Happiest Day – by Bob Speltz (1976)

Happiest Day
Story by Bob Speltz
Reprinted from Antique Boating, Winter, 1976

Antique Boating Editor’s Note:
The era of restoring antique boats is just coming alive after a slow dawning. Within this relatively short span of time, the love for old boats is becoming a father and son hobby, and in some instances, a business.
In ANTIQUE BOATING, Vol. I No. 3, July 1974, page 18, the title read “FRANK WARNER, King of Antique Boat Collectors.” Less than two years later, in January 1976, the ‘King’ welcomed a loyal subject, his son, Todd, to the Warner’s kingdom of boats. The antique boating movement will certainly benefit from this injection of youthful energy.
Equally as illustrious is the youthful writer of this story. Bob Speltz overcomes the confining need of a dialysis machine at least three times a week to pursue his vigorous interest in antique boats. Both Bob and Todd have spearheaded the First Annual Lake Minnetonka Antique and Classic Boat Rendezvous and the recent formation of the Land 0 Lakes Chapter of The Antique and Classic Boat Society, Inc. Congratulations to both and continued success in all future endeavors.  (This note is part of original article, webmaster)

Back in January 1976 preliminary plans were laid to make a visit up to Lake Minnetonka and see first hand, the collection of fine old classic and antique speedboats owned by Frank Warner and his son, Todd. A number of phone calls later, it was decided that Tuesday, July 21st, would be “D” day. A good friend, Paul Vandersyde, of Albert Lea, Minnesota drove up with me and we were in for a real treat in the hours to come!
Upon arrival, we met Todd a genial, outgoing young man of 22, who led us down to his dock where we loaded cameras, briefcases, etc., aboard and headed out on the lake. The boat we rode in was a mint 1965 18’ Century Sabre with Gull Wing top. The boat has less than 50 actual hours and is in splendid shape.

Lake Minnetonka has numerous arms, bays, and some 500 miles of shoreline. For the first hour and half we slowly cruised about the lake, dock-hopping from place to place, admiring other restored speedboats that Todd thought we should see. I was busy snapping photos and slides of as many of the boats as possible. Prior to eating lunch, we stopped at Frank Warner’s home where we had a short visit. Frank’s docks consist of seven covered slips with hoists, and containing, among others, a rare 19 three-cockpit Hackercraft and an 18’ Chris Craft twin-cockpit runabout with barrel bow and stern which has yet to be restored. At 1 p.m., we idled into the posh harbor at “Fletcher’s on the Lake”, a swank watering hole, and favorite stop for Minnetonka boaters. After tying up at the docks, we went in, and there met Mr. Jim Hauptman, Editor and Publisher of the new boating magazine, INLAND SKIPPER. Discussion quickly centered on the merits of various types of antique boats, and plans for our upcoming antique and classic boat get together scheduled for August. More about the show later on!

After lunch, Jim, Paul, Todd and I boarded the Century and headed over to the ‘boat barn’ – the real reason for our trip. Upon entering a small bay, we tied up in a municipal dock area and strolled across the street to see the “fleet”! Out in front of the building we saw an early 1950s Correct Craft and a 1956, 26’ Chris Craft day cruiser parked on trailers. Todd opened the large swinging doors and here is the array of boats that lay before our eyes:

1953 26’ Riva speedboat with twin engines
1937 27’ Chris Craft, 3 cockpit, 2 windshield runabout
with 285 hp, V-8 engine
I932 16’ Chris Craft split cockpit runabout
1915 Dowsett Canadian runabout – former rumrunner
near Detroit
1947 Chris Craft 16’ Utility
1947 20’ custom twin cockpit runabout with folding top
1947 I7’ Higgins utility
1949 racing runabout with 159 IIP
1950 racing runabout with I59 hp 1929 26’ 3-cockpit
Hackercraft runabout
1937 19’ Chris Craft sports runabout (only other one
known to exist is owned by the Chris Craft family)
1935 22’ Chris Craft 3-cockpit runabout
1928 24’ Chris Craft runabout with original convertible top
1930 30’ Hackercraft 3-cockpit runabout with Landau top

After crawling over, under and through these fine boats, we were destined to see even more. Up in a small grove behind the ‘barn’ were a number of other speedboats wrapped in tarps and resembling huge cocoons. I tried shooting
photos in the building and in the woods, but I am afraid it was too dark. Here are the boats we saw in the woods:

1926 26’ Hackercraft runabout
1958 Century Coronado
1948 20’ Ventnor runabout with a rear fin
1936 16’ yellow Mullins steel Sea Eagle runabout

Behind the boat barn on the lower level we finally saw Todd’s prize possessions: a I955, 20’ Chris Cobra; a 1955, 24’ Shepherd hardtop; and a 1958, 23’ Chris Craft Continental with hard top. After seeing all these fine boats, I really look forward to seeing many of them in our boat show later this summer.

On returning to Todd’s home, we sat down to get a little background information for this story. In reminiscing, Todd said he had always been interested in wooden boats and had spent his high school summers working for the local Century dealer pumping gas. Todd’s dad, Frank Warner, set up a trust called “Todd Leasing” as he put it, “to perpetuate antique boats and boating in the family”. Frank’s dad had always had boats on the lake, too, and it appears that Todd gets his interest from both his dad and his grandfather.

Todd is now very much in the boat business himself. Starting last January, he has been actively selling, buying and restoring boats for his many customers. He said that he has received many fine leads and the day we were there he had some 12 boats for sale from the 1930s through the 1960s.

Recently Todd has become a dealer distributor for both Federal and Michigan props and he can custom build any shaft size to order. Even more astounding is that he has access to all the pre-1965 Century hardware molds, so he can make any parts that collectors may need. Electroplating services are also available.

It was soon 6 p.m. and time to head home. A day had just passed that neither of us will forget. Again, Frank and Todd, “thanks” for all the kindnesses shown to us and all I can say is that people like you can do nothing but help the antique and classic boat interest in the United States.