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Antique & Classic Boat Society Inc (ACBS) - Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes Chapter (BSLOL) (B.S.L.O.L.) (ID: 56233)
s." "Scott-Atwater was just introducing the 30hp engines, and the idea was to test their durability by having them running the whole trip. We had two of the 30's on the transom and a third strapped to the front deck. We did manage to keep at least one of them running the whole time, except when in the locks. We had a Scott-Atwater mechanic riding along with us, and we kept him very busy." The trip did attract attention while underway. Whenever they would pull into a port they were greeted by the local press, who would then wire the story back to the Twin Cities newspapers. Upon their arrival in New Orleans they were made Honorary Citizens of that city. The Nor-Craft boats were selling well in a small regional market. The Star of the North cruisers were selling especially well to the river boat crowd. On February 28, 1956 the building that housed Northwest Plastics burned to the ground. Along with their decision to rebuild their plant, Northwest management also chose to discontinue the boat line. The Nor-Craft name and designs were then sold to Northern Reinforced Plastics Corporation located in Stillwater. In 1957 this new company introduced the Nor-Craft Gull, a 15' runabout with fiberglass decks complete with modest tail fins. The seats were molded integrally into the decks. Plans were announced for a line of small fishing boats along with an 18' day cruiser. Also announced were intentions for an entry into the custom pressure molding field. At this point one of two things happened: the boat market didn't pan out or else the custom pressure molding market took off, as there was no further news coming out of Stillwater concerning boats built by the firm. Like many of the small enterprises that came forward into the marine market, this was another that started on a shoestring budget and high hopes, never really developing much further. But unlike so many other companies that have vanished without anything more than a few interesting memories, there is at least one Nor-Craft that still hits the water, giving its owner all the pleasure that any new boat could. Perhaps more, knowing that behind this boat is some valuable history, a part of the story about Minnesota, when the region was alive with the activity of boats being designed, built, and mostly enjoyed by enthusiasts from all corners of the state. Mission Our Advertisers Links Contact Us Chapter List A Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society 1999-2005 BSLOL ACBS Chapter Jet Stream Boats (Wangstad) Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes ACBS Chapter Home Waypoints Chapter Info Chandlery Search Chapter Happenings Restoration, Repair, and Renovation Activities, Shows, and Events About our Members Current BoatHouse Articles About the Boats- History & Preservation Safety Practices Trading Dock Jet Stream Boats by Lee Wangstad It all started a month ago. I had been visiting www.fiberglassics.com and had taken an excursion into the Mystery Boats section. This is definitely my favorite area of the site. People in need of more information about their boat send in photographs of whatever boat they own, or are possibly looking to buy. Kelly Wood, amiable webmaster of the site then posts the photos and assigns a number in hopes of a reply from someone who can shed any light on its identity. This is where the weird stuff shows up. Mystery Boat #37 was accompanied by a plea on the message board from a frustrated owner that had just run out of places to turn for information. He loved his boat, had already initiated his restoration, but was lacking many details as to hardware, lineage, just what in Heaven's name was it and where did it come from? As I looked at the picture of the small (14') runabout, there was something very familiar about it, but I just didn't have a very strong grasp of what it was. A couple of days after I had first viewed this boat on the Fiberglassics site, the owner posted another message stating that he had peeled a label off of the steering wheel and underneath was the name "Jet Stream". Sure enough, looking through the collection of brochures that Bob Speltz had given me, I had two brochures, one from 1960 and the other from 1961, covering the complete line of Jet Stream boats. On the second page of the 1961 literature was the match for Mystery Boat #37, the Jet Stream Bomarc. The Bomarc, a small sports runabout cut low and close to the water, was definitely the hot boat of the lineup. The pictures in the folder showed the boat with a 1960 Evinrude 75hp fat four, a lot of engine for such a small boat. What caught my interest was that this company was in the process of expanding from 1960 to 1961, and then the information stopped. Had they been bought out? Swallowed up by a merger? It didn't make much sense to me. But what really aroused my curiosity was a small line at the bottom of the last page of the 1961 catalog that stated: "Manufactured By Red Wing Fiberglass Products Co., Red Wing, Minnesota". To me, this meant that my involvement would run deeper than just copying the information and forwarding it off in the mail to an anxious owner. Telling myself that I would have to pursue this at a time more convenient, I filed the information away. This was another Minnesota boat, which lately have become important to me. While there are those out there I'm sure are waiting for something on Glasspar or Glastron and some of the other "big" national companies, I'm finding that these small regional brands collectively made formidable competition for the name brands that we are perhaps more familiar with. In the 1961 brochure was a picture of Henry Von Westerhuyzen, "one of America's top boat stylists and fibreglass fabricators." I tried to follow up on Henry but to no avail. Then, while doing something that at the time seemed totally unrelated, everything fell together. I was talking with Chuck Meyer, former Sales Manager with Pipestone Sales, manufacturers of Pipestone boats, and he kept referring to Van, who was running the shop at their plant during the late fifties. When I inquired as to who