November / December 2020

Saving a Speedliner

A restoration from the heart

In the 1940s and ’50s, the name Speedliner was one of the most recognized in the world of mahogany runabouts. The author recently rehabilitated a Tropicana model, Speedliner No. 226.

Sitting in my driveway on its weathered rusty trailer with the treadless tires, Speedliner No. 226 looked a little different from the one I saw through rose-colored glasses in Steve Schomburg’s boatshop only a few hours earlier. The mahogany boat I had initially seen was a classic wooden runabout straight out of the 1950s. I’d imagined myself sitting behind the red steering wheel wearing black Wayfarers as my grandkids scrambled around on the red-and-white seat cushions beside me. The wind and spray blew in our hair as we cruised the lake on a warm summer weekend waving to friends and fellow boaters.

It seemed the farther I got from the shop, pulling the Speedliner carefully down the side streets and backroads of our little river town of St. Joseph, Missouri, the worse the boat looked in the rearview mirror. Even the trailer looked rattier when I finally pulled into my home on Lovers Lane and rehearsed again in my head how I would explain this boat project to my wife.

As I surveyed the bottomless runabout with the mostly missing top deck, and with the cracked and yellowed windshield lying across the front seat tied down with bungee cords to the oak battens, I dreaded the penetrating question my wife would ask: “Greg, what were you thinking?” I wondered the same thing as I switched tactics and searched for a rationalization.

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