The 1923 Hadley-Plane 151 Class Race Boat – A Perfect Candidate For Prime Time Restoration

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Vintage 1923 Hadley-Plane Single Step Hydroplane for sale on eBay

If Woody Boater was ever to create a classic boating “reality show” this could be the perfect storm. A reality show similar to “OVERHAULIN” with celebrity car customizer Chip Foose, or Discovery Channels “OUTLAW GARAGE” with bad boy Jessie James – where car restoration projects are staged with unrealistic deadlines to create drama.

The Plot: Buy the 1923 Hadley-Plane 151 Class Race Boat currently listed on eBay and restore it in time for the Toronto Chapter ACBS 33rd Annual Antique & Classic Boat Show featuring “100 YEARS OF RACING” which begins in exactly 3 weeks from today. Headlined as The Greatest Race Boat Show in Canadian History, this years unique event features vintage race boats from every era of racing, so to show up in a freshly restored, very rare 1923 Hadley-Plane 151 Class race boat would be impressive.

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The 1923 Hadley-Plane hydroplane on eBay is a little rough, but certainly a piece of race boat history worth saving. As usual, the description on eBay is somewhat vague and we all know how quickly things can get out of control with an 85 year old wooden race boat.

Here’s how it’s described by the Seller on eBay:

1923 17ft 151 single step Hadley-Plane raceboat, this boat looks like a miniature Miss America, has a new cold molded bottom, all frames, chines, 4 inch step, all new. New stern and hull battens. All hardware, switches and gauges included, has a running F4 85hp Scripps engine, runs good, good oil pressure, but has a freeze crack on outside of block (engine not orginal to boat).

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This is what the boat needs – new hull and deck planking, fuel tank, wiring, dash, seat, prop, basically all else included. If you know what you are looking at, you now how rare and hard to find if at all these are.

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Have boat registration but no trailer registration. Please if you are interested please call me so we can talk about the boat in detail, much more info, can deliver for price. Or must be picked up, trailer is good for road. Also boat is up for sale locally so I reserve the right to remove from eBay if sold and stern pole and flag pole does not go with boat. – Seller / Steens Antique Boats (Click Here to see the eBay listing)

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The Challenge: Of course the idea of Woody Boater ever creating a classic boating reality show is nothing more that a fantasy. But for a moment – let’s imagine this was a reality… With a big TV style budget like the car guys have (remember, you have to think big) and with the right restoration team in place, could this old Hadley-Plane race boat actually be restored in 3 weeks with it’s running engine (which the Seller claims comes with it) and be presented as an operational, seaworthy boat at the Toronto ACBS 100 Years of Racing event the weekend of July 6th?

Let us know what you think in the comment section below. Your favorite wooden boat restorer could be the next Chip Foose of the antique boat world. – Texx

Cliff S. Hadley History

After some investigation, I was amazed to find some information & history on Cliff Hadley on the Internet – He won many awards, set records and was quite well known for his race boats back in the early 1900’s.

The following information was found on the popular Fiberglassics website which I found interesting.

Cliff S. Hadley was a boat racer and custom boat builder first in located on Long Island, New York and later near St. Petersburg, Florida. He was an active racer in the 1920s, racing his Hadley-Plane II in the 151 cu in. hydroplane class August 1928 in Newport.

According to the American Lumberman magazine (1930), in January 1930, Hadley was at the New York Motor Boat Show in the Indiana Quarter Oak Company booths and was “nationally known as a designer of speed boats.”

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Description Text from back of image: “In San Diego Bay, California, eighteen 151 cubic inch class hydroplanes, hailing from near and far, will race for the national championship and the Elgin Trophy. This photo shows Miss Westchester – Atlantic Coast champ. Driven by E. W. Hammond of Larchmont, N.Y., and the Hadley Plane (boat) driven by Cliff Hadley of Ozone Park, L.I., tuning up for the events. The seaplane is setting a pace for them – in San Diego Bay.” (Exact date 1926-12-13) Original collection Lammot du Pont, Jr. Aeronautical photograph collection. – Photo courtesy Hagley Digital Archives

According to the 1930 magazine article – “As Mr. Hadley has been designing boats and hydroplanes for the past eighteen years, he is well qualified as a consultant and during the (NY Boat Show) is prepared to discuss boat problems with all comers. Mr. Hadley designed the Buckeye II, which won the cup offered by Pres. Machado, of Cuba, last March. Hydroplanes designed by Mr. Hadley won first, second, third and fourth places at the Albany, NY races last July and finished one, two, three in the Gold Cup 131 Class at Red Bank, N.J. the past summer.”