exactly Van was, Chuck dropped the name Henry Von Westerhuyzen! Mr. Westerhuyzen had begun his career in the marine industry with Pipestone Sales, located of course, in Pipestone, Minnesota (another story I'll relate at another time), and while pretty much calling the technical shots, was wanting out and into something where he had more control. This "out" came in the form of an order from Inland Marine of Minneapolis, who wanted an exclusive line of fiberglass boats to sell at their Minneapolis dealership. Inland Marine was carrying a full line of boats that included Century and Larson, and this new line would complement them nicely. Dick Tittle, president of Midwest Marine, builders of Mariner Boats and former president of the North Central Marine Association, helped me to get the record straight on Henry's set up. The Red Wing Development Corporation offered a low interest loan for a building in the newly developed Red Wing Industrial Park. This was the first building to be located in the new park and city fathers were anxious to see something happen. Even with Henry Von Westerhuyzen's impressive background in the business, the City of Red Wing put a requirement that he have orders for at least 200 boats before they would sign a deal. Inland Marine and Midwest Marine placed the initial orders for the required number of boats to be built at this new plant. 1960, the first year of production for Jet Stream boats saw five runabouts based on two hulls, 15' and 17' in length, along with three fishing boats. The 15' boats were the Titan Series, featuring the Ski-About and the Runabout. The Runabout came equipped with back to back seating and a canvas top, while the Ski-About was more spartan in appointments. The 17' boats were the Atlas Series, with the Ski-About, Ski-About Deluxe, and at the top of the line the Atlas Runabout. Maximum horsepower ratings for the Titan boats was 60hp and the Atlas series could handle 80hp. Easily traceable to their Pipestone heritage, they had a somewhat "cleaner" appearance in their styling than the Pipestone boats. Another departure from the Pipestone boats was the hull. The new Jet Stream hull featured a lapstrake fore-foot (front 1/3 of the hull) combined with a smooth hardchine planing area which would assure the lucky owner of a "Jet-O-Way start, fast planing, clean running, greater load carrying capacity, as well as comfort and safety on turn." How could you even consider anything else? In 1961 these boats were joined by the 19' Saturn Cruiser as the new flagship of the line, and the Bomarc, aimed directly at the go fast-feel young market. Another addition in 1961 was a sailboat, a small 15 footer built for inland waters. As witnessed by other boat manufacturers, growth creates an insatiable appetite for capital. The Industrial Development Corporation was able to front enough money for two building expansions, but more working capital was necessary if Jet Stream was going to make any significant improvements in production. Just as a Twin City brokerage house was about to make an initial offering of Jet Stream stock, the federal government clamped down on these risky investments. Looking elsewhere for investors, Henry Von Westerhuyzen made some difficult choices in looking for cash backers. What you have to understand is that Henry was a technical person. He understood the fiberglass technology as well as anyone else in the business at that time. He had his own ideas, his own way of doing things. Up until then he had been in complete control. He found out what many in the same position in the marine market had learned before him: while the influx of cash from outside sources may be sweet, the compromises involved in policy can be bitter. With his energies focused on increased production and new technology, the business end of the operation was collapsing around him. The FBI became involved in an investigation of his new partner. While this partner was later acquitted, it would force the sale of the plant and end the production of Jet Stream boats. The publicity surrounding the case left Red Wing in shock. Frustrated beyond hope, Henry Von Westerhuyzen left the marine business forever, later retiring to Florida, where he passed away. Today his boats live on. If Henry was still with us, he would be amazed to see photographs of his boats being launched from these mystery pages, far out in cyberspace, a place where unknowns linger, searching to find their lost identity. Unlike so many unclaimed and forgotten memories, these mystery boats have new meaning, they are important, they are alive. Lee Wangstad 2000 Mission Our Advertisers Links Contact Us Chapter List A Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society 1999-2005 BSLOL ACBS Chapter Osage Manufacturing Company (Wangstad) Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes ACBS Chapter Home Waypoints Chapter Info Chandlery Search Chapter Happenings Restoration, Repair, and Renovation Activities, Shows, and Events About our Members Current BoatHouse Articles About the Boats- History & Preservation Safety Practices Trading Dock The Osage Manufacturing Company By Lee Wangstad The small town of Osage, located 11 miles due west of Park Rapids, Minnesota wasn't new to me. I had read the name, been there, wondered if the town had ever been any larger than what it was when I first saw it. It didn't consist of much more than a large lumber yard, a laundromat, and if I remember correctly, there was a canvas and awning shop, and not much else. We had stopped in town to buy bait. It seemed like such a long distance from Many Point Lake where my family goes for our annual fishing trip. If the fishing was particularly good, we would have to venture out of camp for bait, hitting all of the bait shops along the way, until we would find one with just the right bait. We knew that we eventually would make it to Osage because our outing was usually in early October, when most of the tackle shops were either closed or weren't stocking much live bait. I think that at times, we would all pile into the car just to get out of camp for a ride down the crazy, winding back roads that never seemed to go anywhere, but somehow took you exactly where you wanted to go. What really made me come back to this place at