Gar Wood Boats Showcase 2019
Garfield Arthur Wood, born in 1880, was the third of twelve children born to Elizabeth & Walter Wood. Walter was a steamboat captain near Minneapolis and eventually captained a Great Lakes freighter out of Duluth. One of Gar’s first jobs was running a gasoline launch around the harbor where he figured out a way to make it run faster.
The Gar Wood name became famous due to his ingenuity and competitive spirit. Gar Wood invented and manufactured hydraulic dump truck bodies; the money he made from that business allowed him to build and race boats. He moved that business to Detroit to be closer to the truck makers. Here he met Chris Smith and his son Jay who were building boats in Algonac on the St. Clair River. In 1916 he purchased a race boat in an auction that they had not been paid for building. This started a partnership of their building Gar Wood Boats. Gar Wood won the Gold Cup and/or Harmsworth Trophy 13 times in 15 years. In 1922 this partnership was dissolved, but Chris Smith and Sons Boat Co. continued to build boats for him until 1929. The boat company was now too busy building their own boats, so Gar was forced to build a new boat plant in Marysville north of Algonac. All Gar Woods ranging in size from 15 to 40 feet were built there until 1947, when the plant was closed by the Wood family after Gar sold his stock; and it was apparent that the boat division was never going to be profitable enough.
For 25 years Gar Wood, who became known as “the Silver Fox”, designed & built the finest boats of its time including a few 50 ft. cruisers and a 70 ft. cruiser that he bought back from the original owner for his personal use. The owner’s wife was afraid to ride in it, because it went too fast. There were approximately 3300 Gar Wood boats built. Replicas are still being built by the Turcotte Brothers in New York. The 2018 ACBS Directory lists 303 Gar Woods including 41 replicas
Sources : Gar Wood BOATS, Classics of a Golden Era; and The American Wooden Runabout, both by Anthony S. Mollica, Jr.