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


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.


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.

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

  1. 1 Jack Bowman
    October 18, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Perfect little Me and Mom fishing boat.

  2. 2 conductorjonz
    October 18, 2009 at 10:19 pm

    Thanks Jack! We’ll fix ‘er upas a runabout, and hopefull be blazing the waters of the Maumee River next year.

  3. 3 bob from canada
    October 28, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    I’ve been following your blog with great interest. I too have a ’55 Vagabond in desperate need of some TLC. Although its bones are good, I will undoubtably be going through the entire process you just went through. Had I had the forethought I would stopped by in Toledo to meet you. I picked the boat up near Cincinnati about three weeks ago and passed through Toledo on my way back to Toronto, Canada. I have a lot of simple questions for you if you feel like engaging my curiousity. I will appreciate it. I’m glad you found yourself another aluminum. Your passion for these boats shows.



  4. 4 conductorjonz
    October 28, 2009 at 8:10 pm


    Thanks for the kind words about the Vagabond. I am looking forward to doing some work on this Alumacraft next spring. A little artistic license will likely be used as always.

    Next time you’re through town…get hold of me. Better yet…bring the boat, and we’ll go for a trip up the Maumee River!


  5. 5 Wes
    November 16, 2009 at 11:16 pm

    Great looking FDR! I am just finishing up restoration of a 1960 FD. Here is a link to some postings and pics http://forums.iboats.com/showthread.php?t=359891 (you may have to sign up to see pics). These boats handle really good. I am running a 35 Johnson on mine. I am always searching for Alumacraft boats and parts, if I find a windshield I will send you a link. Good luck with your restoration!


    • 6 conductorjonz
      November 16, 2009 at 11:51 pm

      Thanks Wes. The help would be appreciated on the windshield. I’ll be checking iBoats tonight for the photos!

      Take care!


    • 7 Joe
      May 26, 2012 at 10:11 am

      I have what I was told a1956 alumacraft but I don,know what model it is I,m trying to sell it and I don,t know the value thanks Joe. Will try to send pics

      • 8 conductorjonz
        May 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm

        Aluma Crafts are fine vessels. They are stable and ride well, especially for an aluminum boat!!

        I was never disappointed in mine as far as performance!

        The value will depend on your local economy and the desires of the market.

        1000+ is about right for a well maintained boat in my area!

  6. 9 Jeff JACKSON
    February 28, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Great looking boat! I bought a 1959 fdr hull no. 234. last month. my first vintage boat. got the 69 motor. running. cleaned and will need to replace windshield. frame salvageable. replaced axle and wheels to get on the road.
    the front seat is not original and does not have the walkthroug opening. Could you help me with a dimension of the opening. want to build a new seat in the near future.


    Jeff Jackson
    Leesburg, Fl

    • 10 conductorjonz
      April 12, 2010 at 11:56 pm

      Unfortunately, I have yet to get back to the Alumacraft. I havebeen researching the details and will likely post the results at some future date. Stay tuned.


  7. 11 brad
    March 21, 2010 at 1:18 am

    I have a 1959 aluma craft 18 ft queen merrie. I am looking for any information I can. I am also looking for pictures. I am in the middle of restoreing it and I want to make it original as possible so any info would be great.

    Thank you
    Brad cassetta

    • 12 conductorjonz
      March 21, 2010 at 8:02 am


      I don’t have much info to offer. However, check with the folks at the Yahoo Alumacraft group or Tinboats.com.

      Good Luck.

  8. 13 John
    July 7, 2010 at 12:31 am

    Hiya, nice looking FDR!!!

    Your baot is not the 130th hull made,
    it is the 30th hull made in 1959

    Alumacraft started the serial number run with #100
    only 702 of them were built between 1959 & 1960
    ( information direct from Alumacraft)

    I also own a 1959 Alumacraft FDR
    she’s a very stable and very fast craft.

    Nice acquisition!!!


    • 14 conductorjonz
      July 7, 2010 at 6:38 am

      I think someone had told me about the serial number, and I never changed the blog. Thanks for the information though. I haven’t had her out at speed, but with a smaller motor, she is quite a nice ride.

      Thanks again!


  9. 15 chris
    July 14, 2010 at 2:25 am

    Make your own windshield…you can still by some from “Taylorcraft” out of New York….about $500 as I recall…but if you get a frame and rubber molding just make your own! I did…after I found an article online about a guy who did the same thing….maybe$75…..

    1957 Alumacraft DEEP C

    • 16 conductorjonz
      July 14, 2010 at 7:51 am

      I’ve thought about making one. I nned to find the article. In the meantime, I did find one that “works” from an old boat I scrapped.

