Top: 1940 John L. Hacker Thunderbird; bottom: 1931 Gar Wood Dispatch

As summer unfolds, collectors, enthusiasts, and aficionados around the world are preparing to lower their most prized possessions into the water.

Wooden boats are works of art crafted of mahogany, brass, chrome, leather, and glass, and they are a testament to American craftsmanship and attention to detail. Classic wooden powerboats are not only elegant but highly sought after in this day and age where we gravitate to the beautiful designs of an earlier era. Models like Racing Runabout, Baby Gar, Super Aquarama, Streamliner, Beavertail, Rocket, Ski-Bee, and Torpedo offered creative names that were equaled by their jaw-dropping designs.

If you can see yourself behind the wheel of an amazing wooden watercraft, here are several resources that can assist you in making that happen. 

But don’t be deceived by looks alone. Lesson learned by young Billy Ray in On Golden Pond, who challenged Norman Thayer (Henry Fonda), asking, “So, how fast does this old tub go anyway?” Norman replied by opening up the throttle on THAYER IV, a 1950 Chris-Craft Sportsman, sending the doubting adolescent straight to the aft of the boat, flat on his back. You see, these beauties pack some serious horsepower that is sure to thrill even the most determined speed seeker.

Although there have been many talented boat builders, we have selected just a few of our favorites to share with you. These include Chris-Craft, Hacker-Craft, Gar Wood, and Century Boats — all exceptional American wooden-boat builders with designs and model names that catch our attention. In addition, we have included the exquisite Riva, the Italian brand which has been crafting boats since 1842.
1940 John L. Hacker Thunderbird

Not only do these classic wooden boats offer hours of incredible enjoyment, they evoke enough onlooker envy to satisfy any owner. Once the leisure toy reserved for the rich and famous, touting owners such as Sophia Loren, Dean Martin, Katharine Hepburn, Elvis Presley, and William Randolph Hearst, these dream boats are still the ultimate summer lake accessory, guaranteed to get you noticed every time.