Debate Week Part 6 – Resto Mods!

As cool as Pumkin is, its a resto mod.

As cool as Pumpkin is, its a resto mod.

What a week this has been, to be honest some of my thoughts have been blown to bits. And I am truly thankful for that. After all, you are Woody Boater and we want to make sure we reflect the general gist of the passion. And of course stick a poker in the eye of it every now and then. Todays topic came up in one of the many…MANY comments regarding Resto Mods.. A spin off debate ensuewd.. In sewed, In Sued.. Ok, some folks started debating off topic. But the topic of Resto Mods was a good idea. So.. Are they OK? There are of course two Points of view. One of course is , make the boat the way you want it and have fun in it. New engine, your interior, maybe some tunes.. Just like the car world.. OR, What the hell are you doing Mr selfish pants. trashing a classic boat for your ego.. No one owns these anymore, you rent them for future Generations to see, feel and understand. One can only truly understand why Reed and Prince screws were invented until you install 3000 flat head screws on a boat. Or now you know why things are Varnished Over and what that means. Or one can only understand how fun woody boating is until you can smell the back pressure of a flat head.

A cool U22 with a Hemi? Done back in the day? Is it a resto mod if it uses a vintage motor?  By the way, I would love a U22 with a Hemi in it! Change the seating to be more like a 25 Sportsman. Hell YA!

A cool U22 with a Hemi? Done back in the day? Is it a resto mod if it uses a vintage motor? By the way, I would love a U22 with a Hemi in it! Change the seating to be more like a 25 Sportsman. Hell YA!

The point is here. Some boats are worth saving and some not so much.. Or is that even selfish? Some of our beloved boats are driven by fashion.. 40 years ago was a U22 a collectable boat worth saving? Anyway.. I know its Saturday and half of you are out crying in the barn over your now covered boat.. So we will let the other half speak.

This insane 25 Sportsman - Resto mod! See its not so easy is it? It becomes a matter of taste at some point. I would love this boat BTW..

This insane 25 Sportsman – Wooden Runabout CO. Perfection.. Technically a Resto mod! See its not so easy is it? It becomes a matter of taste at some point. I would love this boat BTW..

35 replies
  1. FLASH
    FLASH says:

    I think it is just like in the car world. Some cars should only be restored to original and some have either already been hacked up or altered, so they are not worth any more or in some cases less if they are taken back to original. Case in point, a local mechanic has a 1957 Chevrolet 210. Not a real desirable car with the stock straight 6 and painted white with ugly hubcaps probably worth $10K finished. However, add an incredible pearl white/purple paint job, a blown 572 BBC, 20″ custom wheels, custom interior, and he has sold this car 2 times for over $60K each time.

    I think it is a case by case basis. I chose to go the Resto Mod route on my ’69 CC Ski Boat for several reasons, not that I really need to justify them, after all, it is my boat. In my case, there are several fine examples of what the boat was from the factory. There was a well documented full restoration several years ago in a magazine, there is a survivor out there somewhere with 99 hours on the clock in all original condition including the optional bimini top, and I’m sure others I don’t know about. The fact is, I plan to use my boat and wanted it to be more comfortable. The original red interior, as many of you CC guys know, will blister the backside of your legs in about 1/2 a second in the scorching sun. I have received 100’s of compliments, and only 1 question about why I went the route I did, so I have to believe it was a success. I got a compliment from a well respected someone who just spent an untold amount of money restoring a high dollar Chris Craft to completely original at the last show. He said “I know what you were going for, and you nailed it.” He had just toured the Ferrari factory a few months ago, so he knows the sexiness of the red/tan combo….Carry on.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      Nice job! I would rather see your boat and talk about what you changed and why than see five identical boats that are restored just like the brochure photo.

    • Kentucky Wonder
      Kentucky Wonder says:

      Flash is exactly what its owner wanted it to be: An old-style boat that performs very well while retaining the looks of a classic. Success, indeed. Who cares if it will not win the Miss Originality award? The idea behind all of our efforts is to have fun out on the water!

      I want a ride in Flash next time we meet!

    • Brian Flaherty
      Brian Flaherty says:

      Andy, I hope I am not that one person who asked why you went the route you did… For the record your boat is what I hope to make mine in coming years (having two kids has put boat work on hold). We chose to go with a red interior although it is not the correct red or the proper stitch pattern (why would anyone want button tuck vinyl in a ski boat?). I hope so day in the future I can make a trip and see your boat as it would be steller to have two of these glassics on display together!!

