Where Are We On The Classic Boat Timeline? This May Take Some Time.



Being in marketing, I think about these odd things. Like Emotional drivers and where and when to trigger those things and how. When you break down all communication thats what is the main driver. Emotion. There are other things, but studies have proven.. OVER AND OVER, we make purchase decisions based on emotion, not rational thinking alone.

Yes it is

I have broken down a mindset time line of sorts. As in how people felt buying and owning a Wood Boat. 

1910-1920 – Novelty and early adopters. Luxury and image drove the desire for motorized boats. For the high end population and people that liked new things.

Owners are special

1920-1930 – The early stages of adoption. Motor boats are normalized a bit, and prices and access make them easier to obtain. Where we are today with Electric Cars. Tesla – But Think Ford and GM are as Chris Craft.

Strange image. 1939?

1930-1940 – Full adoption and use. Motor Boats become an exciting dream to have and ride in. People dress up to go motor boating, mass production is starting to take off, dealer networks are bringing motor boats to every corner of North America and Europe.

1940-1945 – World is on hold, but mass production advancements greatly improve the ability to make boats for after the war. Marketing is put into associating Power Boating with patriotic themes. Thus setting up demand for GI’s coming home

Lets go for a boatride

1945-1950 – To many, the hey day of boating. Mass production and GI’s returning home and living life. The theme of women having fun, with men is amplified, and the term Control and Command are used to help people feel like they are alive and in love when on a boat. Boats also deeply mimic car and airplane designs. Many of the same industrial designers are used in Detroit with Cars and Boats

Party time

1950-1960 – Family boats become more popular, as do boats that require less maintenance. Fiberglass, Fins and reliable outboards start pushing our Wood boats out of the market. Think PC’s and Typewriters. 8 Tracks and CD’s Life evolves.

1960- 1970 – The Chasm, the time when wood boats are deader than dead. They are unloaded, neglected and considered garbage. After all, its an “unusable” boat that was purchased as such. Like a worn out lawnmower,


1970-1980 – Even darker times. More burn piles, but some folks that owned these boats start to remember the times they spent on them, so this is the first step in Romantic memories of boats.

1978-1983 – Some people start playing with old wood boats, many from memory, though the passion is so remote its not all that recognized.

You old Poo!

1983 – 1995 – In 1983 On Golden Pond, to quote the camera man after filming a day of boat footage on the lake “Well we just shot one hell of a Chris Craft Commercial” This is from Pat Curtain who was the boat wrangler for the film.  This one film Launched Wood boats into the past generation of boaters. The Memory Boaters, they bought, restored and created clubs to grow the Passion of “Classic Boats” This is considered the hey day of CLASSIC BOATING The ACBS and Classic Boating Magazine and others grow at an amazing clip.

1995-2000 – The classic boat passion is driven by memory, a time gone by. I always wanted one, I want to go back to better times, Make Boating Great Again.

Dons book is credited for a huge increase in classic boaters

2000-2010. – The Passion is starting to fizzle. The memory boaters are aging, and in the new digital universe are feeling disconnected. Less and less people remember the good old days, but clubs and restoration experts are fueling a way to make classic boats more accessible. Don Dannenberg writes his amazing bible on the subject and now folks in garages can restore a boat. And with modern Epoxy systems, do it reliably. This is the beginning of the Craftsman period. “I like those boats, they are cool, and I can do it myself”.

2010 – 2019 – The passion is literally dying, the Greatest Generation of classic boaters is going away fast, and leaving behind some amazing crafts. The memory boaters are no longer buying and restoring, Now these boats have made it through the fashion and restoration chasm period of the life cycle.


2015 – Today –  Image, art, lifestyle, are driving sales. I love the image of these boats and what they represent. I like being different, and when I own one of these it shows how I care about timeless design. These boats are from an analog time. Where things were built by people, not robots. The flaws and imperfections are all good things. I love the look and feel of the period the boats represent.

Best of the Best Of Shows

Okay, so how does this dribble help you in any small way? Great professor Woody, you just blabbered on about this.

OKAY AGAIN. Are you a broker? Well, your market has changed. How you photograph and sell these boats is different. Terms like Mid Century replace 60’s, I would suggest the terms Antique and Classic are out of date. Antique no longer feels right. Classic is a more timeless word.


Are you having a show? Actually you are having a Selfie Shoot. People can come and take selfies and share how cool they are by being around some old farts. Your old fart stories are cool. Tell them. But not about how you can tell the difference between a grain of wood. But about the time you started your family in the back seat. THATS TIMELESS AS WELL.

21 replies
  1. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    We got into wood boats because they were cheap in the seventies starting with a 15 foot Lyman. Over the years we built a collection of lymans totaling 103 feet. Unfortunately this year we sold most of them due to age and health. We sold 4 boats in one week! We kept a couple just to look at. I guess their time will come.

