning, and the Carver presented herself well at the show. After more than 50 years, the boat is showing her age as you can see in the above photo. The varnish is starting to peal in a few spots and she is due for some paint on exterior of the hull – but the boat performed great all weekend, staying relatively dry after being out of the water for approximately 14 or 15 years.
Yesterday on Woody Boater Matt ran a story suggesting that there should be a new category of classic boat aptly named “Prerestoric Boats” for those all original, unrestored boats that have “stood the test of time.”
Matt’s description of “Prerestoric Boats” was – “They are wonderful boats that have lasted enough time so that they are usable, and ripe for restoration, but the owners have had the courage to keep them going at that plump and juicy stage.”
Although the 1961 Carver is not nearly as old or not nearly as rare as the 1928 Ramsay Brothers Dart Jr or the Christopher Wise 1925 25′ Split Cockpit Runabout featured in Matt’s story – the Carver is still an all original, unrestored wooden boat that is safe to use with little or no work required.
To me, the Carver is best described as an “Original” boat (same goes for the 1928 Dart Jr or 1925 Wise Runabout). If the term “Preserved” was used the same way it is used in other transportation / collector related hobbies, that description could be used to describe the Carver after it received the absolute minimum amount of work to either protect the wood and make it safe to operate.
However, in the antique & classic boat hobby – what exactly is the difference between a “Preserved” boat and a “Restored” boat? The description of a “Preserved” boat (according to the ACBS) is quite a bit different from other transportation related collector hobbies.
In the collector car hobby and most other transportation related hobbies – the term “Preserved” has a much different definition vs the collector boat hobby.
For example, on their website, Hagerty Insurance describes a “Preserved” car as follows:
Preservation Class Cars
Over the past several years, Hagerty’s Cars That Matter has observed unrestored cars sell for prices that would have astonished in the recent past. Preservation Classes are being added to concours nationwide to showcase well preserved and mostly unrestored, un-refinished, and unaltered cars.
The old car hobby is headed in the direction of the fine art, decorative arts, and antique furniture markets, where a premium is placed on originality and where refinishing or altering a well preserved example can have a negative effect on value.
This isn’t to say that it is wrong to restore a car. Cars, unlike art and even furniture, are used and exposed to the elements and are made from different materials that don’t always age harmoniously. Often, restoration is the only way to preserve a car if it has deteriorated to a point where its useful life has been exceeded.
For those exceedingly uncommon examples of vintage cars that have managed to survive with original powertrains, finishes and interiors in sufficient condition to serve as an exemplar for a correct restoration on other less fortunate examples, clearly, careful preservation is the route that will ultimately result in the greatest return on their owners’ investments. – Hagerty Insurance website
“Barnwood” the very original 1948 Chris-Craft 25’Sportsman that won the award for Best Preserved at the 2011 ACBS International in Lake Geneva is a perfect example of what a “Preserved” boat should be. That boat was preserved in a way that would be consistent with a top level “Preserved” collector car, maintaining much of it’s original patina, wood and equipment.
Maybe it’s time to rename these original “Prerestoric” boats or come up with a way to better describe original boats – along the same lines as what other transportation collectors describe as “Preserved” to make it less confusing.
In collector car circles, this Carver would be considered as a “Preserved” boat (with a little work) because of it’s pure originality and ownership documentation from the day it was delivered to it’s original owner in December 1961.
However – if the current owner of the Carver ever wanted to enter the boat in an official judged ACBS event as a “Preserved Class” boat, these days in order to compete it would probably need to be completely disassembled, stripped and repainted / revarnished, hardware re-plated, upholstery replaced, outboard engine rebuilt and repainted, wiring replaced, steering wheel replaced or repainted, gauges and instruments rebuilt, replace or repair the windshield, rebuild or replace the fuel tanks, etc?
The owner can even replace the bottom – and as long as they can prove to the judges that a certain percentage of wood is original to the boat as it was delivered in 1961 to comply with the rules (description) as a “Preserved” boat.
At what point in that process does it become a “Restored” boat rather than a “Preserved” boat? Is that confusing to someone new entering the hobby?
Let us know what you think.
Photos for today’s story were provided by Dane Anderson. Special thanks to Dave Bortner from Freedom Boat Service for letting us use the 1961 Carver during the Gull Lake Classic Boat Show – we had a great time.
