I did some research on the East Coast based Fleetcraft boats after redoing a 1957 Fleetcraft Imperial that has been in my family since my uncle bought it new in Michigan in 1957. As has been noted here, another Fleet Craft company was based in California, producing larger hulls than what i found for the East coast Fleetcraft boats. I obtained some early sales brochures from a man in NJ who had bought a plywood Fleetcraft in 1954, and apparently the company was just getting into fiberglass hulls about then. I also called the owner/designer of Fleetcraft boats in 1996 or so. His name was Mel Bukowsky, and he was happy to spend a few minutes discussing the boats with me.
Being based in NJ, he knew his customers would be using the boats in the ocean, so he designed the bows to be very buoyant, so they would ride over bigger waves, and so that the passengers could ride up front where it was drier. He also designed the transom and stern to efficiently plane use smaller motors, like the commonly used 25 to 30 HP motors of the time. He was not pleased to hear I was using a '59 Evinrude 50 on mine, and truthfully it is a lot of weight for that narrow stern and low transom. He was very pleased that I was still using one of his Imperials and said they were the top of the line in the late 50's. I recently learned that he passed away in 2012 at age 81.
Two of the sales brochures are from about the mid 50's, but are not dated. the earlier one is probably 1954, since it described the boat the NJ fellow had. The second is about 1956 and has a 14' hull called the Holiday that would become the Fleetcraft Imperial in 1957. It has a lot of the same Philippine mahogany wood trim, but lacks the distinctive fins and the fancy upholstery and rear deck. I am not sure how long the fins and the single layer fibereglass hulls were sold, but someone on Fiberglassics has one that may be from 1959.
The last brochure is from 1967, and I am not sure if it is the same company, since the hulls are much larger and have a double bottom, and the Fleet Craft name is spelled in two words instead of one. This is the Company associated with the Flotilla Corporation in Woodbine NJ. The earlier years brochures are still in the NJ area, one in Philadelphia PA, and one in Palmyra NJ. It could be that Flotilla bought the earlier company, but I cannot say.
Attached is a picture of my 57 Imperial, and there are a couple of other shots in the projects section. the sales brochures are attached as pdf's and since they are scans of copies are not perfect, but may be a good resource for others.
I sent you an email but I believe I have the same exact boat with some slight differences. I do not have the wooden struts that extend from the windshield to the back of the front seat and my stern light is in the middle. I would love to know more as the boat came with no insignias, no engine, although it had Johnson electro controls. I run it now with a 1960 Mercury 400E but it is underpowered.
Thanks, Paul, and I got your email. There are more pictures of the boat as it looked when I redid it years ago and of the original upholstery style, in the thread concerning Bilnan's Fleetcraft restoration, and I started one recently in members projects too, showing the boat as it is now, with all the wood out of it again. Second time I have done it. The FG library has the brochures I sent in, (or see links above) so maybe that can help you out. The windshield brackets are kind of fragile, and kids swinging in could do them in, so I would guess you may find some fastener holes, but perhaps it came that way. I think that makes about 4 of them including mine that I have seen pictures of either here or on the net.
Not pleased to hear that you think the Merc 40 is under powered for the boat, since I am putting a '57 Mark 55 on mine. I guess we'll see, but I was pretty sure I would miss the big Evinrude 50. I still have it so maybe it will be back on some day. You are not that far from where I live in Maine, so let me know if you are going by on I-295 with the boat on vacation. It's an easy stop.
Hello Ron, Thanks for the quick reply. I bought the boat in RI, the seller had two of them and wanted to keep the best one, It came with NJ beach parking stickers on the back but very old RI registration (which they would not let me keep). There are holes which I now assume were for the windshield brackets. If you can please respond to my email and I can send more pictures and maybe even make a trip up North! Thanks for everything, Paul
I recently acquired a couple of Fleetcraft brochures from the early fifties. These show some progression of design, and the loss of a couple of larger models.
The 1950 brochure is a 2 pager and all the boats are plywood. There are two larger 16 footers, both cuddy cabin models, including a rather cute Dinette Cruisabout. The boats sport different looking transoms, with a lot of tumblehome.
The 1952 brochure is a 1 page flyer and the cuddies seem to be gone. The 14's are plywood and the 14' clipper has a different transom and shows a lot of features that I see in my 1957 Imperial. the 12 footers are combination fiberglass and mahogany for the first time, and again, some of the features from these early boats carried over to the later 50's fiberglass 14's, like my Imperial. I see the same transom knees and stern braces and the V shaped footrest up front, plus the deck structure, dashboard and seating arrangement, though there is no pass thru in the center deck.
These brochures tie together the 50's design progression up to the '56 year if put with the earlier submissions. I will look for something that has my '57 or the later 50's in it, to get the whole 50's picture.
I will post detailed images of the boat in a week or so along with all the info I know about the boat. I am traveling a lot right now.
First ride: The boat is very tail heavy. I have moved the battery to the front just ahead of the foot rest. ( kept to original floor piece and made a custom floor with battery compartment)
The ride is very harsh in any kind of chop. I think it's the nature of light, thin glass hulls...
Stability. This is not a stable boat right now. I do not have a lot of experience with little outboards, At speed when I turned, the boat went into a back and forth wip. Yanked the power and she straightened out. Could the steering cables be too loose?
The stability issue is significant and potentially very dangerous, any help here would be greatly appreciated.
Water: at moderate or faster straight line cruising, water
"flows" over the transom. It's splashing from the lower engine shaft. Is the motor too low in the water? It is a short shaft Merc 40. It may be trimmed a bit nose down. any ideas would be appreciated.
I am get back there a fabricate some sort of baffle if there are no other solution.
Thanks in advance to all.
I have attached an image of the next project - The tow vehicle... This is a 1957 Almquist Sabre there are 4-5 of these out there. This is one of the first "kit" cars sold in America. I think it will be the perfect tow vehicle for car and boat shows. Fiberglass body on Crosley frame. Engine will be a 1929 Ford V8-60 ( tiny flathead ford v8)
I found the boat at a body shop for sale cheep and rotting. I found the car on ebay in a field for 800.00.... I think they're two of the coolest finds ever. My wife thinks my head is way up my ass.... I have been banned from any sort of future buys. ( well at least until I see something really cool... right?)