Is This The Year Classic Boat Shows Make A Come Back?


The docks were jammed at Lake Dora this year!

We have a tendency to measure the cultures robustness on two things. Sales and shows. We are not sure about sales numbers yet. But have heard are flat if not down in the Woody Boat area. Restorations are up. And this year at Lake Dora you could feel the excitement in the air. People are coming out and interested in Classic Boating again. Which leads to sales. With affordable gas and the stock market hitting record highs it only makes sense. So will this be reflected in traffic to your boat show? I would guess yes! Now!!!!!! I don’t ever want to get political here. So please stay clear. but it makes sense that this culture of older white people, would be more in the Republican camp. And that could be the big reason for a new found confidence. Maybe not? Maybe it was just a Florida thing? Will the same stand in other areas of the country?

Amphacar rep

Regardless, of politics and the current economic temperature, we have seen an uptick in traffic here, and at Lake Dora had a record turnout. Is that because of Fiberglass boats? Yes.  Is it now time to buy that boat you have been dreaming about? There are so many questions. What we have seen is if a person is of the right mindset, they don’t care about fiberglass or wood, and its more about confidence and a good sales, and ownership experience.


Two years ago on Gull Lake. The interest is there and now spreading! The show was packed!


28 replies
  1. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    Fuel prices along with other aspects of the economy seems to be the major reason turnout is low. People limit spending when the economy is bad. With the economy getting better over the last several months people are more at ease about discretionary spending.

    • Dave Nau
      Dave Nau says:

      Fuel prices are low compared to what they were just a few years ago. There is more interest in classic fiberglass boats there was 10 years ago, and their prices are relatively low. I see a growing interest in outboards. With the typical compact SUV having a tow rating limit of 1500 pounds, smaller boats are getting interest, fit more easily in the garage, and avoid having to own an expensive large pickup or SUV to pull the boat.

      Baby Boomers are retiring like crazy, and I know for me, I want to have both a show boat and a boat that I can take the grand-kids out on and use. Both of mine are fiberglass classics from the 60’s. Wood boats can always come later, but for now, outboard fiberglass boats work well for me.

      I am also all for having boat shows offer rides and not just be static displays.

  2. Barb Hansen
    Barb Hansen says:

    ACBS’s Water Wonderland Chapter’s Boats on the Boardwalk Show in Traverse City last Summer was packed with boats and visitors.
    It’s the weekend before the Hessell Show, so it’s a great week for Woodies.
    Hessell’s Show always has big crowds. It’s THE event of the Summer. Close enough to draw many Canadians, too.

  3. tim
    tim says:

    Antique wooden boats are an EXTREME luxury…..Extreme! It’s like Polo, except Polo can be played indoors and isn’t constrained to 3 months a year. Also, unless you’re the 1% salaries and wages have stagnated since the 1970’s and after restoration costs there’s almost ALWAYS a loss on sale.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Tim, I am sorry, but you could not be more wrong! We have been saying this for years. You can get a nice small woody in the 1500 range and be part of the fun! Thats it. $1,500. You can’t do that in most any other passion. Not even stamp collecting. There is nothing extreme about this unless you ladder up to more fancy boats. And then like any passion its insane. But with cars selling in the 5-10 million range where as a classic boat tops out at 1 million, its a very affordable passion even for the 1%ers.

  4. Doug P in the PNW
    Doug P in the PNW says:

    Classic boats are reminders of the good times we had as a child….NOSTALGIA.
    Nostalgia sells…but the nostalgia we are seeing sold now is the fiberglass boat as the retirees that buy now grew up with fiberglass boats…not wood.
    Similar to auto mobiles, it is the muscle cars that sells, not prewar.

  5. tim
    tim says:

    Matt, you must live in Stoner Ville where everything is magic. $1500 wouldn’t buy you the windshield. To really enjoy these old boats you need a lake house and a boat varnisher/worker who’s also a close personal friend. $1500 will get you a boneyard boat into which you will pour you kids college funds.

    • Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
      Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

      Tim: Ive owned 9 wood boats, ive never spent more than $3200, and that was because it had a $2800 trailer under it. I am probably the cheapest person in this group. My present boat cost me $300. Thats right 300 bucks, i have maybe a total of $2500 in it now and have used it for 3 years. So its very possible to enjoy this hobby on the cheap!

