Archive for October 18th, 2009

18
Oct
09

The “New Deal”: An Alumacraft “FDR” restoration part one…

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Alumacraft is a name with which I am familiar, but only in the sense that I see a lot of these boats around, both new and old.  They seem to have a good reputation, especially the older craft. 

Alumacraft is still in business, and is known for making modern and sleek boats…primarily for fishing.  Back in the 1950’s I suspect they felt some pressure to enter the market for motorboaters who wanted to pull a waterskier, and cruise the lake while on the yearly family summer vacation.  Thus, Alumacraft outfitted their standard fishing boat with a wheel deck and steering.  The aluminum bench seats were retained and upholstered seatback and cushions were added to make the little fishing boats look more sporty and comfortable.  A windshield was also an option.

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The story of the boat ending up in my backyard is one of kindness.  It is as follows.

For those who follow this blog, or more for those who don’t, my wife’s job has been cut due to budgets being cut back at all level of her work.  We decided to put some money in our pockets by shedding things that were not necessary, and that meant one of our boats had to be looked at a surplus.

There was no way I was going to part with our 1949 Thompson Cedar Strip 14 footer.  I’d sell the house first.  This meant the 1955 Feather Craft Vagabond was going ot be put on the market.  I had only finished the restoration this year, but times are tough…so up for sale it went.

The Vagabond was posted on various websites for sale, including  www.feathercraft.net.  I was contacted by a buyer from Tennessee who offered me what I was asking, and was willing to come pick the boat up.  I was relieved he and his girlfriend seemed to be thrilled with the boat, and it would have a good home port, and Captain and Crew that loved it…perhaps more than I did.

Upon listing the boat as “SOLD” on the Feather Craft forum, I got a funny call from one of the members.  He introduced himself, and stated he saw I’d sold my “ship”.  He continued…“I’ve had some shitty and tough times in my life.  I know what you’re going through, and I wanted to help out.  I have a 1959 Alumacraft boat, with trailer! I want you to come pick it up.”

I explained, I couldn’t afford to buy anything right now…but the man cut me off to continue…

“You’re not going to pay for it.  I want to do something nice for you so you and your wife will have a boat for next season.  This boat is good and straight, no dents or dings, and no leaks.  I just want you to come get it!”

I really couldn’t believe my ears!  Fortunately my wife was in the car, because she could hear the conversation from my cell phone, or she wouldn’t have believed it either!

I told the caller I’d better check with my wife.  He laughed and said “seriously?!?”  I explained that I found myself in the doghouse when I bought the Vagabond, and this would be best for all concerned.  (Refer to blog post:  Feather Craft Vagabond Part One: From the Boathouse to the Doghouse…)

My wife and I talked it over, and I called to accept the vessel with great excitement.  I couldn’t believe someone I’d never met could be so kind.  I was…and am truly dumbfounded!

Now I have a new project to work on!  I had heard Alumacraft was a great boat, but I didn’t know what kind of boat this was.  I didn’t really care though.  If it was just a fishing boat, GREAT!  I could run my smaller antique outboards on it.  But the man had mentioned rigging still being on the boat…so this means it must be a runabout of some kind, though I knew of no such boats made by Alumacraft.

We set a date for Saturday October 17th, 2009 for my road trip to Kentucky to pick up the vessel.  In the meantime I called my buddy Larry to ask him to accompany me for the trip.  Larry is a former railroader.  He is used to staying awake for long trips, staring out the window of a cab, and generally he is entertaining to spend time with as he re-lives stories of railroading.  I knew we would have plenty to talk about.

On the date specified, I picked Larry up at 7am sharp, and down I-75 we headed for Kentucky.  I was tired, and excited.  Larry was in rare form that early in the morning…dropping the “F-bomb” every four or five words in each sentence.  We rolled along re-living our lives on the railroad, cussing, and laughing, telling stories…and being MEN.  He had my sides hurting at some points from laughing.  He’s a wonderful guy…but a real character!

We got to Maysville, Kentucky at least an hour before I expected, stopped for lunch in Flemingsburg, KY, called the “boat benefactor”, and set out down the road for the 20 minute trip his home.

He greeted us, and showed us several of his beautiful boats and motors.  Then he took me to my new vessel.  I was thrilled.  (Even Larry said later that he was surprised by the boats condition.)  There sitting on it’s vintage Balko Brother’s trailer was a wonderful little 14 foot  Alumacraft “FDR”.  It had the original steering wheel, pulleys, and splash well on the transom, the bow handle, and even a nice Perko Bow light.  “This boat has real potential” I thought.

Well, everything wasn’t perfect.  Despite new wiring, and lights, the trailer light plug did not match my truck.  Larry and I hitched it up and headed back to Flemingsburg to the NAPA store down the street from the McDonald’s where we’d had lunch.  After dragging some guy from behind the counter to assist me, I found an Emergency Trailer Lighting Repair Plug”.  6.99!  It simply was a snap together plug that fit my truck.  Larry and I cut the existing plug off the trailer, put the new plug on…and down the road we went.

Now for the boat.  I had done some research about Alumacraft boats in the week and a half from the call to “Greg and Larry’s Big Adventure”.  I found a website that had an old brochure with an Alumacraft runabout.

Oh!  What a great looking little boat!!

Oh! What a great looking little boat!!

I had found that Alumacraft had indeed made a model called and “FDR”.  This was the model-“F” styled  hull, with the “D”eep hull for more freeboard than standard fishing boats, and the “R” was a designation for runabout.  I had hoped this was the boat we would be getting, but again, anything was a gift.

Indeed this “FDR” was the very boat my “boating benefactor” was bestowing upon me.

Our new 1959 Alumacraft "FDR" at her new port of call in Toledo.  What a great lottle boat this will be!

Our new 1959 Alumacraft "FDR" at her new port of call in Toledo. What a great little boat this will be!

This boat has great potential.  It is very well constructed, and appears to be tight as a drum.  Nice lines and she looks to be a great project boat!  The hull very much resembles our Thompson, so I suspect she’ll ride well, and be a FAST ship!

This lil' darlin' was outfitted with a windshield at one time.  I'll start hitting the bone-yards looking for one that will fit.

This lil' darlin' was outfitted with a windshield at one time. I'll start hitting the bone-yards looking for one that will fit.

The Helmsman should be nice and comfy in this roomy cockpit! The wood on the transom will require replacement. This wood is original to the vessel.

The Helmsman should be nice and comfy in this roomy cockpit!

 

She is outfitted with the Patented "Aqueduct Transom".  This is a  splash-well that allows any water that comes over the transom to drain out rather than sit in the bilge.

She is outfitted with the Patented "Aqueduct Transom". This is a splash-well that allows any water that comes over the transom to drain out rather than sit in the bilge.Her capacity plate is still affixed to her transom.

  
 
There is no denying her heritage.  The letters "FDR" are stamped into the transom brace.

There is no denying her heritage. The letters "FDR" are stamped into the transom brace.

This was the 130th hull of this design model made for 1959.

This was the 130th hull of this design model made for 1959.

 

Her transom wood is original, but likely will be replaced.

Her transom wood is original, but likely will be replaced.

Although most work will not happen until warmer weather in the spring, I am looking forward to making this little vessel into a good representation of her original self.  New seats and upholstery for the front and back with be replicated.  New electrical will be strung.  Checks for any leaks and sealing of same will be a priority.  A windshield and additional deck hardware will be added.  Stay tuned for updates in the future.