Switzer Craft

by Chuck Petersen

Of the many boats I have operated or taken a ride in, my all-time favorite has to be my dad’s 1953 14’ Switzer Craft, Class D Marathon Racer. Besides looking like a rocket with its original MK40H Mercury screaming its special song — it is fast! With identical power plants, the Switzer will leave my Aristo Craft 14’ Torpedo in its wake by 10 mph. No wonder they were the “weapon of choice” by marathon racers in the 1950’s.

Russ and son, Bob Switzer, built their first boat in 1946 for their personal use in Chicago, Illinois. When neighbors and friends asked if they could order similar craft, a shop was set up in McHenry, near the Fox River. Most hulls built between 1949 and 1952 were 10 1/2 to 14’ runabout Speedsters. The Baby Bullet, 11’ Class A or B utility became very popular. Family friend, Stu Anderson, has a 1952 Class B model with Merc MK20H power.

While brother Dave Switzer became the chief designer, and mom was secretary/treasurer, Bob was making a name for himself on the facing scene. One of the biggest events of the year was the Winnebago Marathon held near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In 1952, Switzer Crafts finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the Class D 40 CID class. My dad thought this was fairly impressive and ordered a new hull in 1953. Used for some local racing, the boat primarily has seen duty impressing the girls (my mom included) and scaring the heck out of little kids (my brother Jim and I included.) Still in mint condition, my dad and I trailered his Switzer Craft to the Antique Race Boat Regatta in Clayton, New York in 1996.

Jerry Petersen’s 1953 Switzer Bullet at the Clayton, NY Show.
In the late 1950’s, a wide variety of pleasure craft were added to the line including some “mini-cruisers.” The Bullet racer gave way to the “Shooting Star” 15’ gentlemen’s speedster. While a bit slower and not a true racing hull, the Shooting Star was very unique and offered comforts including padded seats and a windshield. During this period, racing efforts focused on the OPC or Outboard Pleasure Craft division. The Shooting Star 16’ hull, powered by Mercury 6 cylinder engines up to100 hp were fast indeed. By the mid-1960’s Switzer Craft had moved to nearby Crystal Lake, Illinois and converted to fiberglass hulls, like most firms of the day. Unlike many, however, Switzer made a successful conversion and many sleek hulls built into the 70’s and 80’s can be seen around the country.