  6. Matt
    Matt says:

    Look into Whirlwinds and other fun small outboards. I have purchased 3 for $1500 and put them in the water and gone boating. I have bought a barn find 17 whaler for around 6K and didn’t even clean it, drove it to a boat show and won first place in the preserved category. Went boating the next day. Purchased a 1938 Race boat for under 10K, went boating a month later. The list goes on and on. Yes, one can spend a fortune on these, but you can also get into the passion very affordably to see if you love it and build from there. Whirlwinds are made in a special way that they do not need soaking. Heck the trailers cost more if you buy right.

  7. Texx
    Texx says:

    Want an inexpensive classic fiberglass boat? I have an all original 1957 Lake N’ Sea outboard boat that I purchased in Tennessee in 2010. Cleaned it up, installed new upholstery, installed a rebuilt 1957 Merc outboard / controls and attended Sunnyland Boat Show that year with the boat, Lake Tahoe Concours and Sandpoint, ID boat show the same year.

    Been sitting in dry storage ever since, at 2,500.00 per year.

    The boat is free to anybody who wants to meet me at the Canadian / US border, I will haul it to any border crossing west of the Great Lakes free of charge. Have tons of photos and historical documentation – Texx

  8. Don Palmer
    Don Palmer says:

    Hey Texx,
    How far west of the Great lakes are you inclined to go?
    I live in the Pacific Northwest. Where are you located now?

  9. Don Palmer
    Don Palmer says:

    The first boat my dad bought when I was a kid was a 57-58 era Bellboy that had a 40 horse mercury outboard. I loved that boat and motor!

  10. Jeff Funk
    Jeff Funk says:

    All things experience ebbs and flows…and classic boat sales, classic boat shows, and even boating in general are not imune to this normal phenomenon. Yes, sales of the classics have been soft for a few years now, but I see an upturn…it’s due. The phone in our modest restoration busienss has been rining off the hook for both boats and restoration work since the first of the year, and I expect it to continue. Tastes in boats and boat usage change, so Triples & BBs may not bring the strong dollars they once did, but lapstrakes and later workhorse utilities seem to be stronger as they are a great value. Generally speaking, I believe classic boaters these days are more interested in ‘using’ their boats with family and friends rather than pulling them to a show for the chance to win a trophy. I may be wrong, but that’s what I’m seeing. To me the future of classic boating is bright!

  11. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Jeff, I think you have it exactly right. Boat shows are only a very small portion of the overall hobby. They are influenced by some of the same factors as the rest, but not exclusively so. \

    There may be a real and lasting decline in interest in the high $$$$ factory original triple to win a trophy segment, but the user boat interest seems to be expanding. The problem is many shows and clubs are still more geared to the former and are not fully capturing the latter. The Sunnyland show is doing well. It is a non-judged show centered around the social aspects and actual usage of the boats. Coincidence?

  12. Richard Daley
    Richard Daley says:

    Richard Daley
    Texx I would love to have that boat
    You will not have to deliver I will come to calgary and pick it up
    That way it will stay in Alberta and you can even come to the lake a go for a spin when you want

  13. John A Gambill
    John A Gambill says:

    Julia and I love the shows and attend a few each show season . However we are really in to just using our classic, its our daily driver, one boat fits all for us.There was a time when I had 6 boats but have would down to just one. She brings us great joy not to mention the thumbs up we get every time she’s on the water.
    The shows we attended last season were well attended with great displays as well as tons of people on the docks, Classic boating is alive and well.

  14. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Not sure if it is the new site, the economy, or something else, but we are seeing an uptick at the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club, even though Harrison has not renewed yet.

    • Dave Nau
      Dave Nau says:

      That’s what I’m taling about! That’s a sweet Thompson. Similar in concept to mt MFG Niagara I got for $2600 in 2013.

  15. Sean
    Sean says:

    Comparing 14′ cedar strip 10hp fishing boats to 30′ Ditchburn launches is summed up best by Jules Winnfield in the movie Pulp Fiction… “ain’t the same @$#%$&*’n ballpark, it ain’t the same league, it ain’t even the same @$#%$&*’n sport”.

  16. Texx
    Texx says:

    The 1957 Lake N’ Sea outboard is off to her new home today. She remains in good hands for the next journey of her life. – Texx

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