      Thanks for the input!!


  10. 17 paul
    August 6, 2010 at 10:41 am

    i am trying to locate a red steering wheel and pulley assembly for a 1958 alumnicraft. Does anyone have any leads or suggestions? thanks. Paul

    • 18 conductorjonz
      August 6, 2010 at 11:07 am

      I see them pop up on the auction sites. Keep an eye out. Red is a little tougher to come by. You can always paint it with a good paint like Plasti Kote Bumper paint.

      Good luck!


  11. 19 Dick Iacono
    August 30, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    I recently bought a 18 foot queen merrie. The title lists it as a 1954 model. The model or serial number stamped on the rear frame mount is 0152. I called Alumacraft Co. in St. Peter,MN. and was told that Alumacraft did not introduce the 18 foot queen merrie until 1958. Can any one help me out on this.Is my title wrong?. I have a Yamaha 50 hp 4 stroke motor on it.It has a new transom. I haven’t had a chance to put it in the water yet. I’ve always wanted a queen merrie. I recently lettered LAZY IKE on the sides. It should be an eye catcher. Lake Minnetonka is has a boat parade every year. I may try to enter it this year. Dick

    • 20 conductorjonz
      August 30, 2010 at 8:41 pm

      Hi Dick!

      Great boats. If that is what Aluma Craft has told you///I’d believe it. They seem to be very good about helping with records…even after all these years. By all means…do the parade! Nothing is more fun than showing off with other vintage boats.

      Good luck!


  12. 21 Dick Iacono
    September 1, 2010 at 1:16 am

    thanks greg for the reply.! may have to check with the dnr about the title. customer service at the alumacraft co. asked me to send them the serial no. I have done so but have as of yet I yet not heard back from them. Dick

  13. 22 James
    July 24, 2011 at 11:56 am

    Greg, first off that is a beautiful Alumacraft! secondly, I had been looking to restore a wooden boat for years now, but after seeing what a polished aluminum boat looks like, I went out there and bought a 1955 Lone Star, which I believe is the Admiral model. anyways, long story short, i basically had no idea about polishing aluminum boats until I found your blog. after I sanded and went over the sides with the 3m super duty compound, and began putting the final polish on it is turning out to be a mirror finish in some spots and cloudy in others. so my question is, did this ever happen to you? and do you have any idea of what could be causing it, or maybe something I should just live with…

    • 23 conductorjonz
      July 25, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      Oh yeah! It happened to me. Buff some more…as chances are there are micro scratches that need buffing or the aluminum may get overheated due to buffing in one spot too long. Keep after it. You may also want to try a foam pad and some less aggressive compound.

      Good luck!


  14. 24 Ed August
    February 29, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    Wow, what a beauty. I just got a Model FD with an original steering console from my dad. He bought it new in 1956 and in 1963 put an 18HP Evinrude on it…which I just got started and running beautifully. I have a new appreciation for these sweetheart boats like yours and mine. They are amazing pieces. No leaks after 50 years and just purr down the lake. Love your pics!

    • 25 conductorjonz
      March 1, 2012 at 8:47 am

      Not only do the survive well due to construction, but they ride well…especially for an aluminum boat! Well designed vessels.

      I sold mine recently and am on to another project…or two.

      Take care! Thanks for checking in!


  15. 26 Bob Karaffa
    March 13, 2012 at 10:22 pm

    Is there anyone who has a Aluma Craft FDR for sale? I would love to get one for my wife as she always talks about her grandfather having one. Where do I look? Any ideas.

    • 27 conductorjonz
      March 14, 2012 at 7:41 am

      Hi Bob!

      I would check the Aluma Craft Yahoo Group or AOMCI.ORG webvertize section. Those boats are nice boat, and ride well, but that is why they aren’t found often. The owners usually keep them.

      Good luck.


    • 28 Robert Doherty
      August 2, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      i have one ever thing is in good shape number 625 i got from nh. needs transome wood to be changed but thats about it

      • 29 conductorjonz
        November 28, 2012 at 11:17 am

        I sold the “FDR” and miss it. Great riding boat…especially for an aluminum boat!

        The wood on my transom looked bad, but I sanded it and rubbed linseed oil in and it was like new.


  16. 30 john
    December 8, 2013 at 9:09 pm

    I found an Alumacraft R-6 in a barn it came with an 18HP Evinrude Golden Gubilee. Overall in very good shape still has the original transom and tags. Any chance would anybody know if this boat would have come with seat backs? Also the steering wheel is in the center of the boat is this correct. I plan to start working on it in spring. It only needs some polishing, seat wood replaced and fresh paint on the motor. It starts and runs great but is too faded to bring the color back.

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