all, now that the bait shop had closed its doors and had become just so much local history, was a small advertisement that I spotted in an early issue of Popular Boating. What caught my eye was an ad for "Core-Glass" boats, built right in Osage, by the Osage Manufacturing Company. This one had been new to me. What really held my interest was that here was a company, advertising on a national level, building fiberglass boats way up north back in the early fifties. To be advertising regularly must have meant that they were having some degree of success at it. I copied the ad and filed it away with those things that somehow grab my attention and won't let go. Later, I would run across the same ad in Sports Afield, Outdoor Life, and even Popular Mechanics magazines from the same era. The more often that I saw the ad, the deeper it would ingrain itself into my mind. One day while in Park Rapids on business, I happened to stop in on Dick & Nancy Rutherford who were busy unloading swap meet items from a large enclosed trailer. They had just returned from a big "back to the 50's" car show and were busy trying to settle back in. Of course, I was looking for old boat stuff, and they were kind enough to let me look through their shop. I was going through some old Popular Mechanics magazines when I spotted that same ad for Core-Glass boats. When I asked them about the boat company located in Osage, they weren't quite sure. Both had lived in Park Rapids all their lives and their grasp of the local history was fantastic, but boats obviously weren't their thing. They were able to direct me to others in the community that could help. I was finally getting a start on a project that had been eight years in the making! My first call was to Bob Wallick in Park Rapids. Yes, he had built boats at his marine dealership in Park Rapids; they were called Pramco Boats. As it turned out, this was not the company that I was looking for, but I wrote down all the notes on this venture. It was another of those companies that never had a major impact on the industry, yet combined with everything that was going on at the time, was still a part of the market. With my interest in Minnesota boat builders, it was an intriguing story. As I went down my list of people that might have some information, I happened to call Hank Noble. Hank was able to put it all into focus for me. Hank Noble's family owned Osage Manufacturing Company. Before World War II they were the nation's largest builder of wagon boxes. These were the wooden boxes attached to grain trailers used by farmers to get their harvest to market. After the war, trucks were becoming more commonplace and the orders for their wagon boxes were beginning to slow. They decided to get into the boat building business. Here is where I had gotten into trouble before while trying to research Core-Glass. There was another boat builder in Osage -- Noeske Boat Works -- which operated out of the Noeske Lumber Company. For many years I had thought that there must be some connection between the two and was looking in all the wrong places. As it turned out, the only connection was that they were both located in Osage! I had also thought that there was some connection with Core-Craft, which was located in Bemidji, but while the Noble's knew about these other companies, there was no relationship between them. The first boats built by Osage Manufacturing were cedar strip rowboats, built in much the same fashion as most of the other builders in the state. With the introduction of fiberglass in the early fifties, they investigated the use of that product. There was a company up in Bemidji that was building cedar strip boats covered with fiberglass called Core-Craft. We tried covering our cedar strip boats with fiberglass, but had trouble," remembers Hank Noble. "The cedar has certain oils in it, and the polyester resins weren't adhering to the wood in certain areas where the oils were coming out, causing the boats to delaminate. We switched to marine grade plywood covered with fiberglass mat." The result was an extremely strong wood-core fiberglass boat. "We used to advertise on television in the Fargo area," says Noble. "We would take a section of one of our boats and place a brick on it and invite people to hit it with a hammer. The brick would break all to pieces but hardly put a scratch in the fiberglass." They started out building fishing boats especially for the resort trade in the lake-rich part of the country where they were located. Soon they were building decks to convert the fishing boats into runabouts. The Noble's also decided that, just as they had with their wagon boxes, they would take their trade up to a national level and began advertising in magazines that would give them broader market coverage. One difference in their marketing approach was the decision to market direct from the factory. "We sold boats all over the world direct from the plant in Osage," reminisces Noble. "There were no distributors or dealers. We would build boats all winter and in the spring, all hell would break loose and we'd have to run around like crazy to try to sell, build, and stock all at the same time. Of course everyone just had to have their boats at once on the same day! We sold complete packages after a while," says Noble. "You could order your boat complete with a motor and trailer. We sold Mercury outboards and Balko trailers in our packages. We started out with Scott-Atwater, but later switched to Mercury. It made it a lot easier to buy that way, completely rigged with all of the controls and hardware. At that time you couldn't always buy a complete package." Their lineup consisted of 14, 16, and 18 foot runabouts and fishing boats. They had a no-nonsense styling theme and hulls designed more for performance than trendy lines. Their Inland Runabout line came in 14 & 16 foot lengths and the recommended horsepower ratings were up to 60 hp for the runabouts and wider fishing boats. The narrow fishing boats had a maximum rating of 15 hp. The Sea Coast line were 16 & 18 feet and surprisingly enough, had "no limit" listed in the recommended horsepower column in their literature. It also stated that the boats could be powered by either one or two motors. The 18 foot models had a broad 