The Garage Find Whirlwind With Some Serious Patina – A Story With A Refreshing Conclusion?

There’s nothing quite like a good old “garage find” story during the winter months to “warm the cockles of your heart” – and we have a great one today… But today’s story has a twist, because it ends with another challenging Woody Boater Pop-Quiz. But in order to properly answer today’s WB Pop-Quiz, you first have to read the story so you have all the facts.

Fellow Woody Boaters Brian and Lois from up in the North-East first contacted us a few months back with the story of their very cool, very original 1957 Whirlwind, and they are now reaching out to the Woody Boater Community for some advice.

Texx – Here’s the story of how I acquired our “garage find” 1957 Whirlwind runabout.

My next door neighbor passed away in the early 1990’s. In July of 1996 his widow was getting ready to sell another property down the street where the boat was stored. This was originally her father’s boat and she asked me if I would help her sell it since she knew of my interest in wooden craft.

Our 1957 Whirlwind – First Day at Her New Home

My neighbor and his father-in-law used it to go fishing. When the father-in-law died in 1964, the boat never came out of the garage again, although my neighbor would talk about from it time to time and actually showed it to me once. It was dirty and so full of lawn chairs and bric-a-brac that it was tough to get a good idea of it’s condition, but I was impressed with the all mahogany look.

Anyway, I took a closer look this time and could see that the hull was very sound and decided it would be worth buying for myself, so I made an offer and it was accepted. I dragged it up the street on its rickety old trailer with frozen wheel bearings and stuck it in my garage.

Our New Garage Find Whirlwind – First Day Home

Fast forward to 2003 when I finally decided it was time to get the Whirlwind cleaned up and back in the water. I took the 1957 – 18 HP Johnson (original to the boat) to an old time outboard mechanic to get it running and he replaced fuel lines, water pump and ignition parts.

I found a 1965 vintage trailer in very good condition to carry the boat and we were in business.

The Whirlwind Spiffed Up and Ready To Hit The Road

The boat has some nice features, including an all-varnish finish (most Whirlwinds came with a painted bottom), a sliding utility drawer under the rear seat…

– a leather strap to secure a paddle…

– and reversible seat backs (an obvious later addition). A canvas folding top and a full mooring cover came with the boat and are still in pretty good condition.

(And if that’s not enough Patina for you, check out these very cool period accessories that came with Brian’s very original Whirlwind – Like this flashlight powered running light…

– and what Brian calls the “fire hose fender”… Great stuff – Texx)

It rides and handles very well even in rough water, especially compared to my previous boat, a 1958 14′ Penn Yan lapstrake that would loosen the fillings in your teeth in a chop. I’m also impressed with the fact that it could be in storage for 30+ years and after all those years, not leak a drop.

Newfound Lake, New Hampshire – Circa 2005

We entered the Whirlwind in the Lake Winnipesaukee New England Chapter ACBS boat show in July of 2003 where it won a 2nd place in its class, despite having the same finish it went into storage with in 1964.

New England Chapter ACBS Boat Show, Lake Winnipesaukee – Circa 2003

Everywhere it goes, whether on the water, on display or on the road, it gets a lot of attention.

I’m impressed with the quality and durability of the molded construction and the fact that the group of men that developed the Whirlwind Boat Company was able to successfully transition a military technology from WWII (used to build products like amphibious gliders) to a profitable civilian use in the postwar era.

Two years ago I bought another example of a military-to-civilian transition, a 1947 Willys pickup, so we’d have a vintage tow vehicle for parades and shows. My wife Lois and I have had a great time with the Willys / Whirlwind combo.

Good Times at the 4th of July Parade – Circa 2011

Now it’s time to refresh the exterior finish of our Whirlwind without looking over-restored, so any advice will be greatly appreciated.

Brian & Lois

Lois & Brian with their ’57 Whirlwind – Newfound Lake, NH – Circa 2005

Thanks to Brian & Lois for sharing your great “garage find” story with us today.

And Now For Today’s Pop-Quiz

Here at Woody Boater we are proud to say that our daily viewers are some of the most knowledgeable people in the classic boating hobby, including both professional and amateur restorers, collectors, brokers and wooden boating enthusiasts from around the planet… And Brian & Lois would love hear your advice, opinions or any tips on how to give their classic Whirlwind what Brian refers to as a “Refresh” without loosing her 50 years of Patina.

