Vintage Boat Event Season is Upon Us

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From the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey to the American Century Golf Classic filled with celebrities, there are a lot of summer traditions that happen around Lake Tahoe. Back in the 1930s & 40s, Carnelian Bay was a popular spot for boat racing and recreational boating. Formal boat racing no longer takes place, but there is still a really cool event featuring vintage boats of that era.

Concours d’Elegance

Concours D'Elegance - Image taken by Steve Natale
Concours d’Elegance – Image taken by Steve Natale

In its 47th year, the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance is the shining example of what this style show is about. This “Super Bowl” of Wooden Boat week in Lake Tahoe comes with multiple social gatherings and judged events that determine which boat in its class fit these extremely tight standards. The boats that win are not just considered great, but world class. This week of fun is also open to the public and gives everyone the opportunity to “judge” for themselves.

The two major days to check out the vintage boats are as follows:

Friday, August 9th
Show: 10am – 4:30pm
Awards Ceremony: 6pm

Saturday, August 10th
Show: 9am – 4:30pm
Roar-Off: 4pm


A Wooden Boat Introduction & Beginner’s Guide

Vintage Wooden Boats

To help introduce beginners to this world, here is a quick guide to some boat manufacturers you might see at the Concours d’Elegance.


Started in 1874 & based in the Detroit area, this company originally made power boats for the likes of Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst. They also were the first to mass produce power boats, making ownership of a boat not just for the wealthy anymore. The middle class could actually afford to buy one too! By the 1950’s, Chris-Craft was still considered one of the finest boat manufacturers in the world and offered over 159 models covering the entire spectrum of people’s incomes.

Century Boat Company

Century Vintage Wooden Boat Garb Tahoe South Wooden Boat Show Concours D'Elegance
Photo by: Local Freshies®

Started in 1926 in Milwaukee, their company specialty was its ability to make extremely fast wooden plank hulls. They were so fast that one of the hulls set the world record in 1930 with their boat called Century Hurricane, recording a speed of 50.93 mph. That’s fast in a wooden power boat!

Garwood Industries aka “Gar Wood”

Garwood Vintage Wooden Boat Garb Tahoe South Wooden Boat Show Concours D'Elegance
Photo by: Local Freshies®

Garfield Wood, the owner of Garwood Industries, was what you could consider the classic 1920’s “showman.” He was always trying to drum up business with a new gimmick or a flashy way to do what he loved doing most… going fast. He personally broke the world speed record five times in a boat and won five straight Gold Cup races between 1917 and 1921. He continued to build wooden power boats until 1947.

Hacker Boat Co.

Split Second – 34' Replica of a 1927 Hacker Race Boat - Image taken by Steve Natale
Split Second – 34′ Replica of a 1927 Hacker Race Boat – Image courtesy Steve Natale

The oldest builder of wooden motorboats in the world was founded by a man named John Ludwig Hacker in Detroit. He was a naval architect and one of the most famous motorboat designers in the world. His out of the box thinking for engineering and motorboat design is still seen in all boats today. The most famous design is the “V”- hull. Before Hacker motorboats had round narrow hulls, which caused the boat to “squat” instead of “plane” through the water. People thought “planing” was dangerous and needed to be avoided at all costs. He proved everyone wrong by building the “Au Revoir” with his revolutionary V-hull design. In 1908, it was considered the fastest in the world. With this success, Hacker Boat Co. was born.

Big thanks to Steve Natale for all the great photos & education. Can’t get enough? Go here to see more of his amazing photos!

One thought on “Vintage Boat Event Season is Upon Us

  1. I have an older wooden Chris Craft. About 21 feet. single engine. It has two fins ( fiber glass ). what is the model? Trying to decide whether to restore it or sell it.

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