September 11, 2001 – We Will Never Forget
Great Carver and a very nice thought provoking question.
Like we have talked about, this same question can be asked when it comes to “Restored vs Replica”.
We all know of some wonderful boats out there that have been built from pattern hulls and have little, if any, original wood left in them, but are considered “restored” because they own the original hull number.
I have decided not to be concerned with labeling and naming such boats, however I am not involved in showing and judging which is where these distinguishing factors become important.
Descriptions and terms change all the time, and that’s okay with me, as long as I can keep up with the flavor of the month terminology. I have been doing that in the collector car & motorcycle hobby for years.
What I don’t understand is why the other transportation hobbies have such a completely different definition for the “Preserved” category.
No question, as some folks commented yesterday, the “preserved class” in collector car circles is red hot these days and has been for a number of years.
That steering wheel ROCKS!!
“Survivor” in my opinion best describes a boat that has pretty much original everything. Unfortunately, as I understand, the NCRS has a copyright on the term and we would have to get license to use it officially.
I have seen an original boat in original condition with an interesting and plausible story (like the wonderful Carver feature boat) win the preserved class handily over other much “prettier” boats in the same class suggesting that judges are given leeway or weigh this as part of the whole evaluation.
I personally think that trying to classify every thing into sub categories and sub, sub categories is like slicing peas. Its the story and the truth that counts.
Its hard to create a morality over the restoration process by differentiating, for example between a boat that was extensively restored with all new wood by replacing each piece one at a time as opposed to one that was built as a duplicate and then the hull# transferred. As long as we don’t end up with two of the same number is there really a difference? I personally would value (far greater) a boat documented to have more original content. Others may not and perhaps benefit from a lower cost alternative assuming the market agrees with my opinion.
I think a plausible story matters and documented proof makes it even better.
This is an important topic that deserves more visibility than it is likely to get embedded in Matt’s wonderful daily comun focussing on an old Carver.
I was involved in the ACBS effort to slow the wholesale replanking of very good old boats solely to gain a few points when judged. The result was the “new” Preserved category that is intended to rank above the Restored category and has seems to have been moderately successful in elevating the interest in serious preservation of good old boats. Although I’m not personally aware of any good old boats that have been completely disassembled, refinished, and reassembled, some of that clearly takes place and such boats do perforce lose the patina of total originality. And that is not desirable for wonderful original old boats like Atosis and others that are much better suited to museums than to regular active use. I don’t know about the Carver.
I know nothing about the car hobby, but a serious difference seems to exist between the idea of retaining the total originality of an old car and that of an old boat, at least in the ACBS world. And that difference is ACBS’ long standing preference that judged boats are usable at least to the extent of arriving at the show docks in the water under their own power. Better yet, their owners are encouraged to actually use the boats in the water throughout the boating season. This “use it” imperative suggests certain safety and preservation improvements that force a departure from the concept of preserving the pristine patina, etc. Serious on-water use without causing rapid deterioration would seem to at least require that the patina be protected with some fresh varnish. and, while original faded deck and seat coverings and corroded hardware may well be suitable for museums, most users want their old boats to be more presentable.
That said, it may well be useful to further tighten ACBS’ definition of “preserved” to make it more difficult to game the judging process. But having lived through the difficulty of partitioning the judging categories into “preserved” and “restored” I would be unenthused about trying to establish yet another category without having tried to refine the existing system.
I also appreciate this discussion very much. I’ve lived through over 30 years in the old car hobby and have seen what can happen to cars that are judged in an unrestored class with too much leeway in the criteria allowed. An example: One organization allowed damaged parts to be replaced. Result: Every piece of trim and chrome was replaced with NOS items. New interiors showed up. Loophole in the rules! These cars were competing against a judging sheet that was based on condition, so every little sneaky trick was employed to get a better score and win that $10. trophy. The result was the obliteration of originality and history that could have been used as a benchmark for future restorations.
Let’s hope the same thing doesn’t happen to Preserved old boats.
I campaigned heavily with the organization to remove those unrestored cars from a judging sheet and just honor them with a Recognition Award. That was done and now those cars retain their place in history.
Thanks for your comments today Verne.