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    IMHO most boats out there would have to fit into this category.

    Let’s look at our family boat Yorktown. Even though it has the original MCL with the 6 volt system and a true double planked bottom the side paneling has been replaced with Lauan, the engine cover is a custom built mahogany box, and the seats are red with white piping. Definitely Modified.

    I even feel a 5200 bottom would have to place a boat into this category even though they perform well and are accepted throughout the hobby.

  3. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    It is pretty simple. Modified boats way outnumber original boats and many mods were done for good reasons. Owners will not want to give up their swim ladder, their fender cleats, their non-but-burning vinyl. If the clubs want to outlive their octogenarian current membership, they better find a way to welcome resto mods, especially well done ones.

  4. 72hornet
    72hornet says:

    I think it all comes down to taste. And lets face it, very subjective. I so appreciate all original, but with modern materials, safety concerns, a resto mod is highly desireable in my opinion. Case in point, I have a close friend who just restored a 1962 Buehler Turbocraft Jet boat. Maybe not that desirable to some, but to the untrained eye, the boat was bone stock, but ingenious ski racks were built in behind the stern seat, a custom swim platform similar to one that was originally available on another later Buehler model. This facilitated their use of using the boat for water sports. End result was a stunning boat!
    Flash, In my opinion, you nailed your Chris! Show some more pictures! Hope to see it in Tavares next Spring! I love the tan interior with the red hull. Stunning! Great topic that is sure to ignite some fun commentary!

  5. Steve Moreau
    Steve Moreau says:

    Thanks to each and everyone of you for making my first month here more than enjoyable. I can see that there’s as many different views as boat manufactures. I believe if changes are to come they should encompass all wooden boat enthusiast or the changes will not last. As a business owner for the last 17 years if I wouldn’t allow the company to develop into new areas we would have limited our growth in all aspects. Buy keeping grounded in our roots but allowing for slow manageable grow has only bettered the company, employees, and clients. From the small sample of time I’ve been here I can see lots of passion in all directions, there are bigger camps pulling one way than others. The hobby will have to find a happy medium to move forward but not leaving the past behind! I think that would be a direction we all could cope with.
    I’ve been o vacation for the last two weeks but during that time I joined the ACBS and a local chapter. When we made it home last night my info pack was here waiting on me. Well in that packet there was nothing saying that they are a wooden boat only society. Which following woody boater one could assume that they were due to the comments here. Which one should have no problems with as this flotilla of boat nutz are all about the wood, purist or modifiers. In my info packet I received a copy of the 2013 winter edition of Rudder. There was a showing of the ACBS 2012 best persevered boat. One was an alum-craft and one and evinrude. Correct me but those were not wooden boats. I have several boats and only one is wooden but I love them all.

    Well it seems to me the what the hobby needs to work on first is it’s self. And I believe it starts with the guy or gal who is reading this! Then we can work on promoting it to others and get this they may not be the 20- 30 year crowd. But who ever they are we need to find them and get them onboard.

    Thanks again just my two cents. Want to go boating

  6. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    We saw your boat at Couer ‘d Alene last year or at least I thought it was yours and my first thought was…at least you found a way for a skiier to get back in the boat. I spent 10 years skining knees and struggling to get in mine on those combination step pads and trim tabs that Chris Craft used. Second you repainted her which was smart because polish as I might there was no way I was going to get that red to come back to factory original, at least below the water line. …and as you say those red seats were hot….but mine was pretty much original…and I thought that was the way I was supposed to keep her….In fact I stupidly never put her in salt water just to preserve and missed out on a lot of good boating while at the coast. As for new power…My original 327 gave mine all the pep she needed for skiing.
    My thought…next time I get one, I’ll probably modify it and enjoy it more.

    • FLASH
      FLASH says:


      I just finished this boat less than a month ago, so you must have seen another one with a swim platform. I did send pictures and dimensions to another ’69-70 Ski Boat owner who was wanting to add a platform on his boat. There is nothing wrong with keeping it original if it came that way, mine however was painted white and had already been modified in a few different ways. The original 327 was great and plenty of power, but I also opted to add a few more horsepower with a 355 with better flowing heads and a slightly bigger cam. She really has some juice now!