72 inch beam to make these boats really adaptable to big water. "I remember that we shipped a lot of the larger boats to both Leech Lake and Lake of the Woods," says Hank Noble. There was also an Inland Constellation line of upscale runabouts featuring twin cockpits in both 14 & 16 foot lengths. They were built to accommodate up to 60 hp, just like Inland line and even sported small, stylish fins at the rear decks. "We built boats until the early 60's," remembers Hank, "when one of the recessions finally did us in. It was such an up and down market. It just got too hard to hold on. When a recession hits, the first thing that people stop buying is the non-essential things like boats." "We went into the wood shavings business, for agricultural use," says Hank, "we never went back to building boats. I still have the last boat that we made, a 14 foot fishing boat. You know, it still looks pretty good. It was really over built, as they all were." So ends another chapter in Minnesota's impact on the national marine marketplace. It was companies like Osage Manufacturing that were marketing on a national scale that would fuel Americas unquenchable thirst for recreational products during the boating boom of the 50's. It was families like Hank Noble's that were able to read that market and see it coming and adjust to it that made it so fascinating. Just as they saw the need to get into the boating market, they also saw the need to leave it and adapt to other products. Hank Noble remembers the boating years fondly. "It was crazy all the time, but we really enjoyed the business!" Mission Our Advertisers Links Contact Us Chapter List A Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society 1999-2005 BSLOL ACBS Chapter Larson Cruisemaster (Wangstad) Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes ACBS Chapter Home Waypoints Chapter Info Chandlery Search Chapter Happenings Restoration, Repair, and Renovation Activities, Shows, and Events About our Members Current BoatHouse Articles About the Boats- History & Preservation Safety Practices Trading Dock Larson Cruisemaster By Lee Wangstad It was shortly after Christmas, 1958 and the news that hit Little Falls would shake the little community down to its very soul. Paul Larson had been quietly developing a new boat that would take Larson Boat Works into a whole new arena. The boat was the Cruisemaster, a 25' outboard powered flying bridge cruiser. But the boat in itself was not the startling news. The bombshell that hit the streets of Little Falls was that Paul Larson had received a very attractive offer of a building, complete with rail service, in the neighboring community of Staples where he could begin immediate production of this new cruiser. With the site of Larson's plant on the east side of the Mississippi River completely landlocked, there was no place to expand their facility. In order to produce the cruiser, expansion was necessary. Their existing plant was already bursting at the seams, barely able to keep up with production of their current lines. Not willing to let go of any manufacturing jobs to another community, the civic and business leaders of Little Falls banded together and formed the Little Falls Industrial Development Corporation. Time was of the essence as Larson was hoping to begin operations of their Cruiser Division by the spring of 1959. With little time to raise the needed capital, the newly formed development company issued stock at $100 per share on January 13, 1959. By January 15th they had already received pledges on 374 shares and by the 16th, they went over 506 shares. With a construction budget of $60,000, they were nearing their goal in a hurry. While the funding drive was being sewn up, the city of Little Falls was preparing a site proposal on the west side of the river across from the existing plant. This site had been willed to the city in 1945 by R.D. Musser under the stipulation that it be used either as a park or for industrial use. It had rail service and covered over ten acres, which would be available for future expansion. This new site and facility would then be leased to Larson Boat Works for the sum of $6,000 per year for a fifteen year period. While all of this was going on, Paul Larson continued to work on the design and molds for this huge cruiser. With a beam of eight feet and a depth of 58 inches, this boat was definitely headed for big water. Never one to back off of an idea that might not be headed right down the center lane, Paul Larson felt that the market was ready. On February 4th, 1959, Paul Larson and his entourage loaded the Cruisemaster prototype along with nine other models, and headed off for its premier showing at the Chicago National Boat Show, held at Chicago's Amphitheater. While the sales team was out testing the waters for this new member of the Larson lineup, work had already begun back in Little Falls on the new plant. Paul Larson announced at the Chicago show that the new plant was only part of Larson's nationwide expansion plans. On April 22, 1959, the new 70' x 200' building was officially dedicated with Mrs. Leonard Sweeney, wife of the president of the Little Falls Development Corp., breaking a bottle of Mississippi River water over the bow of a new Cruisemaster. At the dedication ceremony, Paul Larson spoke to the crowd of officials and well-wishers that had gathered. "When I built my first boat 53 years ago," said Larson, "even my fondest hopes did not foresee this present development." He went on to thank the development corporation and also thanked "the people of Little Falls for their faith in the future of Larson and their own community." He also made a special point of thanking his workmen for continuing to produce products that were winners in the marketplace. In the July 1959 issue of The Rudder, there was a special report on some of the larger boats that were being produced specifically for outboard power. The Cruisemaster was pictured with proud Larson executives out for a wide open test run on the Mississippi. It was stated that twenty-five had already been sold, with plans for building another hundred of the large cruisers in time for the 1959 season. This little bit of marketing hype would lead to one of the biggest mysteries surrounding Larson