Sadly the same thing is happening within the boat hobby. As long as you can convince the judges that the boat has a certain percentage of original wood in tact (even if that wood is removed and reinstalled and glued back together) everything else can either be replaced / rebuilt / restored / replated, etc regardless if it needs to be or not – chasing the illusive trophy.
To me, that is not representative of the term “Preserved.” But everyone (and every organization) has their own interpretation of what the term “Preserved” means, and how it applies to their rules. – Texx
Gene , you will never be replicated. Hopefully preserved for a long time. Keep up the mantra.
See link for information on history of Carver and old brochures: http://www.fiberglassics.com/library/Carver
If the boat was delivered in December 1961, it most likely is a 1962 model year boat, not 1961. The model year started in September the previous year back in those days.
62 brought new hulls, different lengths, different trim, back to back seats. This boat matches the 1961 catalog. The Dealer sold the boat in Dec, we have no idea of when Carver manufactured the boat.
Our first boat was the same sort of deal. Dad’s Christmas present to the family in 1959 of a brand new 1959 Spitfire with a brand new 1959 Johnson 35. The deals on carry overs are good in December.
My 1963 carver commuter looks very different from this one, its 19.5′ long and has the first mercruiser I/O . Mine is all original also, bought from the son of the original owner , They paid $3490 for mine. Bought it at an appliance store on Green Lake Wisc. Never found a company photo of mine as that time frame Carver was going under.
I was pleasantly surprised how well the Carver performed with the 75HP outboard on Gull Lake. Was expecting it to feel heavy and unresponsive – but it was just the opposite. A fun utility lapstrake that reached around 32 MPH and didn’t mind some rough water.
Here is the 1963 brochure page for the Commuter. The rear seat/engine compartment is different but that might be due to the different power package
Dane : Can you email that to me? Cant get it to open.
Varnishing a wood boat is part of general maintenance, cars made of steel used wax .
Great discussion! I too have been thinking about this of late.
Maybe an “Original Preserved” designation is needed. Yes, new varnish and paint, but, say 95% or more of the wood is original.
Also, for fiberglass and aluminum, have the original paint, seats and upholstery, motor, and windshield, with no paint substituted for the original gelcoat on fiberglass. Just touch it up, shine it up, and away you go.
It is less than two years since I succumbed to the Wooden Boat disease. In that time I have been lucky to find two fine examples of 1950s outboard boats. I spend summers on a chain of lakes in Northern WI. Due to a narrow shallow channel between two of the lakes, inboard boats are not in the cards and I have only looked at outboards, so far. My first boat is a 1958 Delta w/ original 1958 Johnson 35hp. We kept her on a covered lift this summer and ran her daily.
The current discussions regarding “unrestored” / “prerestored” boats are particularly interesting to me. This summer I purchased a 1957 15’ Hayward cedar strip / clad runabout with original Scott Atwater 22 hp. The boat was in the same family since new and has never been painted, varnished, or otherwise restored. As the photos show, she is in wonderful original shape and ready to go when the motor is serviced.
I showed her at the Barker’s Island show in Superior WI this summer. I had been planning to repaint her sides and varnish the decks, but was encouraged to leave her in original condition by some of the other owners. I realize there is no one right answer, but look forward to participating in the discussions in order to make a decision. I appreciate the “originalness” but am tempted to give her some fresh paint and beautiful fresh varnished decks. A little soap and water restored her interior
I think you and some of the group might enjoy these photos.
Additional 1957 Hayward photo
Thanks for sharing these photos and comments with us today Eric. Looks fantastic!
What a great find, Eric! Gotta love a Scott!!
As a person who prefers survivor/preserved boats over all others and who owns the25′ Sportsman referenced in this story, I think this Carver is just fantastic. Such examples are painfully rare in this hobby – for reasons that are both numerous and obvious. However, it too will, as is admitted in the story, require some cosmetic work soon. If that is not done, the slippery slope will quickly get steeper. It is better to varnish this when needed and keep it in use than it is to leave it alone and relegate it to a display piece. A 1961 car with thin paint can be kept as is and used sparingly almost indefinitely if stored properly but due to the nature of wood, that cannot be said about a boat with deteriorating varnish.
