Falling in love with the cars of the 1920s and 30s is easy to do, with their sweeping artistic lines and gorgeous proportions, unhindered by any kind of safety standard. Unfortunately, many of them are well outside the reach of most mortals, and the same thing is true of many boats from the period.
Whether they’re sailing yachts, motor yachts or speedboats from companies like Riva, Hacker or Chris-Craft, these gorgeous lacquered wooden beauties will drown you at least twice, once in debt from the initial purchase and then again just trying to keep them running.
But, according to an article published Monday by Silodrome, a 30-something-year-old guy from Minneapolis has a better way. His name is Kevin Fitzke, and he runs a business building paddleboards inspired by boats from the 1920s and 30s, but this year he decided to take it a step further.
He found the plans for a speed boat from the mid-1930s by a man named A.A. Apel that were originally published in their entirety in a boating magazine of the period, and built it using modern materials and techniques but a classic look. The boat he built is called Bugbite.
To start with, like most boats of that era, it’s constructed of wood — primarily mahogany with the interior framing and planking being white oak. Instead of using whatever was available in-period, Fitzke opted to use modern touches to help reduce the complexity, maintenance and cost. This includes modern polyurethane finishes and techniques.
One of these techniques is called cold molding, and it’s similar to the way that fiberglass panels are made, only instead of fiberglass sheet, it uses very thin veneers of wood with their grains oriented in opposing directions. The end result is incredibly lightweight and very strong.
Mechanically, the original plans called for either a 135- or 225-cubic-inch engine. Fitzke’s boat uses a more modern Chevrolet-sourced 283-cubic-inch engine attached to a marine-specific hydraulic manual transmission by BorgWarner. The engine produces a perfectly sane 190 horsepower, but in a lightweight, 17-foot speedboat, it’s likely plenty.
Bugbite is a gorgeous machine, and despite her new construction, there are plenty of period-correct details; some are new and styled to look old, others are actually from the 1930s.
Fitzke Boatworks is planning to build a limited run of Bugbites on commission, though no price is mentioned, so we’re betting it’s not going to be “conventionally affordable.” Still, it’s probably cheaper than trying to fix up that old Hacker Craft runabout you’re probably going to go and find in a classified ad somewhere after reading this.
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