lore. Back in Little Falls, the 1959 season was going completely out of control at Larson. They simply could not keep production running as fast as orders were coming in for their runabouts. Already running shifts around the clock at their existing facility, their new plant was put into runabout production, with plans underway for a January 1, 1960 production start for the Cruisemaster. They would have to be patient. But the January 1st production date would never arrive for the Cruisemaster. On September 15, 1960 it was announced that Larson Boat Works had been sold to Brunswick Corporation. Brunswick had already purchased Owens Yacht Company of Baltimore. With Owens firmly established in the cruiser market, it made no sense in their marketing strategy for Larson to produce a cruiser of their own. Larson had been purchased strictly for their runabout lines. In all, there were two Cruisemasters built. The original prototype boat that went to the Chicago show, later went to the Miami Boat Show and was sold to a customer afterwards. The second boat was the one that was christened at the dedication of the new "Cruiser Division" plant. No one seems to remember its whereabouts or place of sale. Rumors persist that it cruised Lake Michigan, with Chicago its home port. While some might see a production run of two boats as a failure, it must be placed in the context of the times and circumstances. When a community and work force can band together to produce a team willing to go all out for the common good, it can only lead to success. The old "Cruiser Division Plant" is today the heart of the present Larson Boats manufacturing facility on the west bank of the Mississippi River. A visit to this plant today will rekindle the spirit of Paul Larson's dream of a bigger boat for a broader market. It also begs for an answer as to the fate of these two Cruisemasters that embraced Little Falls' dedication to Paul's vision. Mission Our Advertisers Links Contact Us Chapter List A Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society 1999-2005 BSLOL ACBS Chapter Boats of George L. Herter (Wangstad) Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes ACBS Chapter Home Waypoints Chapter Info Chandlery Search Chapter Happenings Restoration, Repair, and Renovation Activities, Shows, and Events About our Members Current BoatHouse Articles About the Boats- History & Preservation Safety Practices Trading Dock The Boats of George L. Herter By Lee Wangstad No two people buy a boat for the same reason. It just doesn't happen. For every boat and every owner, there comes a different rationale for the purchase. And how the buy came about in the first place might just have as much to do with happenstance as with any educated or methodical plan. 1957 Eldorado Rocket, 13' 4" When it comes to the boats built by George Herter, the decision to buy is usually an emotional one. One look at these boats and you either casually stroll away with a smirk on your face, shaking your head in disbelief, or else you walk away with a smile on your face, knowing that you're going to buy this thing just because you know it's going to be the coolest thing out there on the lake. If you have any control over your life at all, you find comfort in knowing that now is not the time to exercise it. During the mid-fifties, when all of America was clamoring for a recreational outlet, George L. Herter produced a catalog for the outdoorsman that was second to none. No matter what outdoor activity you were interested in, Herter's, Inc. had you covered. From hunting to fishing to camping to boating, George offered it all. And he offered it all UNCONDITIONALLY GUARANTEED! Unconditionally guaranteed to be of the highest quality, lowest prices, best workmanship, and on and on. And this unconditional guarantee came complete with a money back offer if not fully satisfied. 1957 Duofoil Flying Fish Deluxe Model, 15' 7" "He first made the connection with fiberglass as a material for making duck decoys in the early 50's," remarks his son, Lance Herter. "He was always looking for new developments to improve his products." His first chrome fiberglass boats were duck boats and fishing boats which fit neatly into his sporting goods line. But as America became enamored with the idea of recreational boating, he expanded into the runabout market. He claimed in his catalog that he wasn't in the boat building business to show a profit, but to keep his employees busy during the off season, so only a limited number of boats would be built each year. Whether he was serious or not, he definitely was selling boats! His first hot runabout, the Chrome Fiberglass Duofoil World Famous Deluxe Flying Fish, was introduced in 1956 and sported large (to say the least) cast aluminum fins bolted onto the rear deck of the boat. In 1957 the fins were fiberglass, molded integrally with the deck, and actually more pronounced than the previous year. By 1959 the fins had become much more streamlined, but compared to the rest of the market, they were still radical. 1960 Duofoil standard model Flying Fish, 15' In addition to the Deluxe Flying Fish, Herter's also produced a Standard Model Flying Fish, and a Mark III runabout. Perhaps the most elusive boat to collectors today has been the Herter's El Dorado Rocket Chrome Fiberglass Runabout which appeared in 1957. This boat was "Guaranteed the fastest 13-1/2' runabout made in the world." It was made with a single seat that was claimed to be wide enough to hold three large people. Able to handle engines up to 75hp, this one definitely could fly. What really placed Herter's in a market of their own was the fact that it was basically a mail order package. You would order your boat through the mail or by telegraph and Herter's would ship it out to you, either by truck or rail. Of course, you could always pick it up at the factory on one of their custom trailers. Herter's had a number of plants scattered around the country, but most of the boat production took place at their plant in Waseca, Minnesota. 