In the case of the Whirlwind – I like the term “Refresh” rather than the overused (and often misused, often misunderstood) word “restoration” for a wooden boat. If you can help, we are sure Brian and Lois would greatly appreciate it, so they can do the “Resfreshing Work” over the winter and continue to safely enjoy their classic original Whirlwind for many years to come.

And the best part, for anyone who comments today, you will be treated to unlimited free virtual cocktails and shrimp puffs at Fridays 2nd Annual Virtual Holiday Party compliments of Woody Boater HQ.


39 replies
  1. Ralph Young
    Ralph Young says:

    What a great article! I must admit to my knowitall self, as well as the rest of the Woody Boaters out there…I have no idea, nor have I ever had to contemplate what the procedure would be to “freshen” a boat. ???? I’ve never owned one in good enough shape that a freshen would even make it seaworthy (float) You’ll understand when I post a picture of my boat at the virtual party Friday. I love virtual shrimp puffs!
    So Brian and Lois I’ll be looking forward to the how to freshen information as much as you will. I always hold out hope of a barn find as neat as your Whirlwind.

  2. John Baas
    John Baas says:

    Not sure what Brian means by “refresh” but that word comes to mind to describe by bi-annual “freshen up” the varnish on my Chetek lapstrake. Removing all hardware and a light sanding gets everything ready for a fresh coat of varnish. I’ll do two coats with a light sanding between them. This brightens up the finish, adds more UV protection and leaves all the “patina” intact. I love that boat, by the way! Throw another shrip puff on the barbie.

    • Jim Frechette
      Jim Frechette says:

      I would certainly agree with this plan. The patina is in too good a shape to strip it off. Light sanding (320) and a few coats of varnish with sanding in between and the boat will look great for many years to come. I like Interlux Schooner but a case can be made for any of the top brands. Nice boat!

  3. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    well, I guess I am one of the resident whirlwind gurus having done a few and loved ’em all….the boats. I have two super nice ones right now which I often show around Va. and even Lake Dora etc.
    That is a great looking example and its provenance parallels one of mine almost exactly…old barn find etc etc.
    I would strip that old varnish and restain and re-varn….because it looks so great when done….BUT…if you want to retain the old petina and etc…wipe her down with mineral spirits and next soap and water…let dry (a week) and re-varn with epifanes. Will gladly help with any whirlwind work anywhere anytime. Like those windwings!
    That addon stuff was dealer specific, your steering wheel hub and mount is really neat as well…and the flashlikght mount is a common of the period piece that almost never survived!
    Cool trailer too. You have the rare survivor slat floor boards also and the drawer is a nice option. I would suggest you consider beefing up the interior seat rail (which corresponds to the spray rail on the outside…I replace those with new stained oak and put in new seat bolts because the factory did not always hit the holes and their rail is too small for rough water. I also have no “period power”, opting for “power-PERIOD” 40 hp moden mercs…the speed thrill is magnified greatly! Strange, but I also had a Willys….a 1949 Jeepster….another cool ride.
    John in Va.

    • Tom Payne
      Tom Payne says:

      I would like to be in touch with you. I have a Whirlwind that I just bought. I am in the Charlotte, NC area. Tom Payne – Thomas3452(at)

  4. mike k
    mike k says:

    there is a guy on youtube, under the name of brandotown.
    he has a great set of videos for restoring mahogany boats! unfortunately about a year ago he changed most of them from full length to previews. he is selling the videos on dvd. he is very good demonstrating his techniques, he should of been a teacher! he recently posted a video on “refreshing” a 20′ holiday. this may be the ticket.


  5. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    also: she appears to have the motor set too low? Not a long shaft?…..but she would run out better with the cav plate closer to water level I think.

    John in Va.

  6. Andreas
    Andreas says:

    Love the boat and story! Freshen her up by removing hardware and windshield, etc… Scuff up the existing varnish. Apply several coats of new varnish. Thin the new varnish way down so it is not so glossy. Let it all cure and reinstall the hardware…


  7. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Man, they have it all in the header parade shot – the guy reading a Life magazine, the golfer with the tartan bag, the hiker right out of Eddie Bauer’s ’65 catalog…

    Great boat! I’ll leave the refinish advice to the experts, but will say there is a lot to appreciate about a boat with patina or a “satin” finish… Somehow it allows you to relax a bit more!

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      If the guy reading the LIFE mag was sitting on a vintage 3.4 gallon per flush toilet, it would be a perfect picture.

  8. Brian & Lois
    Brian & Lois says:

    Thanks for all the great comments. There are a lot of sharp eyes for details out there in the Woody Boater community.