  7. mikeS
    mikeS says:

    Many years ago my father an I received a tip about a boat about 18 feet long with a fin on it sitting along side the road about 2-1/2 hours from home. Of course we had to investigate. We loaded the tipster in the car and he brought us back to the scene of the crime. Yes, crime. What we found was a post- war utility that had been chain-sawed on an angle from the sheer just behind the front seat to a few inches above the waterline at the stern. The owner actually admitted to the chainsaw! He shaped a small fin on what was now an aft deck and painted a mural of the harbor on what was left of the transom. Power was a mercruiser 4 cylinder surrounded by parkay flooring. The owner was quite proud of his work. We, on the other hand, were a bit disappointed.

    My thoughts on resto-mod is to “first do no harm”. Modern power? Fine, just don’t hack away at stringers, decks or framing to do it. Keep it safe. Electronics? Great, but don’t cut an enormous hole in an original dash to do it. Most important thing is to use these boats. The more visible this hobby is, the more likely it is to survive.

  8. Mike W
    Mike W says:

    The boats are only new once so once someone does anything they are all modified. The extent of modification varies from little to much. I would assume the recently restored high end mahogany boats look better than when they came off the line in Algonac.

    Try as I might to keep the 19 SS original it can’t happen. The hull and decks were a mess since day one and they were faired, reinforced and painted. The flooring is a match as is the upholstery. The engine is not but so be it. I guess if I was so inclined I could search for a year specific 327 block and heads and only I would know. Or Chad.

    When it comes to big cruisers nobody cares. The newer the power and amenities the better.

  9. Sean
    Sean says:

    Clearly, my Greavette IS a resto-mod so you know I believe in the concept (Looks original-ish, drives contemporary). However, if I owned a boat like a Streamliner or one of the last six all-wood Greavette Executive II ‘s there is no way I would change a thing from original specs.

    I also have no problem with someone building a “Hot-Mod” by changing decks, seating, colours, fabrics, engines… whatever. Each boat should be built to the owners needs , tastes and wants.

    But, in order for us not to irrevocably change the last few boats of any type there has to be some respect there from the community. For too long we have held the belief that boats like a pre-war launch, gentleman’s racer or barrelback runabout are the only ones with value. It seems that plywood boats, clinker built, utility boats, outboards and of course fiberglass boats have all taken a back seat at the respect table. With less value these boats are the ones that are more likely to be resto-modded or hot-modded.

    By embracing ALL iterations of classic boats their value and respect will rise. This will lend to more being used instead of rotting and by sheer percentages this means more factory preserved boats too. The right boat for the right job.

    If it’s still difficult, just think of a ’57 Chevy 2 door with a fiberglass flip front end and a blower peeking out to adorn a cool flame paint job… Would rather own a stock one… fine but, it’s still really cool!

  10. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    Resto-mods are not a style or version of a classic boat that I wish to own as I am without doubt a purist. So what? They DO appeal to others and what I want most out of my experience in this hobby is the interesting social experiences, interesting boats and people you meet. I do not want to hang around only with a bunch of people who have the same tastes as myself and own similar boats. I think resto-mods should be appreciated and encouraged for what they are – personalized expressions of an owner or builders’ taste.

    A main (the biggest!) component of the ACBS mission statement is not judging, it is preservation and use of old boats, regardless of hull construction material. Steve M is right – it does not specify wood anywhere. After the last year, I know this as well as anyone. Perhaps with the ACBS opening up to non-wood built after 1975 we will see some of these boats begin to appear in resto-mod form as well as original? I hope so. Bring on the Sex Panther? – maybe not, but I think my hope here is clear.

    While few would recommend that someone resto-mod a 1930 Ditchburn or a 28′ Gar, do we need another perfectly restored Sportsman at a show? Like the Chevy 210 analogy, these are common and not expensive – a perfect candidate for such an undertaking. If someone buys a boat that needs work, is relatively common and has a low completed value – why not? The financial consequences of doing this to a rare or valuable boat may be indeed punitive and the reasoning less sound, but on a common boat? Not so much.

    They would make the shows more interesting, attract a wider variety of people and perhaps broaden the appeal of our hobby in the process. I am not sure where the problem lies in this equation. I also agree with Mike S. about visibility.

    I don’t like many of the resto-mods I have seen – but, again so what? No one likes every boat they see at every show. If they do, there is not enough variety. For what it’s worth in my comparatively limited experience in the hobby, the craziest and really most bizarre boat I have seen was a custom/resto-mod of a U 22 – the (in)famous Duck Boat at the 2010 ACBS International at Petoskey. Biggest show of the year, all the best concours level stuff and this was in the show. It’s presence should have opened the door to others – the ACBS allowed it in. Maybe they thought it was a simple U22? Matt & Texx – got a picture of the Duck Boat to put up?