1960 Mark III Runbout 14' Herter's produced all of the unusual custom aluminum castings used on the boats. From the grab handles on either side of the front seat walk-through to the unique bow piece, all were made in-house. "He (George) was a great believer in making everything in his own plants," says Lance Herter. "It was far less expensive to buy raw materials than to buy product. That way you could produce just what was needed. You had real control over inventories." By the early sixties Herter's realized that their real market was in sporting goods and concentrated on the more utilitarian rowboats and duck boats. But George Herter's experimenting with fiberglass was far from over. "He just had so many ideas for uses of fiberglass. He even covered an airplane with fiberglass. He never stopped thinking of new uses for the material," says Lance Herter. "He had a unique ability to see the future potential in so many things, boats were just one of them." Mission Our Advertisers Links Contact Us Chapter List A Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society 1999-2005 BSLOL ACBS Chapter Luger Industries (Wangstad) BSLOL Home Join BSLOL Bob's BoatHouse Chandlery Classic Glass Event Reports Gadgets & Kinks In the Spotlight Outboard Corner Our Advertisers Porthole to the Past Restorers of BSLOL Restoration Notebook Service Department Trading Dock Waypoints BSLOL Links Luger Industries-A Minnesota Legend - By Lee Wangstad In the late fifties, when most of the players in the recreational boating market had either sputtered to an inglorious halt, or had elevated themselves into that group that were writing their success stories, Luger Industries of Minneapolis made a bold move that would launch them into the winner’s circle. The kit-boat market, never really feared by the front line boat manufacturers, was about to change with the introduction of Luger's new fiberglass boat kits. Before this, the kit-boat industry was composed almost entirely of boats made of marine grade plywood fastened to hardwood frames. At the start of the post World War II boating boom, these kits were extremely popular, not only with the average do-it-yourselfer, who felt that he could build anything better himself, but also with those boaters who now had the leisure time and necessary skills to build their own boat out in the garage. Looking back at the market, these home-built plywood outboard boats were very comparable in both looks and performance to the professionally built outboard boats turned out by the manufacturers. While not for everyone, this was boating at a cost level that almost everyone could enjoy. Maybe this is also where the habit of leaving the family automobile outside over those cold Minnesota winters began, leaving enough room in the garage for a nice sized boat shop. The garage would become a place where the guys in the neighborhood could come on a cold winter evening and discuss the merits of the Johnson versus the Mercury, or more likely in this atmosphere, the Buccaneer and the Wizard. For those inclined to think that kits were the only avenue for those whose skill level matched their desire to be on the water will have to look towards another market: boat plans. This built from scratch approach, while seemingly more economical, took vast amounts of skill, and by the time you were finished, had every bit as much money invested as the kits. Some of the plans could be bought as frame kits, so at least the general shape and structure of the boat had the potential of being correct. Towards the end of the fifties, the recreational boating market had changed dramatically. While fiberglass and aluminum boats were a novelty in the early fifties, within a few short years they had taken over the market. While a kit boat looked right at home in 1955, by 1958 the kits were looking slightly behind the times. The new fiberglass kit line from Luger would change the way kit boats were perceived by the boat buying public. They were easy to build, cost up to 60% less than a manufactured boat, and most importantly, had all of the good looks and styling features of a professionally built boat. Their initial offering in 1959 had three models: the Skylark, an open utility type boat; the Royal Lancer, with seat backs and a walk-through front seat; and the Le Continental, their top of the line runabout with all of the features expected to be included on a premium boat in this market. The basic kit came in three pieces: the deck, the hull, and the upper hull. Luger advertising claimed that it could be "easily assembled in one enjoyable evening!" The three main pieces were interlocking and after assembly were screwed together with stainless steel screws. The joints were then reinforced from the inside of the boat with fiberglass mat and resin. The only tools needed were a screwdriver and a hand drill. The Luger boats came with decks available in any of three color options: Tropic Coral; Bali Blue; or Harbor Green, all with a Harbor White hull. The boats featured molded-in flotation chambers in the seat bottoms, full length molded fiberglass stringers, and a transom consisting of two layers of 3/4" plywood with a 1/4" layer of fiberglass between them. This transom would hold either two 45 hp engines or one 90 hp outboard. How far you wanted to take your Luger boat was entirely up to you and your budget. The back pages of their catalog had every accessory item imaginable, from windshields to deck hardware all the way to life jackets and upholstery kits. Of course, you could do any of these things through a local upholsterer or buy your hardware through a marine dealer, but it was made available through Luger. The boats were designed by Orm and Ren Luger in collaboration with leading industrial designer Charles Butler & Associates of New York. The boat came to you with a molded-in gelcoat finish, relieving the builder of the hardest task in building a kit boat: a professional looking finish. The styling given to this boat is still as fresh and crisp today as it was in 1959. "My brother Ren and I started Luger Industries in our garage in 1950," remembers Orm Luger. "We had another company make the kits to our design, and we sold them. It was just part time at first, until we became too busy. I was first to quit my job to work on the kits full time. Ren soon followed, and we were in business." "The boat business was just starting to gel at the time. We were just in the right business at the right time with the right product," claims Orm. "We