From Classic Boat Library
Dan Arena Company
Arena Craft Corporation
Formed by the famous speedboat racer of the same name, the Dan Arena Company built boats in Mt. Clemens, Macomb County, beginning about 1953. The company was located at 32020 N. River Road. Daniel J. Arena incorporated the firm in 1955 as Arena Craft Corporation.
In late 1955 the company introduced the Barracuda, offered in three models. The single cockpit, three-passenger Sportster, the double-cockpit, six-passenger runabout, and the open, six-passenger utility were all 19 ft. 6 inches long, had a beam of 6 ft. 9 inches, and a draft of 20 inches. The models differed in finish and in the styling of the after decks. The hull was constructed of laminated, pressure-molded, polyester bonded Fiberglas, with a reinforced double bottom designed to give maximum rigidity, strength and flotation characteristics. The boat was powered by a 175 h.p. Dearborn Interceptor engine and speeds of up to 50 m.p.h. were reported by the company.
Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record. The Directory of Michigan Manufacturers, 1953 (Detroit, MI: Manufacturer Publishing Co., 1952). p. 295--classified products section. p. 198--geographical section.
Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record. The Directory of Michigan Manufacturers, 1955 (Detroit, MI: Manufacturer Publishing Co., 1954). p. 365--classified products section. p. 237--geographical section.
Michigan Manufacturer and Financial Record. The Directory of Michigan Manufacturers, 1957 (Detroit, MI: Manufacturer Publishing Co., 1956). p. 389--classified products section. p. 258--geographical section.
Boats, November 1955, p. 4.
Dan Arena's racing history can be found at the Hydroplane and Raceboat Museum.
On June 28, 1957 a legal case was filed against Garzell Plastics Industries, Inc., Arena Craft Corp., and Dan Arena for wrongful death because of a drowning that occurred when a boat manufactured by Garzell and sold by Arena Craft agents broke and foundered in the Potomac River.
In 1961, Arena Craft, Inc. was found listed as a subsidiary of Inboard Boat Co. along with A.R.A. Manufacturing Co.. The address for Arena Craft, Inc. was 350 Carlson Blvd., Richmond, California (see 1961 model information below). In this year Arena Craft offered several models with the Buehler Turbocraft jet drive unit.
In 1970, Reinell Industries, Inc. purchased and re-organized Arena Craft Products, Inc. of Contra Costa, California. Arena Craft had $1.5 million in yearly sales at this time (Spokane Daily Chronicle, Jun 8, 1970). Arena Craft Products has also been found listed at 130 Buchanan Circle, Pacheco, California (See 1971 model information below).
Some available brochures & literature are below
An article written by Don Baker:
I would like to begin my article with a quotation from and internet posting that is written by Mr. Jerry Conrad. Mr. Conrad, a Chris-Craft archivist, gives an excellent overview of the history of Arena Craft and of the birth of the Barracuda. The quote is as follows: “Arena Craft was originally called Dan Arena Company. They changed their name in 1957. In that time frame, they built a 19’ fiberglass boat called a Barracuda. The boat was built on both coasts. Champion Fiberglass Industries of Miami were licensed to build the boat in Miami, while Dan Arena & Company built it in Modesto, California. There was a distributor in Michigan called Roberts & Olthouse.”
My research begins with a point of clarification and with the Roberts & Olthouse distributor. In 1957 Arena Craft changed the hull design of the original Barracuda Sportster and called the newly designed model a “Barracuda.” Thus, there are actually two different kinds of Barracuda boats. The original 1956 model goes by the name of “Barracuda Sportster” and the newer 1957 model goes by the simple name “Barracuda.” From my detective work, I was able to deduce that Roberts & Olthouse sold approximately fifty Barracudas and Barracuda Sportsters from their Michigan distributorship in the years from 1956-1959. My findings, unfortunately, end here. My research into the history and statistical background of the two Barracuda models continues! Thankfully, there are many differences that can be seen between the Barracuda Sportster and the Barracuda. First, there is a difference in the hull design. The Barracuda Sportster has a small v-shaped and flat bottom. This flat bottom design made the Sportster difficult to turn. In addition, the Sportster also had a reputation for breaking off rudders! The Barracuda model, on the other hand, has a slightly longer v-shape with rounded chines that are inset toward the rear. It ends with a 2’ flat bottom. Thus, the Barracuda model could have been built to correct the difficulties that came with the flat bottom design of the Sportster. There is an appreciable difference in the hardware that was used for the Sportster and Barracuda. The windshield on the Sportster is believed to be a 1953-1955 Corvette windshield. Barracuda windshield, however, is believed to be a 1956 Corvette windshield. In addition, it is thought that the 1956 Sportster had a 1955 Plymouth car steering wheel; the 1957 Barracuda‘s steering wheel, on the other hand, is probably a 1956 Plymouth car steering wheel. Fourth, the 1956 Sportster had a solid brass Chris Craft bow light. The 1957 Barracuda, in contrast, had an Attwood 9001 pot-metal bow light. Thus the differing hull designs, the differing windshields, the differing steering wheels and the differing bow lights all comprise the observable differences that exist between the Sportster and the Barracuda. Many similarities also exist between the Sportster and the Barracuda models. First, the two models were manufactured with the same dimensions (length, width, etc.). Next, the engines in both models are 312 Ford Interceptors. This engine is a 215 horsepower engine with YH Carter horizontal carburetors. It propelled both models at approximate top speed of 45-50 mph. Thus, these two boats were among the fastest in the world for their time period. Third, the gauges in both models were black-faced Stewart-Warner gauges. The gauge panel was constructed in solid brass in both models. The following hardware accessories were constructed in solid brass for both models: the rub rails (also chrome plated in both models), the name plate that is to the immediate right of the gage panel and the outside dual exhaust ports (they also read “Barracuda” in large letters for both models). Each model has a large chrome piece on the bow that is a 1956 Dodge hood ornament. Sixth, the 1956 Sportster came in the following four color combinations: red and white, aqua and white, green and white and pink and white. The 1957 Barracuda probably came in the same color combinations. However, only the aqua and white color combination can be verified at this time in accordance with my findings. Thus, you can observe that there are many similarities that exist between the Sportster and the Barracuda. In conclusion, this article is the collected effort of all my research. It can be updated as new information is forthcoming. Any new information would be greatly appreciated!
Please contact Don Baker at:
2540 Beeline Road
Holland, MI 49424 USA
Tel: (616) 399-7130.
Works Cited: Conrad, Jerry. “Arena Craft.” Response to Anita Crabtree, 25th August 1998. Please Note: Mr. Conrad works at Mariners museum and his specialty is Chris Craft boats, not Arena Craft Boats. Thank you.