Dave Wright 1940 – 2013

Best Professional Restorer - Lake Tahoe 2009

Dave Wright was awarded “Best Professional Restorer” at the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance in 2009.

Award winning wooden boat restorer and enthusiast Dave Wright passed away Wednesday at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, CA. He had suffered a massive heart attack on Sunday morning. He was 73.

Brian Robinson and his father Tim were close friends of Dave’s – their restoration shops are located in the same area of Southern California, and together they shared their passion for the hobby for many years.

We received this from Brian Robinson last night –

Dave was a retired high school math teacher. Always an engineer, Dave got heavily involved with boat building and rebuilding engines for a Blown Gas Hydro race team. In 1974, one of his early smart real estate moves was purchasing a teardown waterfront home on Lake Tahoe. A few years later he and Linda sold it and bought the vacation home at Lake Tahoe they still own, just two doors down from the first place.

Tim Robinson & Dave Wright - 2009

Tim Robinson with Dave Wright on board “Typhoon” – Marty Feletto’s 1929 Hackercraft which won “Overall Best of Show” at Lake Tahoe in 2009 – Restored by Dave Wright.

It was there sitting on the front porch that he would watch all of the wooden boats going across the lake to the boat show each August. In 1985 he bought his first Chris-Craft that he named after his drink of choice Old No. 7. After having the boat professionally restored he thought he could do it better, so he began buying and restoring boats.

Dave Wright enjoying Apache II
In 1996, after his neighbors in Laguna Beach became fed up with his makeshift tarp boat shop attached to his house overlooking the beach, Dave and Linda bought a 30-acre avocado ranch in Fallbrook, CA. This gave Dave plenty of room to put his vast collection of boats and engines, while continuing to operate the avocado operation.


Dave testing a freshly restored Liberty V-12 at his shop in California.

Dave was a outstanding boat restorer & vintage engine builder, and completed nearly 40 antique & classic boat restoration projects. He did it all with great talent and attention to detail. From building his own engines, casting his own parts, to doing body and fender work on the trailers.

If you asked Dave what he did for a living he would always quietly answer – “A Farmer.”

Dave was an amazing friend to so many. Words cannot begin to describe what a genuinely great guy Dave was. – Brian Robinson

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Dave (on the right) helping his nephew Devin with a KBL Hercules 6 in a 1955 CC Cobra.

Last night I received a phone call from fellow Woody Boater Dave Anderson, President of the SoCal ACBS Chapter where Dave Wright was a member. Dave Anderson was also a close friend of Dave’s and Dave Anderson was devastated by the news of Dave Wrights passing.

As we spoke over the phone, Dave shared a great story with me about Dave Wright, that once again describes just the kind a person Dave was.

Last fall while attending a classic boating event in San Diego, while cruising around the San Diego harbor, Dave Anderson had some problems with the vintage transmission in his South Coast 22′ lapstake “Wicked Wahine”. With some help from his pals, they managed to tow the lapstrake back to the dock for repairs.

Once at the dock, Dave Anderson got out his old operating manual to determine what the problem was with the transmission.

Dave Wright heard that Dave Anderson was having trouble and went down to the dock to offer his assistance. Dave Wright was always more than happy to offer help or share his incredible depth of knowledge with his fellow boaters.

Dave Anderson said when Dave Wright arrived to help, he was dressed in his Sunday best, including wearing a turquoise Lake Tahoe Judges shirt – maybe not the proper attire for repairing a transmission in the bilge of an old boat – and Dave Anderson was concerned about that.

2012 Tahoe Friday AM 148

The 2012 Lake Tahoe Concours Judging area c/w turquoise shirts.

Without hesitation, Dave Wright climbed on board the lapstrake to offer his assistance. Soon after they removed the cover from the transmission, Dave Wright grabbed some tools and made the necessary adjustments to the transmission. Dave Anderson started the boat and it ran like new. Dave Wright emerged from the bilge of the lapstrake with a clean shirt and trousers, as if nothing ever happened.