had always had an interest in boats while growing up." "In 1959 we developed the first fiberglass kit boat," says Orm Luger. "The fiberglass industry was still in its infancy back then, so we did the fiberglass work ourselves. We used all hand lay-up. After we started to sell fiberglass boats, there were no more wood boat kits developed." Just as the rest of the marine industry had seen great changes in methods and materials during the fifties and sixties, the boat kit manufacturers also had to adapt. At one time there were over fourteen boat kit producers in the market, but by the 80's this number had dwindled to just three, with Luger still among them. Ren and Orm sold Luger Industries in 1986, but both continue their involvement in boating today. Researching my Dream- (Wangstad) Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes ACBS Chapter Home Waypoints Chapter Info Chandlery Search Chapter Happenings Restoration, Repair, and Renovation Activities, Shows, and Events About our Members Current BoatHouse Articles About the Boats- History & Preservation Safety Practices Trading Dock We take great pleasure in welcoming Lee Wangstad to our circle of writers. Lee is an expert on fiberglass boats and is soon to release a book on the subject. He has graciously agreed to share that knowledge as a regular feature of The Boathouse. We’re confident you’ll enjoy this new topic and Lee’s writing style. Researching My Dream By Lee Wangstad Where in the world do you start something like this? Write about me? Eric Gustavson has been after me for this since he cornered me at the Treasure Island show last August. Maybe corner is too harsh a word. Corner is just not his style. Let's use the word persuaded. He's a tough guy to say no to. This, coupled with the fact that I'm basically a pushover type, sets up the scenario. It came as no surprise that he sent a follow up letter a month or so later to kind of rekindle the fire under me, or maybe just build a little harmless guilt. Not that this would have a very immediate effect either, being of true Minnesota Norwegian/German heritage, suppressing guilt is almost second nature for me. How Sad!! Behind Donahue's in Delano As I'm pulling my 1957 Larson Thunderhawk into the Convention Center for the Minneapolis Boat Show, who should I run into but Eric himself. I suddenly realize that it's now January, and I'm still no closer to having this story ready than I was in August. I convince myself that I will do it; I'll let nothing stand in my way! Guilt triumphs once again in my life. So, here goes, Eric...better late than never. I live in rural Nisswa, Minnesota. I'm sure that some of you have been to Nisswa and consider the town a rural area in itself, but I live about 12 miles southwest of town on Agate Lake with Nancy, my spouse, and our daughter Emily. Life is kind of slow in these parts, and that is the pace that we have become accustomed to. We moved up here from the Twin Cities 18 years ago this spring. The plan was to get a couple of years of construction experience in the small-town atmosphere and then moving back to the more exciting life of the city dweller, only with more experience. I guess it just wasn't meant to happen that way. We found a great building site on Agate Lake and within three years of moving to the area had ourselves a house on the lake. What we didn't have was a boat. We had a canoe, but what I really needed was something that had some get up and go; something with some speed and style. One day back in October of 1984, while cruising through Delano, I spotted a red and white Larson Thunderhawk behind Butch Donahue's Harley shop on Highway 12. At first I didn't realize what was happening. My truck was actually pulling itself right off the road and into Butch's parking lot, amazingly enough, right next to the old Larson. One look and I was absolutely convinced that this was actually the same boat my father had bought new in 1958. Upon closer inspection, I realized that it wasn't our old boat. Our boat had been in the family from 1958 until 1967 and would have borne the scars of those nine years of hard duty without any shame. As I ran my hands over that boat, I couldn't feel any of the repairs that would have been necessary to heal our old boat. Every nick and gouge in our old Thunderhawk was indelibly stamped into my memory from the moment of occurrence. Nonetheless, this boat was in rough condition as ours was sure to be, but in its favor, most of the hard to get stuff was there. When I entered Butch's store, the first thing that hit me was the impressive collection of old Harleys and Indians on display. The immediate sinking feeling in my stomach came as it became apparent he was into restorations - really nice restorations - and probably wouldn't want to part with this old Larson. Lost in Snowmobile Land! When I asked him about the Larson, Butch said that he was playing around with the idea of fixing it up to use for himself. One of the guys who worked for him had brought it out onto Lake Minnetonka a couple of weeks back and said that it ran pretty good, so it did run. Even though I didn't have any money with me, I asked him if he would consider selling it. He thought it over for a while and said sure, why not? Next came the part that would either send me home justified for stopping, or else feeling foolish for even considering being there in the first place. It was time for the inevitable "how much" question. He kicked it around for awhile and conceded to me that he was looking to get $200. I think that he could tell just how excited I was about the boat, and was really giving me a huge break. While this might not seem like much for a boat with a motor that ran, for me, struggling to pay for a new house, it might as well have been a million. I wanted it sooooooooo bad! Nancy and I had some long discussions concerning the boat. I had gone to the trouble to take pictures while I was there and kept bringing them out to look at and show her. We tend to make all of our major decisions together, and for us at this point in our lives, this was pretty major. We figured out how we could budget enough to buy the boat, but with Nancy's birthday coming up, would she be willing to sacrifice the new loafers that she had been eyeing