Starting Over - Part 3

Third in a series about bringing an old boat back to life.

A new steering system was installed including shift cables along with new gauges. The upholstery was replaced as was the floor of the 38 year old boat.

An idea that hit Trailering Club Member Bob McCann earlier in the year to restore his 38-year old Sutphen Gran Sport ski boat has now come full circle. The finished product is turning heads-wherever it goes now. Here's Part Three of Trailering's series about Starting Over.

Last Spring Bob McCann and his wife Beth (Trailering's Associate Publisher) took a look at their old trailer boat that had been sitting under a canvas cover beneath a tree outside their home in Florida and decided The Time Had Come. Avid boaters for all of their lives, the McCann's trailered boat had been relegated to second fiddle since a larger 34-foot Welcraft was docked outside their home. The boat, a 1971 Sutphen Gran Sport had been in Bob's family since he was a child growing up near Boston (its design is still being used by Donzi today). When he married Beth, the boat was presented-in much better condition than now — as a wedding gift.

"It is a physical thing that connects us over the years, "Bob recalled when making the decision to have the boat brought back to life. "I am very lucky to be able to accomplish it financially and I am lucky to be able to do something like this for my father as he is getting on in years. Both he and I, his wife Rose, Beth and my girls have had a lot of memories of the times we have been boating with that boat."

The plan being hatched that Spring day was to have the boat completely renovated and then give it as a surprise to Bob McCann's father. "Surprise" may be an inadequate word to describe what happened in their driveway last August when his father came over for a visit.

"He got out of his car, saw the boat and just stood there," Bob said. "He was speechless. As the realization of what he was looking at started to connect with what we had done, he asked if this was new or that was new? I responded everything is new and if it isn't new, then it's been rebuilt. He did a complete walk around the boat, smiling and shaking his head at the same time."

The Chrysler 318 engine has been overhauled along with the Volvo outdrive. The bottom paint and the hull color were picked to match the upholstery.

There was a lot to see. The restoration project by Tony Fernandez and his crew at Supreme Marine & Exports just a few miles away in Ft. Lauderdale had taken more than two months to complete. When Tony first saw the boat, he knew all too well the amount of work that was going to be required. "But I looked at the McCann's," he remembers, "And I knew this boat had a lot of sentimental value. I'm in the business of building a new boat in the shape of the old one so that's what I did for the Sutphen."

That work included restoring the original power train that included a 318 Chrysler engine with a Volvo out drive — a topic that had been debated back and forth among the McCann's along with a few observations offered by Tony. The McCann's decided they wanted to keep the original drive train because they had no plans to use the boat on a daily basis and because they both enjoyed older cars as well as boats and, when possible, took pleasure in restoring them as well. Tony, on the other hand, had suggested a new Mercury power plant that would be low maintenance and no doubt more economical to run. But when the McCann's told him to keep it original, "original" was the way he went.

New steering and shift cables were installed, the upholstery was redone, the hull was repainted, the transom and stringers were replaced as a result of severe wood rot from sitting in humid Florida summers under a canvas cover. There were also a few modifications to the original design: an electric hatch cover was installed to open access to the engine instead of manually sliding covers, new style gauges were put into the cockpit along with a new steering wheel, battery switch, a blower (not required when the boat was built and an oil change hose on the bottom of the oil pan. Plans are set to add an automatic fire extinguisher. The boat now sits on an aluminum dual axle trailer (with mag wheels).

Three generations of McCann's, Bob's father and his wife, Bob and Beth and their two daughters have plans to take the boat to nearby Mt. Dora next month. This small town on Lake Dora northwest of Orlando is home to an antique boat festival and the re-knowned Renninger's Antique Extravaganza held on selected weekends in January, February and November. Chances are good, real good in fact, the boat will be turning heads there too.  

Read Starting Over, Part 1

Read Starting Over, Part 2

This article was published in Trailering Magazine.


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