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Buehler Turbocraft History Notes - By Royce A. Humphreys
In January of 1959, John Buehler, President of Indiana Gearworks in Indianapolis, Indiana teamed up with Bill Hamilton of Christchurch, New Zealand and secured the manufacturing rights to the C. W. F. Hamilton Company Limited's propulsion unit. John Buehler was a sportsman with a love of big game hunting and fishing. His primary business was the production of precision gears and allied components that were used in aircraft and rocket engines. After seeing the unique characteristics of the Hamilton Jet pump, his thoughts turned to the creation of the Marine Division of Indiana Gearworks. This new concern was named Buehler Turbocraft. Hamilton also licensed his design to Dowty Equipment of Canada.
Buehler immediately purchased the Heckel Plastics Products Company which had experience in building all types of sailboats. With the knowledge of fiberglass, Buehler retained the personnel of Heckel to build the first prototypes of inboard powered Jet Boats. Their first model was a 16' version with a six cylinder Ford industrial 233 cubic inch engine rated at 107 hp. This radical new design allowed the operator of the boat to run in water as shallow as 3". The engine was centrally placed in the hull like that of an ordinary propellor driven inboard boat. The jet pump was driven off of a drive shaft that was connected to the engine. This turned the stators inside of the pump, which drew water from a grate placed in the bottom of the boat and forced the water out of the pump at the stern of the boat. This first model of boat carried a price tag of $2900 in 1959 ran 32 MPH and weighed in at 1700 lbs. The engine options were then increased to carry the new V-8's to increase the top speed and power of the craft.
Buehler took five of these first models, equipped them with V-8's and took them west to Idaho to the Salmon River for testing. They ran against the rapids for an expedition to test the durability and reliability of the jet unit as the new way to power a boat. As the popularity of the new form of propulsion caught on with the buying public, so did the new styles, sizes and options that Buehler offered to the public.
Buehler then came out with and 18' model named the Jet 35. It was with this series of boats that they ran the Colorado River in August of 1960. This is expeditions is written up in the April 1962 edition of National Geographic Magazine complete with great photographs of the trip. The story is titled, "Nine Against The River"
Through the decade of the 1960's, Buehler had some exciting clientele. Among them were the Secret Service for the protection of the First Family. Jackie Kennedy owned a Jet 35 for water-skiing. In video clips from the Kennedy Administration, you will see John John Kennedy sitting on the lap of President Kennedy behind the wheel of a Jet 35.
Another notable story that has been told is that of Nikita Kruschev. In the late summer of 1962 he ordered a Jet 35 and it was on the transport plane to the Soviet Union in October of 1962 when it was called back in mid flight due to the Cuban Missile Crisis. In the 1965 James Bond Movie "Thunderball", a 19' Buehler Turbocraft was used for a cameo role of taking Commander James Bond back to shore with a beautiful women (of course). Buehler quickly capitalized on this and aptly named the new 19' model "Thunderball"
Buehler Turbocraft also licensed the used of the jet units to be used in other makes of boats. You will see the Buehler jet units in Chris Craft, Arena Craft, Century, Correct Craft, Borum, Formula, and Campbell.
As the decade of the 60's ensued, Buehler developed his line of boats from 16' up to 28' Sport Fisherman designs. Buehler hired the automotive designer Virgil Exner to design the 1967 model year line up. The catalogs of that era are a first rate production detailing a top- notch product. As the 1960's came to a close, the Buehler Turbocraft came upon hard times. When the Nixon Presidency came into being, so did government cuts in the defense budget. It was at this time that the Marine Division of Indiana Gearworks was sold in an effort save the core business of manufacturing precision gears for the aircraft industry. The Marine division was sold in May of 1971 and the last Turbocraft was produced. It was the end of an era!
July 1959 Popular Boating Test
Miscellaneous 1959 Information
1962 B&W Brochure
1962 B&W Brochure
1962 Cruiser Brochure
Buehler Patrol and Rescue Craft Brochure
Buehler Turbopower Brochure
Buehler Turbopower 200 Owner's Manual