Dave Wright had that magic touch – with people and old boats. – Dave Anderson

Apache II - Mecum Photo

Dave on board Apache II – a 1922 Hacker 29 Race Boat powered by a Liberty V-12

I had the pleasure of visiting Dave Wright at his boat shop after the 2012 Lake Arrowhead Boat Show last June. Dave patiently toured me around his facility, and he even took me out to see his impressive collection of old and rare grey boats that were waiting to be restored.

Dave walked me through a perfectly restored Liberty V-12 engine he recently completed (shown above in the testing photo), which was scheduled to be installed in a very rare 1924 33′ Hacker designed & built runabout originally built for and owned by Henry Ford.

As we went through the original construction details of the 90 year-old Henry Ford – Hacker, it was evident that Dave Wright loved working on these old Hackers more than any other type of wooden boat. His passion for the John Hacker designed & built boats from the early days was remarkable, I could hear it in his voice and see it in his expressions. That same passion spilled over to the vintage Liberty engines he restores. Not only did they look magnificent, Dave knew how to make them run, and run well.

I will always remember the day I spent with Dave at his shop in Southern California, and fondly remember Dave Wright as a knowledgeable, passionate man. Dave always had a smile and a kind word to share.

I will miss Dave.


31 replies
  1. Mike Green
    Mike Green says:

    Wow my heart hurts today… Dave and Linda are some of the nicest people I have ever met. Dave was one of those special guys that always made you feel like you where his best friend and very excited to see you every time we would get together. I have great memories of the times we spent together and he made me what to be more like him, kind heated and full of life. I will be having a double shot of Old No. 7 on the rocks in his honor very soon.

  2. donald hardy
    donald hardy says:

    Over the years Dave has helped me many times, answered all my help questions, shared suppliers, alway’s open for visit’s, He has helped me become a better boat restorer. Alway’s fun at Tahoe, every year he beat me, I would just laugh. You definately deservied it. You , in my eye’s are the best on what ever you did. I learned alot from you. I will do my best to continue, with Brian’s help.

  3. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Dave wlecomed Karen and I into his home at Tahoe when we were there for the first time, knew almost no one and didn’t even have a boat with us. He made time amongst throngs of very prominent Tahoe and hobby folks to talk with us and offer his hospitality. His welcome to us at Tahoe is an enduring memory of our initial experiences there. This is a very sad day for the hobby and no doubt for many, many others. I was terribly saddened to encounter this story today. Thank you Brian, Tim and WB for sharing this news, and a bit about Dave.

  4. Alex
    Alex says:

    What a nice tribute by those who knew him. It sounds to me like Dave lived a very happy and successful life, albeit cut too short. The fact that people miss him this much speaks volumes of the man.

  5. Bill
    Bill says:

    i never met dave he sounds like a great guy any time we lose someone like him it is knowledge and skills that are gone forever. condolences to his family

  6. Matt B
    Matt B says:

    Brian introduced me to Dave while I was restoring my boat. Dave re-cast some missing parts for me. He went out of his way to help this DIY restorer, he will be missed….

  7. Brad and Sandi Hill
    Brad and Sandi Hill says:

    What a shame. Real men like Dave need special recognition. He was the best, something Sandi and I discovered years ago. Yes we visited his back yard in Laguna wayback and saw that barrel back. We both thought, oh! this isn’t looking good, but he persevered completing this first project of many many more to come. He was superb at whatever he did, he could do anything, including teaching math to hight school kids. We never ceased to wonder at his talents. He was always a best friend ands gentleman to all who knew him.
    Take it easy, Dave.

  8. Mike & Marj Dougherty
    Mike & Marj Dougherty says:

    We were so saddened when we got this call from Tim Robinson. Dave and Linda welcomed us into the wooden boat family with open arms and their huge smiles. We enjoyed many times at the “ranch” and at Tahoe, and as we moved away with work, our thoughts were always that we should reconnect with good friends like Dave and Linda. It is so sad we did not do that sooner. We hold great memories, like that of their wedding day on the dock, in our hearts, and Dave will always be a good friend. Smooth waters ol friend.