  2. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    thanks for the thoughtful analysis of the history of the wood boat phenomenon. On a parallel track is the trajectory of social clubs and how they helped shape, and now are not generally so important, to society. These trends present unique challenges to the wood boat culture and its organizations.

  3. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    Doing my part to keep the hobby alive. Three generations involved. The little guy (Luc) tells me he wants to grow up and be a boat restorer. My advise to him is the same I gave his Dad, take up brain surgery. I guess if you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.

  4. Doug in Maine
    Doug in Maine says:

    I think WoodenBoat magazine needs a little shout out for helping to push the wood boat revival along. Founded in the Dark Ages of the 70’s.

    • Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)
      Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P) says:

      I agree Doug. Also Classic Boating by Norm and Jim Wangard. These magazines really helped fuel the hobby.

  5. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    The crazy part is…I lived through most of those epochs!

    God I am old…best Go Boating.

    John in Va.

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

    I like Woody booting because it makes me feel young again. Does that make me an “Old Fart Memory Boater” also?

  7. Floydrturbo
    Floydrturbo says:

    George Johnson, the worlds largest unofficial Chris-Craft dealer in Wolfeboro New Hampshire was responsible for helping the hobby along as much as anyone or thing. That is until the big dealers in Cincinnati and Clayton New York came along. And there was “the Cartel” in Minnesota as we referred to them here in the south. Some of the transaction which landed in the court system and the Mecum auction that comes to mind.

  8. Frank@Falmouth
    Frank@Falmouth says:

    Great retrospective on the evolution of wood boat history…I tend to think/worry about what future emission guidelines and restrictions will have for the classic boat and car hobby. Many will be relegated to display use and Im afraid those that are not worthy will disappear from regular use and thus existence . Just listen to the issues that the cruisers have getting insurance or marina space….. and the cost to maintain!…$$$ but pull up to a restaurant in one of those and youll draw a crowd. As I forge through my 60’s the ability,, enthusiasm and energy to crawl around and sand, scrape, and finish lessens each year…. and its hard to find serious folks to take the baton. Lots of dreamers, but they are keyboard experts and dont have the hard earned knowledge to take on our vessels… We need another On Golden Pond movie maybe? .
    just late morning rambling after missing the early show..

    • Greg Lewandowski
      Greg Lewandowski says:

      Frank, I hope you are wrong about our boats being “relegated to display use only” during my lifetime. That would be the end of my WoodyBoating and a very sad day. I pray I will never have to face that reality!

  9. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    “Your old fart stories are cool. Tell them. But not about how you can tell the difference between a grain of wood. But about the time you started your family in the back seat. THATS TIMELESS AS WELL.”

    I guess if that is what they want to hear / read about we were right on target back in 2016 when Steve Griffitts wrote my member profile in the second issue of The Brass Bell. At the time many of the “Old Farts” raised an eyebrow over the title.

  10. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Every hobby driven by passion and memories is a constantly evolving pursuit. Look at what has happened to car values – those vehicles from the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s and 50’s are (mostly) dropping in chunks while the 60’s & 70’s (and some newer) are doing the opposite. Matt is entirely correct in the descriptions above of the various era influences on boating. People want to have what they dreamed about having as kids, or re-live what they experienced growing up. For some, our abilities and incomes allow those dreams to be pursued, until age and health begin to dictate another path… There is a whole group of folks out there that will be searching for that perfect Mastercraft or Cobalt wakeboard boat in a few years, because “I thought they were so cool when I was a kid!” The downside is (except for our kids) for the most part, these boats we treasure do not evoke those responses in the new generation. So, it’s our job to go boating, get out there and create new memories for our families and perhaps ignite the passion in observers because we are having so much fun in our cool old boats!

  11. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    First, I took a few days off from Woody Boater (called going off the grid) and missed the fundraiser. I just rectified that. Thank you so much, Matt, for all you do.

    Regarding your history timeline, I think we’re still in that 2012-2019 period. I’m 63 (yikes!) and I feel young in this hobby. There’s definitely some far younger than me who are bringing new energy into the hobby (Kevin Fitzke from our club is a great example!) but there isn’t the same kind of rebirth you see in car and motorcycle collecting world. Yes, the kind of cars the next generation is interested in is shifting (pre-war and muscle cars out; vintage SUV’s, Porsches in) but there’s still energy there. Look at what’s selling on Bring a Trailer, or follow “The Motoring Club” on Instagram. We just have to keep working it and hope they get into vintage Correct Crafts, Donzi’s or whatever cool glass they grew up with.

    By the way, your header reminds me that every year Chris Craft gets further away from the beautiful lines of those boats they started making with their rebirth in the early 2000’s. They were fibreglass I/O’s but they had the classic sheer, etc. I have a catalog from that era with photography by Clint Clemens (you know Clint, Matt, one of the best car shooters of all time) and it was “wow”. They’re now looking like every other Clorox bottle.

  12. Big Al
    Big Al says:

    Matt, I enjoy reading here almost every day. Dick and Rabbit both have great points.

    Have you considered having a “Users restoration/ project” section?

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