The Brat Pack Of Antique & Classic Boating. Restoring, Restoration.

Classic Boating magazine just came out with a very interesting article called Preservation Vs Restoration Page 24 of the March-April Issue. What was interesting was not that I disagreed with many of the points in it. I was surprised though by the shot at the “young experts” the ones that research old black and white photographs. The over simplification of some very smart and well meaning folks. What is interesting is that it was done in an angry tone, and it hit me that in anger lies fear. What was the author Joe Martell in fear off? Why call these individuals out. And in fact call all of us out. We all use photographic evidence for research. The Black and White ones as a matter of fact are the most true. And a factory photo is a gold mine, leading to new breakthroughs. Original anything is a gold mine, old and young experts all agree on this. I also found it fascinating that in the very same issue there is a story of this years Best Preserved Boat of The Year, and how it was researched and yes used Black and White factory photographs and an orig boat as a subject and reference. Ironically researched and consulted by one of the “young experts” The two stories seemed to really tell the drama here that is taking place in the Antique & Classic boat community.

What is at the core of this drama? Standards, plain and simple. This is a drama that plays out like a classic novel. It’s the impact of a new generation of Antique & Classic boat lovers, staking a claim on the passion. Staking a position, and from what I can see, the passion of Antique & Classic boating is better off for it. Another very interesting observation regarding these folks is that it’s not about money. They are not brokers or repair guys who by the way are in it for the money, hence one possible area of fear. They are restorers, preservationists. And isn’t that why we all love these boats. What Joe Martell is talking about is boat rebuilding. Not restoration. There is no real money to speak of in this goal of creating standards. These young experts are merely trying to evolve the passion into something tangible. Something measurable. Free of cronyism, profiteering, bad memories and old drunken sailor stories.

The Brat Pack of the Antique & Classic Boats.
Lets start with the least controversial…Bill Basler of the Chris Craft Antique Boat Club, for advancing the passion on-line and in publications is bringing a more sophisticated frame work to the clubs and on-line forums, as well as refining the graphics, the correct fonts, colors and style that is reminiscent of these fine boats. We have yet to feel the real controversy on this. But wait. This sort of communication will render many old school formats obsolete. No more badly done home designed newsletters or B rate publications. Folks want their information now and they want to be a part of that communication.

The next 2 folks are much more controversial.….Brian Robinson, and Don Ayers for creating standards slowly and surely. For spending countless years digging into fact, not sea stories. Listening and learning from generations of master craftsmen, spending countless hrs and money at museums, leafing through documents long forgotten. Each with close to 20 years in this hobby. Restoring, researching, while balancing all that information. With energy and a passion for what is right.

These 3 folks are at the forefront of this battle, leading the charge, and taking the hits. But mind you. The Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club has grown considerably since Bill took the helm with his expertise. And for the last 4 years running both Brian and Don have had Best In Class, Best in Show on both coasts, Clayton and Tahoe, in both Preserved and restored categories. According to the countless ACBS judges, and many important shows and publications. Including Classic Boating. So. I suppose the proof is in the facts after all.

One very timely example of this need for correct research and standards is playing out on eBay as you read this. Listed is a 1934 Garwood Speedster. The owner thinks it’s real. Or did. He has closed the auction early as of today. I hope it’s from the community advising him. eBay item #130201313001 The bidding had reached $16,000. See comments on the posting on Woody Clearly this Garwood was a redone years ago, in a “what the heck” type restoration back in the day on a Chris Craft hull. And things over time were changed and justified. Well. Now here we are. A boat that is worth 5K. And folks about to dump 16K into it. Without experts out there, and standards things like this happen. We are now in a free-for-all time of information. Only it’s not free. We are at the mercy of “re builders” opinions rather than fact. Sitting there held hostage with our boats half way done and being dependent on one man’s opinion. Rather than objective guidance.

It’s normal to have such conflict. It’s a normal cycle of life. The ‘Brat Pack” is shaking things up. Potentially undermining bad business practices and making things more difficult for folks like Mr Martell. It’s hard to reach gold standards and it’s also very expensive. But that’s how we improve things. That’s how we survive. That’s how we evolve. The era of the “Boat Re builder” writing his own history are over. It’s time to grow up embrace the future, of the past. We will all be better off for it. And more importantly a way of life will be preserved. Not distorted like a Chris Craft/Garwood Speedster.