  9. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    Dave Wright was a wonderful gentleman who welcomed a foreigner (a guy from Oklahoma) to Lake Tahoe many years ago. I cherish the visits I had with Dave at his home and the time spent at he and Linda’s Lake Tahoe home. I am very saddened by this news and the Wright family will be in our prayers.

    I started thinking about the fun times together and there were just too many.

    One early picture I have says it all. On on the deck at Tahoe sharing a laugh with Dave, Brian and Shelly. I have no idea what I’m saying but I’m sure I was poking fun at myself. Dave and company graciously laughed with me, not at the Oklahoma boy.

    You are gone from us now but not forgotten.

    Rest in peace kind Sir!

  10. Jay and Kim
    Jay and Kim says:

    The thing about Dave was he had an infectous smile that made even a stranger feel welcome. We did not know him nearly half as well as we would of liked too, nor nearly long enough. I remember arriving home one day to a thunderous racket and thought, “What the hell!” Looking down towards our docks I gazed upon Dave, Brad Hill and Jay, firing up Apache; seeing that relic at our docks was a special sight.

    Our hearts and prayers are with Linda. Dave will be missed but never forgotten.

  11. Scott Reichardt
    Scott Reichardt says:

    Was Old No. 7 a 1936 19′ custom runabout? I own this boat with that name from that area and wonder if it was Dave’s boat???

  12. Heather Robinson Rodda
    Heather Robinson Rodda says:

    We miss you, Dave! I thank you for your friendship to my parents and brother for so many years. I have so many great memories of times with you and Linda in Tahoe and So. Cal. My Dad said it best…you leave a big hole to fill.

  13. Texx
    Texx says:

    As this difficult day grinds to an end, we would like to say thanks to everyone who shared their thoughts about our friend Dave today. I know his family and friends appreciate this.

    We also received a number e-mails, calls, and notes on our Facebook page today, all with kind words and memories of Dave Wright.

    Tom Wright e-mailed – “One of the best ambassadors ever and a truly good guy. Very sad.” – TW

    Rob Cassell commented on FB – “Holding on to memories of a warm handshake and a giant smile at our last ACBS gathering.”

    Thanks again – Texx

  14. Wicked Wahine
    Wicked Wahine says:

    My Friend,My go to guy, That infectious smile. That Big Man with a Thousand friends. I`ll miss the phone calls we had about the perveriable what do you think? Should I use 5200 or sikaflex, How many coats? 220, 320, 400, 800,1200,2000.
    What`s Linda up to? Can she make another quilt for our auction? Is JD really put in a square bottle so it doesn`t roll away from you? Do you know you have rattlesnakes by the barn? How is Rex the Tahoe watch dog? Where is the Wrights house? It`s the Grey House up the street (Do you know how many Grey house`s there are are in Tahoe?) The Bears will miss him, and yes I will miss my friend also. The full moon shining on the waters of Lake Tahoe will be a little larger now that it is in Dave`s hands. RIP My Friend!

  15. Lupe Loera
    Lupe Loera says:

    It is very unfortunate to have heard the terrible news that Dave had passed away. It was much too sudden and has left a big hole in the hearts of many. He was very successful in life, and specially in his hobby of restoring boats. He enjoyed his hobby up to his last day. I live in the ranch he owns in So-Cal. I thank God to have met him and Linda, a very loving and happy couple. They were always smiling and laughing, they were the perfect couple, indeed. Dave and Linda, took my family into their ranch in the year of 2001, after we had arrived from Mexico for the first time. Dave and Linda watched my brother, my sister and I grow throughout the years. Thanks to Dave and Linda, my family is still here. I am currently attending college, and my brother will be going to Brown University next year. If it wasn’t for Dave and Linda’s compassion to take my family in as their own, I don’t know what would have become of us. Dave had a huge heart and always made one feel like family. Every morning I would come across Dave along with my uncle working on restoring the boats. Dave would never fail to take the time and wave at me. He did this on Friday for the last time. My family is grieving looking around this ranch without him here, it feels vacant. He was a guy like no other, I wish I could go back and thank David for his generosity, his kindness, and to tell him he is a great role model, and a great inspiration. He will greatly missed by many. We love You Dave. – Loera Family

  16. ron wylie
    ron wylie says:

    Yes Dave was a real unique and wonderful man. Unlike most of the SoCal acbs members and friends, I hardly knew him, but once you met him, he made you feel as if your were one of his sincere friends. You could tell just at a “first meeting” this was a great guy.