  11. Scott K
    Scott K says:

    In the end, it’s your boat, your money, your choice. As long as you are having fun, go for it.
    I’ve spent most of my 40 plus years going to car events, from the Pebble Beach Concours to the local hot rod cruise night. I appreciate seeing the perfectly restored one-offs as well as the crusty 4 door Nova with cragars (well, not so much). Point is, if you are having your brand of fun, it doesn’t matter if it has the correct original date coded hose clamps or a new 502 crate engine.
    We bought our ’73 XK19 as a resto mod and will be making even more modifications to it……original gold/brown paint, OH HECK NO…this boat needs something classier, probably blue with tan interior like the new CC’s. Original 283, NO…probably something along the lines of a small block 383 or 427….if it’s going to be loud, it had better be able to back it up. Etc, etc.
    It’s our boat, we’ll change it to suit our desires, but we will still appreciate the effort and be thankful that there are owners who go to the extra mile(s) to do the concours restoration.

  12. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Every boat I have done has been modified to suit how I use them – where I like to boat – which is the Pacific Northwest lakes and rivers, plus Puget Sound and Canadian waters – the Salish Sea. I run “modern power” with closed cooling because of the time I spend in salt water. If I do the Garwood, it will be done with a small block and closed cooling. That said, I do any modification in such a way that nothing is irreversible and the boat can be returned to an original configuration at any time, should someone want to.

    My former boat “Tango”, our 1946 CC Red& White Express was a case in point – it had been previously modified with a V-8, fiberglass over the foredeck, teak on the side and aft decks – you get the picture – it was 40 years old when I bought it and hardly anyone knew what a Red & White was. Half the bottom was torn off the boat.

    We saved the frames and stringers, I cut new chines and keel, we did a modified traditional bottom with plywood inner and planked outer, bedded in Dolfinite with #10 cotton duck canvas where there were seams. The sides remained original, I removed the fiberglass, repaired and canvassed the foredeck, left the teak on the side and aft decks, installed a mahogany transom, etc., – I kept the good and replaced the bad, keeping in mind what I was going to do with the boat.

    I installed a 454 with 1-1/2 -1 reduction gear, a power plant that weighed within 50 lbs of the original Chrysler Royal, with twice the power and 1/2 again as much torque. I muffled the engine, installed twin saddle tanks (instead of single- thwart) installed under a custom rear seat. Red dot heat and a water pump for the sink. Trim tabs – my thought being “if CC would have had them available, they would have used them!”

    The boat was fast, economical, comfortable and reliable. We cruised it for ten years and sold it for roughly what I had in it. (not counting labor) “Tango” was a great boat, resto-mod, example of pre-war CC exuberance in design all rolled into one. Looking back, I wish I still had the boat.

    The best thing about it? It attracted a lot of attention and people were drawn to it, got interested and asked about old boats everywhere we went.

    So I guess my point is there is a place and purpose for both. The most correct, perfect, factory original restoration that can be done is wonderful if that is what the owner wants to do. It encapsulates, documents and preserves the original vessel, honors the builders and designers. But it does little for the hobby if no one ever sees it. A modified boat may not have the value, but if it is out there being used, enjoyed and seen it sparks interest, promotes the hobby and hopefully saves a few more boats for future generations to enjoy.

    “Tango” of course, had a red interior. We always carried white towels…:)

  13. Kentucky Wonder
    Kentucky Wonder says:

    Despite loving the idea of having a boat that is completely original, that is not the reality for us. Yes, Eau! Canada would fall into the Resto-Mod camp. Not only for being powered by something other than the original Buchanan Rocket (which we have stored away), but for other modifications as well.

    The seating colors were matched to a new bottom paint color, and the upholstery patterns were changed to the tuck-and-button style. The refreshment bar installed in the back of the engine box was not original, and neither are the throttle and transmission controls.

    With that said, all of the modifications made were possible at the time of manufacture in 1949, other than the 1963 V8 engine. The new engine controls even match the period Greavette hardware, because they were used in the better Greavette models at the time. As most Greavette boats were custom ordered, most of the recent changes were possibilities when the boat was ordered.