I wrote the following about this subject in an e-mail this morning ” patina may look interesting but in “advanced” cases it does not lend itself to a boat that can be used in any practical sense. Patina represents a snapshot in time, not the original state of the boat but typically some form of degraded original that may or may not be usable. The point at which “patina” becomes a ragged, messy vestige of original that can no longer be easily or safely used and which subjects the boat to accelerated deterioration due to poor wood protection and the amplification of other latent vulnerabilities common to many of these boats is not easy to define. I would never ask judges to decide that.”
Having “preserved” or “restored” or “maintained” the following boats with 90%+ original wood, power, gauges etc. -, 1940 19′ Barrel, 1948 25′ Sportsman, 1961 Chris 21′ Continental, 1965 24′ Sea skiff and 1965 16′ Glastron, I have experience with the challenge and the many decisions involved, and of course the compromises that have to be made.
For me, when you can no longer use the boat safely and comfortably as it was intended to be used, then the point is lost and it becomes a relic. At what point does such a policy become neglect? The infliction and perpetuation of an almost purposeful distress in pursuit of a somewhat contrived appearance is antithetical to me. I see examples of this in the car hobby and it dilutes appreciation of the true survivors.
Appreciate lovely examples like this Carver for what they are, but don’t sweat it if the upholstery has to be changed because it disintegrated due to age, or the peeling varnish has to be replaced in order to protect the original wood beneath. Neglecting normal maintenance becomes, as my mother would say, like cutting off your nose to spite your face.
The discussion is never-ending. I love the term coined yesterday. Interestingly, when I took “Sindbad” to the ACBS International in Tahoe years ago, I asked for it to be judged – not to win anything, but to learn and get some feedback. No one had seen the boat up to that point. The hull – framing, planking and fasteners – are all original, just repainted. I lofted and put a new deck on, returning it close to the original configuration. I have the original lofting/design documents, etc. The team really was confused, finally judging it as a “restored replica”. Replica, because when it was originally built, it was modeled after the CC Racer of the era, restored, because of the new deck, paint and upholstery, although there is more original wood in the boat than most. I appreciated the effort and feedback I got from the people who judged the boat, and yes, I learned a few things along the way. The most important thing is to have a safe boat to use and enjoy!
This ones for “Wicked Wahine”….. Gotta luv a lapstrake
I agree with everything you and Matt have said the last two days and appreciate the discussion. The classes for restored and preserved as defined by ACBS don’t make sense when compared to many other parts of the preservation hobby world. Compare ACBS vs the car hobby for example. ACBS Preserved = Restored, ACBS Restored = Replica, and ACBS ??? = Preserved. It also excludes boats like the Carver from most ACBS awards and discourages owners from showing them. I have two good friends – one who goes to great lengths and extra effort to save as much of original fabric of a boat as possible when he restores a boat, and another who has two amazingly original boats much like the Carver. The preserved vs restored classes don’t dangle enough of a carrot for the guy who wants to save as much as possible of the original fabric instead of full wood replacement. The folks like my friend with his two time capsules have little chance of winning any ACBS awards due to the patina and character marks (I don’t call them flaws) the boats have gained in their long lives. There needs to be more recognition for boats such as these An “original class” or “prerestoric class” (did I spell that right?) would help to encourage and recognize those boats and their owners. They’re fun to see and a very important part of our old boat world.
Thanks Danny – I completely agree with you on this. Like the worn out saying goes – “They’re only original once.” I say we celebrate that, not turn it into a wallet size challenge for a trophy and bragging rights.
Hi Danny –
I might add that I restore my boats as sympathetically as possible, but do so strictly to enable them to be used and enjoyed. In the cause of this, I also have them prepared as accurately as possible- I see no reason not to do that. In the case of my SP, I have original gauges in place – untouched, as well as original seating surfaces. Crash pads and engine box cover had to be replaced because they were disintegrated, as had the headliner and canvas top. Some planks had to be replaced due to poor prior repairs and incorrect wood, but otherwise it is original. The boat as found could not have been used. Neither could my Continental. Work was done on the Glastron and BB to arrest deterioration and other issues which were apparent. Skiff needs periodic cosmetic attention but it gets at least 50 hours of use a year – more than most I would say.
In the case of my Conti, it is original wood save for the bottom, a single frame block and one transom board. the fiberglass had deteriorated and had to be repaired and interior was non original and junk. It is a preserved boat I suppose by definition but I would hesitate to call it a survivor like the Carver today. Same goes for the SP. The Conti could not have been used without work being completed.