    I was trying my first attempt at varnishing my “amateur home restored” chris craft boat and, as you would know, the varnish was not working out well at all. I was trying to get one last half way decent coat on the transom so that the boat name, “Wish-On”, could be applied so the boat would be ready for my son’s and now daughter in-law’s wedding (on the water at Bass Lake)…. It was a real “due date” and I was having trouble.

    So one had told me about Dave, and said I should try giving him a call. And, I somewhat embarrassingly did.

    I had never even met Dave, and he certainly did not know me at all, and, well those who know Dave, know the rest of the story…

    He said he was glad that I had called, and he instantly made me feel like one of his friends.

    He took his time and “talked me through the varnish job” right over the phone, Can you believe that?…

    And further assured me that the job would turn out just fine……. But, even so, he said… “If it is still giving you any trouble, you’re here in Fallbrook, so just bring it right over here…. and I’ll give it the last coat for you…. it’ll just take a few minutes and it will be No trouble at all”….

    Well, the “phone coaching worked, and Dave was right… the job turned out just fine… All, thanks to Dave Wright!

    What a guy…. Later, during the past 2 years or so, I did meet Dave a few different times either at Bass Lake, or here at his ranch in Fallbrook where he and his wife Linda so graciously hosted an acbs workshop.

    He will be greatly missed, and I believe no one who knew him will forget him.

    Being here “in Fallbrook”, to the family, if there is any help with anything that i might possibly be able to assist with, please do not hesitate to call or let me know… Tim R. has my contact info… as well as the 2011 acbs directory.

    Our hearts and prayers to out to you all.

  17. Bob Killeen
    Bob Killeen says:

    May the road rise to meet you,
    May the wind be always at your back,
    May the sun shine warm upon your face,
    The rains fall soft upon your fields and,
    Until we meet again,
    May God hold you in the palm of His hand

  18. Pete Brittain
    Pete Brittain says:

    My wife and I have known Dave and Linda for almost
    30 years and we were stunned when Linda called us
    with the news. We had lost a good friend and a great
    guy. He was the guy who never got older…no matter
    what his age, he looked the same.

    Having a couple of “Jacks” with Dave and Linda at
    their ranch was always fun… we would laugh solve the
    world’s problems whether the world paid attention or

    Happy landings, old friend. We will miss you.

  19. Mike Nannenhorn
    Mike Nannenhorn says:

    When I was restoring my boat Dave took me under his wing. He ordered the stain and varnish I needed and when I went to pick the stuff up he said ” do you have a minute? ” He was in the process of varnishing a boat and asked me to hang around so he could show me his way of doing it. I then went home and applied this new knowledge to finishing my boat. At the Lake Arrowhead Wooden Boat Show I won Best Pre-War Double Cockpit. This from some beginner working in his garage. As evidenced by the photo Dave was like a proud Papa and was very happy for me. Dave was a great friend, mentor and all around good guy. I have been working on staining and varnishing my mahogany front doors on the house for the past few months. Guess who supplied the materials and advice to get it to turn out right? I better do it right, I have a feeling someone will be watching. I have lost a lot of people in my life and I thought I was getting really good at dealing with loss but I am having a hard time processing this one. This picture has always been displayed on my bookshelf next to a photo of a person that has been the hardest loss in my life to deal with. It appears this shelf is now a memorial to two very big influences in my life. RIP Dave Wright thanks for being my friend.