    To summarize: Other than the power plant, our boat is plausibly original, but not truly original.

    • Steve Moreau
      Steve Moreau says:

      One fine pieces of wood Kentucky! Needs some help stocking that hole! Oh yea sorry but y’all traveled a piece to have a cat bit your bilge pump. Gonna be one he’ll of a afternoon just as soon as I vet a nap in!

  14. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I am a BIG fan of, make it your way. Comfort features are of most important thing. I modified the heck out of my Hacker, and my Lyman.
    But the changes made were to make the boat look and feel better, dark blue seats replaced with white tucked and rolled.
    You get the picture.
    In judging, some car shows allow 2 or 3 mods before they place you into a resto mod class. Maybe this is what we need to look into.

    • FLASH
      FLASH says:

      Good point Dennis. I was in the Import scene for several years with a heavily modified Acura Integra and the limit was 3 body modifications. Any car with 3 or more mods was put into the “Wild” classes. I completely understand someone wanting to restore a 1937 Racer back to it’s original glory, the same with a rare Yenko Camaro, but we should certainly allow for some Poetic License on more common craft.

  15. JFunk
    JFunk says:

    There’s a obvoiusly a place for both. That said, if everyone modified their boats to a great extent how will our classics be remembered as they were originally? To me, it seems, most spectators still come to shows to see the beautiful boats displayed in their original splendor. I understand the need to modify as one’s needs dictate, but I appreciate more and also applaud those who endure the expense and headaches of maintaining originality.

    • Dennis Mykols
      Dennis Mykols says:

      JFUNK: Your comment: “To me, it seems, most spectators still come to shows to see the beautiful boats displayed in their original splendor….” is a good one. Most mods we have discussed above, seem so minor, the average spectator would hardly know any difference. With the exception of the “WOOD DUCK”…

  16. FLASH
    FLASH says:

    At the end of the day folks, if you are at a judged event, you are going to get dinged points for anything that is not original. If you are building a boat to win judged boat shows, then you are simply going for the most points on the ACBS sheet. If you have more interest in using and enjoying the boat and want some modern creature comforts to make your life more livable, then I say go for it. Just don’t ever carve a giant duckhead for the bow of your boat, that just can’t make sense to anyone here.

  17. jim g
    jim g says:

    Miss America IX could also be considered a resto mod. Epoxy bottom. Chevy 454 instead of V-12 Packards. Dash laid out so one operator can run it.

    The reasons for these mods. New bottom. Do you really want to ride in it doing 80 on an original bottom. Modern engines. The original engines are long gone. You could fit WW2 PT boat engines in it. But there different. You would not have gearboxes and have to haul 100 octane avgas around to run them. Dash cockpit lay out makes it safer to take people for rides.

    Without these mods the boat would either be in a museum or land displayed at boat shows. It would not be out there running or giving people rides.

    So the question is for some boats would you rather look at it on land or see and feel it at on the water.

    Except for the bottom all of these mods can be undone and the boat put back like it originally looked.

    Ask Matt which one he would prefer.

    As for regular boats. If its the only one left it should be restored correctly. If its one of 1800 made and half of them are still around. Have at it and enjoy yourself.

  18. Wilson
    Wilson says:


    I think the boat at Couer d’ Alene was a California boat…Mine is now at Put in Bay which I think is on Ohio…Would be nice to see two three or four of the 1969/’70 Cavalier/Corsairs together.

    • Andy Riggs
      Andy Riggs says:

      That would be cool, but it looks like all of the registered ones are spread out across the country…Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas, Washington, Michigan, Idaho. I try to keep track of them and often search other places for these as they come up for sale. I tried to buy a ’68 over the past few years, but the guy didn’t want to sell it and it literally rotted off of the trailer in a field. It is now a pile of debris. What a shame.

  19. Ed F.
    Ed F. says:

    We built our Continental to be a user boat at our northern Michigan cottage. Therefore a swim platform was a must for skiing and tubing with the grand kids and getting our old butts back in it after spending an afternoon on the sand bar. I didn’t intend for it to be show boat but we took it to several shows this summer and the swim platform got LOTS of positive comments and question about its authenticity. We got no negative feedback about it at all. In fact we took Best of Show twice. This experience indicates to me that modifications are accepted if thoughtfully and carefully executed

    • Ed F.
      Ed F. says:

      I have been trying to load a picture of the swim platform and have taken the size down to .4 mg and it won’t go. Any suggestions?

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