    Also thanks for the “refreshing” tips. We are going to approach this very conservatively to try to maintain the distinct honey tone of the original stain and you’ve given us some good ideas.

    A little more info about the 1965 vintage trailer, which we just happened to find for sale by the side of the road in the Spring of 2003. It’s a Trailcar model 1100 with a catwalk to keep your tootsies dry and a tilting bed so that in most cases you don’t even have to get the hubs wet to launch the boat. Just back it in so the water is just below the hubs, pull the pin and push up on the bow. Gravity does the rest.

    It’s easy and it’s entertaining for onlookers at the launch.

  9. Texx
    Texx says:

    Thanks Brian.

    For me, today’s story (and 4th of July header) with Brian and his family enjoying the classic Whirlwind boat at the lake and in parades is what the hobby is all about.

    Proof again that you don’t always need a $100,000.00 wooden boat to participate in and enjoy the classic boating hobby.

    Well done Brian.

  10. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    Bring the whirlwind back to grand rapids,mi where it was made. The local boat club will enlist some retired factory workers to advise us – if we can find any – and have the boat refreshed in two weeks – which in boat talk means two years, but we,ll take her all apart quickly and then probably enlist the local cub scouts to finish it as we are into youth development and they charge a lower labor rate then a yupper would. The boy scouts will carefully apply some ace hardware latex and make your whirlwind look like all th others around here. When you come to pick her up bring some extra dough as we will be behind in storage fees but in Michigan you will get a good return on the empty bottles lying around.oh ya, just what is patina btw?

        • tommyholm
          tommyholm says:

          oops I stand corrected.
          I just got an email from the Whirlwind World boat club and might be getting a Wild About Whirlwinds book soon and will study up. Thanks Andreas

  11. Texx
    Texx says:


    1. a: a usually green film formed naturally on copper and bronze by long exposure or artificially (as by acids) and often valued aesthetically for its color

    b: a surface appearance of something grown beautiful especially with age or use

    2 : an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character

    3 : a superficial covering or exterior

  12. Tommyholm
    Tommyholm says:

    Thanks Texx,
    Sorry we ain,t got no patina in GRand rapids other then Jerry ford but we do have some nice fiberglass and resin.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Tommy – Like the old saying goes…

      What happens in Grand Rapids – Stays in Grand Rapids…

      By the way, don’t forget about the party on Friday. Virtual drinks are courtesy of Matt Smith.

      • Rick
        Rick says:

        Does that mean we’re drinking torpedo juice? Also do the younger WoodyBoaters even know about torpedo juice? I’ll supply the brown bread.

  13. Jane Hewitt
    Jane Hewitt says:

    I am Ed Hewitt’s daughter and was delighted to find this article about your found Whirlwind boat and accompanying trailer and Willys. The pictures brought back memories of going to my Dad’s plant, smelling the wood shavings and paint shop, and looking at all those lovely boats in various stages of creation.

    I now live in North Carolina but will be visiting New Hampshire (Lake Winnisquam) this coming summer. I’ll keep my eyes pealed for your beautiful Whirlwind!

  14. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    Hi Brian and Lois, Great boat! We have few original Thompsons with factory stain. Maintenance coats of varnish is normal for protection of the wood and generally not considered to detract from originality. Looking at your boat it appears the wood has drunk in the varnish and is ready for maintenance coats., but one must be very careful not to make any mistakes in the prep-work and varnishing. After dis assembly of seats and hardware, I would wash all wood and then sand with 3m pads to ruff up the surface , then I would proceed and wash down the wood with thinner and follow up with a tack cloth. Afterward proceed with the varnish of your choice. Steve

  15. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Texx – there are a lot of similarities between this lovely story about this great find and you finding Casper, don’t you think? You went about a very simlar “refreshening” process as I recall.

    I love these stories of great survivors from less illustrious boat boat builders, and to me they are very bit as interesting as some massively expensive triple or something. Great story to see today!

  16. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Why reinvent the wheel? Refer to this link on Danenberg Boatworks forum for varnishing:

    Don has prepared a great reference guide. Read his forum for questions using the “find” option keywords. Recommend you separate your “refreshing” into projects: documenting boat with camera, remove hardware/motor/accessories, degreasing/washing, sanding prep, cleanup/washing, varnishing: interior, decks, exterior hull. Treat each step as a project and apply his guide to your overall project. Good luck, look forward to seeing the results, its a great time capsule you have there. and Merry Christmas

  17. Texx
    Texx says:

    Yes – “Casper” was also a “refreshening” only project.