The following are excerpts from a 1931 issue of Rudder magazine (Vol 47):


Carl R. Stahl, commodore of the Wabash Yacht Club of Terre Haute, Indiana in letters to Cliff S. Hadley who designed and built his two step double cockpit 220 hp. hydro-runabout, Shooting Star, states: “Just unloaded boat from the car, looked her over, and I certainly want to compliment you on the beautiful workmanship. If she performs only half as good as she looks, she will be some performer!”

Letter received after the outfit was tried out: “We put the boat in the water Saturday afternoon and ran it the balance of the day on slow throttle of around 1,000 rpm. However, just before coming in we opened her wide for about a half mile and the result was more than a surprise, the speed indicated was over 60 miles an hour; there were seven of us in the boat during this test.”

Toots II (pre-1931 Rudder article) was also designed and built by Cliff. S. Hadley of Ozone Park, New York and owned by Mr. FS Molson, Montreal, Canada. She is a 26 foot, two- step, double cockpit gentleman’s runabout, powered with a 400 HP Liberty motor and over a Government measured course made the remarkable speed of 69.91 miles an hour. The framework is of white oak, planking and decking of mahogany. The forward cockpit has a flush removable hatch under which is a leather spring cushion seat and back rest to accommodate three persons. When this forward cockpit is not in use the hatch is replaced, which gives an unbroken streamline deck.

All fittings are chrome plated. Both cockpit floors are rubber covered. The coaming of the aft cockpit is upholstered with leather to match the cushion seats. It is a splendid outfit in every sense of the word. Mr. RB Timberlake, who placed this order for Mr. Molson, telegraphed the day he tried out Toots II as follows :

“Boat arrived Wednesday evening. Everything very satisfactory. Owner delighted. Boat handles and rides well.” In a letter received the following day, he states: “Mr. Molson used the boat on Saturday in quite rough water and it rode splendidly. Yesterday he was out for several hours and was timed twice over a Government measured course of exactly 6080 feet.”

“He did this in one minute and three seconds. Later he took out three heavy people in the forward cockpit. They did not get a bit wet and the boat ran beautifully. The construction of boat looks very good indeed and should stand up. The installation of the motor was very good. The owner has written to you and also sent photographs.”

Here is the letter from the owner “Just a line to let you know how very satisfied I am with Toots II. We were out in her yesterday for three hours and ran her around 2,200 r.p.m. Later, we clocked her doing 6,080 feet in one minute, three seconds, which is something around 68 miles per hour. I enclose a photograph which is the only one our photographer got of her going ahead at full speed. It shows how beautifully she rides. Judging from the comments heard around here, I can truthfully say that she is the finest riding boat I have ever seen or have had the pleasure of being in.”

“Since receiving these letters the boat has made close to seventy miles an hour. Hadley built boats not only stand out for speed but for construction as well. For nearly a quarter of a century Hadley has been designing and building step boats. This special construction is used in all boats built by him.

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The 1931 issue of the Rudder Magazine goes on to say – “Then there is the Hadley designed and built Shooting Star owned by Commodore Carl R. Stahl of Terre Haute, Indiana, a two-step, double cockpit seven-passenger runabout, powered with a 220 hp. motor that shows a speed of over 60 miles…”

These boats have raced in nearly all the regattas all over this country, in rough waters and in calm, being trailed over rough roads on a trailer; given hard use in racing and the construction has stood up. The hulls have held their original shape.

The same applies to all other Hadley-built boats. Facts like these are worth considering. If you want real speed, free from spray in either cockpit, a high class gentleman’s runabout or a racing hydroplane, with speed to spare, it will pay you to get in touch with this hydro-plane specialist. All his boats are custom-built, designed to suit the power installed and of a special construction to withstand hard use. The price is slightly higher than that of ordinary stock jobs, as they are built only for those who want the best in speed and construction. Just write or wire your requirements to Cliff. S. Hadley, Orone Park, Long Island, New York, as no catalogs are issued.