  20. Dave Horst
    Dave Horst says:

    As has been stated so well by so many folks, Dave was so special in so many different ways. He was always available for advice and a helping hand. He was open to dissenting views and ideas about boats and judging, although his views were generally spot on. One of his most accurate mantras was “There are not many abslolutes in this hobby when it comes to judging authenticity”. Let us never forget that. Dave and Linda were always gracious hosts whether it be at “the Ranch”, at some ACBS venue or in Tahoe. Everytime I see or throw back a “Jack”, I have no doubt he’ll cross my mind. I’ve commented to many that we were so blessed to see, chat, drink and be with Dave that last evening. Yes… the smile, the laugh, those big bear claw handshakes and a friendly hug were all his trade marks that I’ll never forget. To say that he’ll be dearly missed just seems inadequate. Till we meet again my friend!!!

  21. Dich Hansen
    Dich Hansen says:

    Always the greatest gentleman, gracious giving and humble in spite of his vast reputation in our hobby. Dave will be missed by so many people, remembered for his cheerful easy friedndship and held in our hearts always. Dave you were taken too young and will be missed.

  22. Larry and Victoria Barrett
    Larry and Victoria Barrett says:

    Victoria and I are shocked and saddend by the loss of Dave Wright. Linda is very much in our thoughts as we reflect on what Dave meant to so many of us. What a nice and generous man he was. He was an unusually fine craftsman, in my view. Woodwork, mechanics, finishing and the details – that man could do it all.
    In 2005, I was a lst time amateur boat restorer. I was working hard to get my U-22 Sportsman ready for the Arrowhead Show, with little confidence that they would even let it in. But, with a little help and a whole lot of encouragement from Dave, I kept working and made it into the show. With some amount of good luck, it won Best Chris Craft, one of my proudest moments ever.
    Thank you Dave, for all you gave to us.

  23. Terry Fiest
    Terry Fiest says:

    The loss of Dave Wright has created a major void in my heart. Bobbie and I have know Dave and Linda for many years and words cannot describe how we looked forward to the Tahoe show and staying at their home with Tim, Laura, Brian and Shelley. Being with Dave and sharing stories was the highlight of the boating season. Dave was a dear friend, a confidant, a mentor, a craftsman and like a brother to me. I can’t imagine him not being a part of the judging team and not sitting beside me as we look down upon all the boats from the top floor of Sierra Boats. We will dearly miss him and everything he stood for and we all know that he will always be with us in spirit. May God rest your soul Dave.

  24. Joe DeLeonardi
    Joe DeLeonardi says:

    On Saturday, Feb. 9, we enjoyed Dave and Linda’s warm smiles and fun boat stories at the LBYC. We have no words that can express our sorrow for Linda and the family. We feel very fortunate to have been in his company, at his home and with Linda for the past twelve years. God Bless.

  25. Bob robertson
    Bob robertson says:

    Well, everything has been said about this legend of a man, almost, I knew Dave for about 6-7 years, meet him though my long time friend Tim Robinson, what a presence..the day I meet him I felt like we knew each other for years. Though the years we saw each other it was always the same, I would ask him a question about a boat or engine or whatever, and he always had the time to answer my questions. My boating experiences have been greatly inhanced by my association with Dave. God speed Dave

  26. Bryan Turner
    Bryan Turner says:

    My Dad was fond of saying ” he who tries to be a friend has few, he who IS a friend has many.” Reading these tributes to Dave is proof positive that Dave was the best of friend to many. I only knew Dave for a few years but he has made an indelible impression on me unlike anyone I know other than my Dad. We should all be more like Dave; he was the best. Miss you, buddy.

  27. Anita Gemperle Mahaffey
    Anita Gemperle Mahaffey says:

    We lived next door to David in Lake Tahoe for many years. Since it is our vacation home, I am only there sporadically. I was greatly saddened to hear that David has left us. He always had a kind word and smile for all of our family members. We’ll miss you David. Our sincerest condolences to your family.

    Kind regards,
    Anita Gemperle Mahaffey

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