Get used to hearing this phrase: “vintage flatbottom.”
No, we’re not talking about your Great Aunt Charlene after four too many shots of Bailey’s late on Thanksgiving night. BOATS, son. As in, a slab of well-sculpted late-Fifties thru early-Seventies fiberglass with tuck-n-roll naugahyde seats backed up by a wicked mid-century mill of your choice pushing a simple propeller across a glassy lake/river/large pond/estuary/whatever.
The rainmakers of hotrodding have been quietly hitching up these vintage boats that’ve been collecting dust on their trailers for decades and pulling them out into the sunlight over the last, oh, three to five years or so. And digging the hell outta them.
And it makes total sense: vintage fiberglass is hot now – ever seen what one of Andy Brizio’s Instant T bodies are commanding these days? An old flatbottom boat is box-of-hair simple: motor, hull, steering wheel, go-hardware…not much more than that to work on. And the motors…ah, those bitchin’ motors: Nailheads, weird Olds’ and Buicks, big Fords and Mercuries and MELs, all topped with polished arrestors and lots of neat, vintage, polished aluminum boat speed equipment…tasty stuff and we can never get enough of it.
All that cool junk in an overly simplified go-fast configuration and you’ve got a water-tight (hopefully) little hot rod that can scoot across a lake at 50mph and it’ll feel like you’re doing twice that. Plus the motor is exposed and looks killer just slightly nestled into the shallow cavity of one of these things. Guys like Mike Smith of California Hot Rods, Dave Tanimura of San Bruno, CA, Jimmy Shine of So-Cal Speed Shop, Jimmy White of Circle City Hot Rods, Paul Borrmann of Borrmann Steel, Bill Wishart of the Road Zombies CC, Frankie Corpening and Jessie Newell and more we’re uncovering as we speak have all been snatching up old flatbottoms, throwing a spare set of Cragars or Americans on the trailer, bolting a hitch receiver to the rearends of their shop trucks and heading for any body of water big enough to make a few “Top Gun” buzz-the-tower passes through a no-wake zone on.
Even the Nor-Cal Billetproof car show had its first vintage flatbottom display over the weekend and half a dozen bitchin’ old boats were on display. And we spend the day, yesterday, testing out two of them.
Look for more of these things to turn up at shows and watch reliability runs turn into days on the lake. Whoever says that the two best days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys and the day he sells his either owns some goofy-looking new, soul-less cabin cruiser or never took a ride in an old Sanger or Mandella or Howard or Rayson Craft…you get the idea. We ain’t saying that we’re gonna start seeing cars being forsaken for boats, but we are saying that these old boats are the right combination of parts and the time is right in our era of Revivalism for a new interest in them.