I try my hardest to get local guys with user boats to bring them to our show, which is non0judged, but many are intimidated – not by any policy as we don’t judge anything, but by the unfounded belief that a show is only for highly restored or presented boats. In that respect, this reluctance is unrelated to judging or classes. I don’t knowhow to combat this, but I try by bring my worn user boats and entering them.
I really dislike trailer queens and I prefer any boat which sees regular use – no exceptions. The ACBS gives each chapter an award to hand out – Most Original Boat. Though our show is non-judged, we gave it to a rough around the edges 1955 Chris that was original except for an electronic ignition. It will soon need some work but it was great- I love seeing boats like this at shows.
I subscribe to your view of restoration and use as well. the trailer queens are nice to look over, but there’s something sterile about them. Seeing a boat move through the water, hearing them run, or smelling the smells of a boat in use, and of course riding in them is what really tells folks what these boats are about.
I’ve been one of the chief judges at our local show for several years and we’ve always given the ACBS most original award. Some years it was tough as there just aren’t that many that come to the show in that survivor state, but we always make it a point to recognize them and they’re always some of my favorite boats to check out during judging.
I have long felt that judging in general and judging criteria speficially, can cause a tremendous ammount of unintended harm to the hobby. I might have written a Paul H style thesis on the subject, but my office building is currently vibrating like a giant Magic Fingers motel bed due to a parking lot paving project gone bad. Time to don the hard hat and seek shelter.
Offer the paving crew some bacon – they will be fast asleep in an hour.
Believe it or not, I don’t keep bacon in my office at work. I do maintain a supply of swiss chocolate, but I don’t share that as readily as I do bacon.
Texx – Nice to see more great finds from the realm of the outboard classic boat. Well this has been an interesting conversation about some of the nuances of the wooden boat hobby. As a complete amateur who owns a wooden boat for primarily two reasons, sentimentality and “isn’t she pretty,” there’s quite a lot to know. As used in my Woody Boater story “The Refurbishment Of “Sweet Mahogany” – An Ideal Boat From The 1960’s” I used the word refurbishment (to restore to freshness of appearance or good condition). From a standpoint of shows, well my modern engine and controls will never win me any favors with the judges, but from a practical everyday utility and faith in using this old boat out on the water, it’s been a comforting way to go. Here she is, hull freshly painted as part of a first of a two phase one-last- time-sprucing-up.
Thanks for chiming in Charles – “Sweet Mahogany” is looking good as always.
Wonderful discussion. Personally I like ’em ragged & real.
My 1966 MFG Niagara shows what I meant by just touch it up, shine it up, and put it in use. Works well with an original fiberglass boat.
Great looking boat Dave, thanks for sharing the photo.
I got so sick of the constant talk about car “Originality” and the silly “Survivor” label that I spent 10 years learning how to use an English wheel so that I can build my own car. A car with 60 year old clear coat on it is not original. These works of art weren’t covered with dull shrunken clear, cracks in the corners, rust and minor rot when they rolled out of the factory. For most of these makers it was simply a job. Every car, boat, or motorcycle that still exists today is a survivor. Hobbyists who replank boats and make them like new are probably more passionate about the boat than the original crew that built them were. Just think of how much harder it is to do in your garage. These boats are art but there is no such thing as “Factory Magic”. Ask yourself if the boat you are looking at is beautiful then absorb that beauty for at least 5 seconds before you start scanning it like a robotic camera in a factory looking for flaws. When classic cars and boats were new they were shiny, stunning, and beautiful. They weren’t in “survivor” condition. If one were nostalgic about the era they would simply want their boat to look and feel like it did back then. N.O.S, restored, and good reproduction parts are the ticket.
Thanks for your insight Tim. Great stuff. One thing we know for sure – these boats didn’t leave the factories all those years ago with 15 – 20 coats of polished varnish as the “Preserved” boats are presented today.
I think you guys should check the sales brocure for the 1961 carver. None of those boats that year had lap stake hulls. I have on original 1960 Carver Captian 17 footer…all formed plywood hull. I have full pictures to prove my point and all the sales brocures for 1960. I would love to discuss this with anyone. Heres a final note. I worked at the carver factory in 2008 to 2011 and did my research while at the birth place of my boat.