In the same magazine “HADLEY MOVES PLANT TO FLORIDA”

Cliff S. Hadley, one of the best known of American hydroplane designers recently announced he had acquired a considerable tract of land at Gulfsport, Florida, a few miles out of St. Petersburg. A new plant will be built on the site, which is on the water, and in addition Mr. Hadley expects to build a home for his family nearby. Hadley hydroplanes and particularly Hadley designed and built 151 hydroplanes are famous wherever race boat men gather. Most of the present records in the field are held by boats that have come from the old Long Island shop. The new plant will be considerably larger and will be built expressively for the purpose of turning out fast boats under ideal conditions. – Courtesy

I can honestly say that I was not that familiar with the Cliff Hadley series of race boats from the early 1900’s, but would love to know if there are any others out there today.

And don’t forget that we would like to hear your comments on the fantasy Reality Show restoration project. Can an all-star restoration team with a big budget restore an 85 year-old wooden race boat in 3 weeks?

For more information on the 33rd Annual Toronto Chapter ACBS Antique & Classic Boat Show you can Click Here to go to their great website.


17 replies
  1. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I don’t think you could do a good job on that boat in 3 weeks unless the TV show was not truly reality. If the producers already found all the missing hardware and sent it off to the chromers pre show, and the wood was already selected and drying to the right moisture levels, maybe.

    No matter how fast you are with the wood work, you still have drying times for paint and varnish that would limit what you could get done in 3 weeks.

  2. Texx
    Texx says:

    To all you creative people, we will also need a catchy name for the Woody Boater reality series.

    Or stay with the Sons of Varnish theme which seems to work.

  3. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Texx, If you are going to drive the racer at Muskoka, can I ride along as your mechanic?

  4. Rick
    Rick says:

    In one episode of the show we get to see how fast the contestants can shovel money at the project from a barrel using a snow shovel. All while their wives are threatening divorce and their kids are crying that they really want to go to college.

  5. Troy
    Troy says:

    Love the idea!
    Dislike all the drama.
    If you do it skip the ratings and give her the respect that she deserves.

  6. matt
    matt says:

    There is an entire show series that could be made called. Ask the wife! It could be all about wimps going around and looking at stuff and then backing out at the last second cause the wife is all pissed off. Only at the end, the wife actualy buys it for him.. I have always said that the “wife” crap is just an excuse. Those of us blessed with true loves, always feel support. Kinda.. I will need to ask if she really does.. Maybe not.. maybe its nice to just think that she does.. i think..

  7. 51Resorter
    51Resorter says:

    Think of the drama a tv show could have! To git er done in 3 weeks you would need numerous restoration experts working together. Oh my the decisions to be made quickly – 5200 or epoxy, stainless steel or silicon bronze, Petit or Epiphanes. Could include an MMA segment if you got the right group together.

  8. brian t
    brian t says:

    Reality show? I am with ya dude.

    Trust me, drama? No worries. I can cuss better than all of you put together. And I can huck tools across the shop too. Flip you if you think otherwise.

    What wussy said three weeks? Are you kidding me. We could have that boat done in two weeks if everyone stopped their crying and did the work.

    Call me. I’ll be at the tattoo joint.

  9. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    Brian T got it just right!
    I only watch those shows with the sound off….hell I just want to scope out the newest high dollar tools the get to use, the rest is theater.

    I am with Staib….would have bought her if she had a stern pole……sounds better than wussing cause of a wife issue.
    I guess that’s why I have no wife and many stearn poles?

    Great Story about the Hadley guy!

    Love reading neat stories like that at the start of the day.

    thanks Texx

  10. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Absolutely fantastic story Texx! Kudos for all the hard work researching and writing this captivating tale. Cool barn finds, especially those featuring obscure race boat companies are always exhilarating! BTW after reading the story I did a little snooping in the files and found two ancient classified ads for used Hadley Plane 151 models in the January 1927 MotorBoating Magazine. Both from the same guy in Saranac Lake NY. One is a 1926 model (assigned number B-76) the other apparently older with no motor. Wait a minute ……could that one be the Hadley-Plane in the e-bay ad?

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks C-K, I thought the story (above) of Cliff Hadley sending these “turn key” hydroplanes to their owners in the late 20’s and early 30’s especially interesting.

      Imagine what it was like to take delivery of a 26′ Two-Step Hydroplane, fire up the 400HP V-12 Liberty engine, load up your buddies and go for a 60 MPH boat ride?

      Very cool stuff for sure… at least to me.

      I tried to contact Chip Foose to see if he was interested in the project… he sent me Danenburg’s number! (Just kidding of course)

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