From Classic Boat Library
A Brief History
By Dan Milford - April 6, 2004</b>
The Sidewinder trademark (for boats) was filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on January 6, 1969, under the name of Los Altos Marine Incorporated, located at 4898 El Camino Real, Los Altos, California. In their 1969 model full colour brochure, Sidewinder Boats claimed to be the world's largest designer/producer of V-bottom ski boats, with manufacturing facilities in California and Canada. Built for speed, Sidewinders were designed for the ultimate in racing, skiing, and personal pleasure. World record holder, Ken Baker, had designed two high performance hulls - the famous V bottom and the new tunnel. These hulls were multi-laminated and assembled by hand. Variety and choice were the order of the day with standard and deluxe versions, thirty-two colour combinations, and power plants from outboard through inboard-outboard and jet available. Appointed with choices of metalflake trim, racing stripes, tuck and roll wrap around vinyl seating, and colour keyed all weather carpeting, these stylish, powerful, and manoeuvrable boats turned heads at many a beach. (In fact they still do!)
Models available in 1969 were the V- bottom, low profile (Lo Pro) designs in 16 and 18 ft. lengths. Both could be had in the Deluxe version (16 ft. at 750 lb. and 18 ft. at 900 lb.) or the "stripped down" (100 lb. lighter) Standard versions. They could be had in outboard (135 hp max for the16 and 150 hp max for the 18), inboard/outboard (140 hp max for the 16 and 225 hp max for the 18) or jet drive (350 hp max for the 16 and 500 hp max for the 18 - although text in the brochure claims up to 600 horsepower was available!) Engines up to 455 cu. in. could be had. The tunnel model version, used predominately for racing, was available in either a 15 ft. or 17 ft. length, and could be custom built for single, double and triple outboard engine classes.
The revolutionary Super Sidewinder 16/18 ft. design was filed for a patent (by Ken Baker and Ronald Plescia) in the US on October 17, 1969 and granted patent on November 3, 1970 (Patent Number 219,118). Subsequent patent designs were filed and granted for the 14 ft. Super, XL deep-vee, and XL Tri-hull.
In 1970, Sidewinder relocated from Los Altos, up the road to 3545 El Camino Real, Palo Alto. In 1970 and '71 boats were also manufactured in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Meanwhile Sidewinders were being manufactured under the Cobra name, by California Fiberglass Limited in British Columbia, Canada.
In 1971, Ken Baker, president of Sidewinder Marine, Inc. in Palo Alto, California was in litigation over a lawsuit filed by Sidewinder Marine against twenty manufacturers, who had copied the revolutionary Super Sidewinder design, first produced in 1970. Imitators included Marlin, Tahiti, Wriedt, and Taylor. In 1971/72 production moved from Palo Alto to Anderson, CA. and by July 1972, at least four manufacturers had admitted infringement on the Sidewinder design patents. About 1971 Canadian Sidewinder production moved to Ontario, where, by 1972, they were manufactured as Sidewinders - not Cobras, by California Glass Marine.
In 1974 the Thompson Boat Company purchased manufacturing rights for Sidewinder boats and continued to manufacture them under the Sidewinder banner at Peshtigo, Wisconsin. Later Sidewinders (by this time only the 16 and 18 ft. Super models) were built by Thompson in St. Charles, Michigan and finally in Swan Creek, Michigan.
In Canada the last Sidewinders were made in the late 1980's and California Glass Marine folded in the early '90's. The last US Sidewinder (the 18SS) appeared in the 1990 Thompson Boat Company brochure. Thompson met its demise in September 2002, when the assets were sold in a liquidation auction.