in the L.L. Bean catalog? She very willingly made the call and I went down to Delano and brought the boat home. Eventually, Nancy did get her new loafers, although we kidded about the boat being her birthday present for many years after. Shortly after restoration on Sylvan Lake. Over the next couple of years I would occasionally get it in the water and use it on our lake, closing my eyes and dreaming of the day when it would look like brand new again. I would work on the boat as time allowed, never letting it take control of my life. In all, it took six years to complete the restoration, doing all of the work myself. I did have the gelcoat shot at a professional shop as I lacked the equipment to do that. However, I did do all of the prep work and all of the finish sanding and polishing, saving myself close to $3,000. I learned a lot of new skills in the process of this restoration. Perhaps the most rewarding was the research involved to make it correct. While working on my Thunderhawk, I came to know Bob Speltz, who would help me gather the information on Larson Boat Works that I needed for my restoration. I met Bob while at his show in Albert Lea in 1989. He was always so willing to share the information that he had. It seemed that he was always there, and he always had the time to listen. The key word here is always. And it didn't matter if we were talking about a wood boat or fiberglass boat. We even had some great conversations about pontoon boats, but he had a certain way of getting the excitement running. The closer I came to know him, the higher the intensity level rose to gain more information. He had a way of compelling you to learn more. Bob had become a mentor to me, not only in his expertise surrounding the great wooden classics which he knew so much about, but also, more than anything, about sharing. He was very generous in sharing with the world the knowledge he had accumulated on the great wood boats. But for me, he went overboard in the generous department. He gave me what has to be the most comprehensive collection of 50's, 60's, and 70's marine factory literature assembled in one place on earth. I thought I had assembled a pretty neat collection of old literature until Bob and I spent a long Saturday going through the stacks of material in his attic. The amount and quality were staggering to say the least. Crusin' on Upper Gill Shortly after I returned home with this great collection, Bob passed away. I was crushed. Selfish at first, I was thinking of the questions that I hadn't asked and now would never be able to. Bob's funeral brought closure for me with the celebration that he had all planned out, down to the last detail. I use the word celebration in effect as everyone there seemed to be in awe just for the time they were able to spend with this great person. As for any questions I may have had, Bob had told me that research came easy if you were really in touch with your subject. About a year after Bob had left us, I started to write the "Classic Boat" column for Boating World magazine, with my first article appearing in the Summer 1994 issue. I used the literature Bob had given to me for background material and art work to illustrate these articles. Most of these articles have been centered around the post World War II marine industry and the boating boom of the fifties. While a lot of the players in this game are now gone forever, I have been extremely fortunate to locate and interview many of the leaders of the industry during those years of rapidly changing styles and tastes, when boating was reaching epidemic proportions. This first-hand information has become critical to me in putting the industry into perspective against the backdrop of the cultural revolution taking place in America at the time. The people that were in leadership roles in the industry during the 50's are a rapidly-aging group, most now in their 70's and 80's, frail only in terms of their age. They are a tough group, having survived years of intense competition. They took a wild roller coaster ride in an industry that was totally dependent on an economy that could turn overnight, and was often one of the first businesses impacted by a downturn. But, to a person, they all enjoyed their work. They loved the boat-building business, the people they were involved with, and the market they brought their products to. These are my heroes. In the following issues of The BoatHouse, I will share those stories I have researched in hopes that a broader spectrum of classic boaters will come to enjoy and understand those boats. While not our traditional mahogany planked wood boats, they are being restored and enjoyed by a new generation of classic boating enthusiasts. Isn't that what it's really all about? Mission Our Advertisers Links Contact Us Chapter List A Chapter of the Antique & Classic Boat Society 1999-2005 BSLOL ACBS Chapter Mercury Inline Sixes (Petersen, Oct 05) Bob Speltz Land-O-Lakes ACBS Chapter Home Waypoints Chapter Info Chandlery Search Chapter Happenings Restoration, Repair, and Renovation Activities, Shows, and Events About our Members Current BoatHouse Articles About the Boats- History & Preservation Safety Practices Trading Dock Where have all the In-lines gone? by Chuck Petersen A great engineer in his own right, Carl Kiekhaefer developed the historic KG-4 two cylinder motors that dominated stock outboard racing in the late 1940 s. These full-jeweled or roller bearing 20 cubic inch models were light and very efficient even by today s standards. In 1949, two of these models were effectively stacked together to make a 4 cylinder in-line 40 cubic inch model using the same pistons, rods and bore size to form a true engineering marvel. The KG-7, later Mark 40 models would set speed records and distance Mercury from their primary OMC competition in the performance category. In 1956. an equally brilliant engineer, Charlie Strong, began to develop the historic in-line 6 cylinder model. Carl was so involved in auto racing at the time that Charlie had to operate a secret development program on the side that would ensure that Mercury continued to dominate the horsepower outboard race. Working at night, Charlie nutted up a 6 cylinder prototype by sawing 2 four cylinder blocks into two thr