    When I was preparing this story, I noticed the many similarities to the hardware on “Casper” my 1957 Lake n’ Sea fiberglass runabout. No surprise I suppose, as both boats were produced in 1957.

    The period Taylormade windshield & brackets, wind-wings, and most of the period hardware appears to be identical to the hardware that Chris-Craft used on the early 1957 Lake n’ Sea runabouts, before the fledgling fiberglass series was sold to the Parsons Corporation in December 1957.

    “Casper” was located in a storage facility in eastern Tennessee after a 30 year hibernation and re-launched in 2010.

  18. Lee Wangstad
    Lee Wangstad says:

    Great Boat! It’s like a breath of fresh air to hear that you are going to give it a maintenance type refresher as opposed to viewing it as a great candidate for an easy restoration. Don’t be so sure that the reversible seats are a later addition. Larson Boats and Herter’s both offered these as an option with Larson optioning them back to the 40’s. They are called the “Dinbec Double Acting Seat Hinges.” All the builders were buying their hardware “off the shelf” in the fifties and Dinbec was still supplying their hinges. Good luck with your varnish, it will be interesting to see it when it is complete. I’ve done the same type of thing as Texx with a 1959 Larson Thunderhawk, now on display in the Minnesota Lakes Maritime Museum in Alexandria, Minnesota. Survivor stories are always the best.

    • Brian
      Brian says:

      Thanks for the positive comments and the info on the seats Lee.

      In this case I’m pretty sure the original solid seat backs were converted with the reversible hardware to make it easier to fish. You can still see the outline and the screw holes on the gunwales where the solid seat backs were fastened.

  19. Texx
    Texx says:

    Thanks Lee – We always appreciate your insight.

    I think these adjustable seats are very cool and so versatile for these smaller runabouts.

  20. George Emmanuel
    George Emmanuel says:

    Brian, the trailer that boat originally was on is a much better trailer for that type wooden boat. The trailer is a Master Craft with the correct orange and green paint. They are extremely soft riding and the boat doesn’t get pounded going down a rough road. I have the same trailer under a PennYan and the boat rides like a dream. The only issue is Master Craft uses a 3 3/4″ bolt pattern, so a spare wheel is a bit hard to find, but you can take a new wheel and re-drill it for correct spacing or install new hubs for modern 4″ wheels. Nice boat–nice find!!

    • Brian
      Brian says:

      Thanks George.

      I know what you are talking about – I had a TeeNee trailer under my 14′ PennYan and it had coil springs and shocks and rode like a dream.

      That original trailer for this boat seemed very flimsy by comparison though and didn’t really support the hull shape of the Whirlwind very well, which is wide and pretty flat. I’m not sure it would be a good thing for parade duty with a load of kids and grandkids.

      You are probably right about the ride but we don’t do much rough road driving and I haven’t noticed any bouncing around when we are on a bad patch.

      Anyway, it’s a moot point since the trailer is long gone.


  21. Jim Schafer
    Jim Schafer says:

    Brian and Lois,

    You really only have one option here and that is to bring the boat and motoer down to Reedville, VA and give them to me. She belongs right next to her sister Hull #11921 with the same exact motor. You are obviously putting way to much love and care into that boat and if you keep that up, she won’t last more than another 2 years at best. You can see her sister towing a 17 foot Chris with four adults if you use the search box above and type “2012 Reedville Classic Antique Boat Show.” The picture is authentic, because Matt took the picture. Do us all a favor and just give me the boat. If you can’t bring yourself to do the right thing, then at least enter her in the 2013 Annual Reedville Antique and Classic Boat Show (next Sept). Jim Schafer (540) 429-0371

    • Brian
      Brian says:

      Hi Jim,

      What would you do with two boats? I know you can tow with your teeth but I doubt you can pilot two Whirlwinds at the same time.

      I remember seeing that photo and noting the similarities between the boats and wishing we had been there. Unfortunately we have a family get together the weekend after Labor Day every year so a rendezvous in Reedville might not be possible. I’ll check for next years official date though. It would be fun. There aren’t many (haven’t run into another one yet) Whirlwinds up here in New England so it would be nice to visit the Whirlwind home stomping grounds.

      That’s a beautiful boat you have. Obviously a lot of love and care has gone into it as well.

      Our hull number is 10020 which would put her in the early 1957 production run.


  22. Easytiger Models
    Easytiger Models says:

    Nicely done, that one…I am finishing up on my fourth Whirlwind restoration, a Whirlwind Junior. Desperately looking for a pair of chrome whirlwind logos to stick on the sides…anybody?

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