Whirlwind Boats


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Whirlwind is a brand of boats built by Molded Products Inc. in Cockeysville, Maryland from 1948 to 1962.

Most Whirlwind boats were built using "molded plywood" construction, in which very thin strips of resin-impregnated wood were wrapped around a mold in overlapping layers. The resulting structure was then cooked in an autoclave using heat and vacuum to create a very strong, very light hull. This type of construction produced a smooth, sleek hull and eliminated the need for most interior ribs.


History

Molded Products Inc. was a descendant of Allied Plymold Corporation, a World War II maker of amphibious gliders. (Some sources refer to this company as "Allied Aviation Company".) Molded Products began building a very small number of boats in 1947. Advertisements for Whirlwind boats appeared as early as 1949.

Different production numbers are available from different sources. However, according to a model year and serial number chart found on company letterhead, between 11,870 and 14,520 Whirlwind boats were produced. Production peaked in the mid-1950s. However, production dropped off rapidly in the early 1960s, probably due to the arrival of fiberglass boats in the marketplace.

Here is the information from that chart. The first column is the model year, the second is the starting ("From") serial number and the third is the ending ("To") serial number.

Model Year

From

To

1951

2650

3600

1952

3600

4530

1953

4530

5720

1954

5720

6970

1955

6970

8260

1956

8260

9700

1957

9700

11180

1958

11180

12380

1959

12380

13200

1960

13200

13750

1961

13750

14230

1962

14230

14520

The obvious discrepancy here is that the "To" serial number for each year is the same as the "From" serial number for the next year. The serial number of Whirlwind boats is stamped into one of the wooden transom braces (the "knees").

A public auction was held on Oct. 9, 1962 to dispose of the assets of Molded Products, marking the end of Whirlwind production.


A Restoration Story:
The Guns That Weren’t There

The great tales of boat resurrection told here are truly inspiring. Loyal hulls, cast aside, left to rust and rot … are then rescued, lovingly refurbished over months and years. Then returned to the waters to bask in their newfound glory.

Alas, this tale is nothing like those tales…

Four summers ago, I decided to kill a hot summer morning by going to an auction at the home of an older gentleman. The sale flyer said there would be some interesting guns for sale. There weren’t.

However, out in the yard, there was a boat. A 13-foot Whirlwind. A brand I had never heard of.

But that didn’t matter. Under two decades of dust, you could see a great little boat. Its molded plywood hull was intact. All the fittings were still bright and shiny. The transom was solid, and the 18-horsepower Evinrude hanging from that transom looked neat and clean, if well used.

It turns out that the gentleman’s and his wife had bought the boat – a 1957 model – at least 30 years earlier to take their five kids out on the Susquehanna. (Yes, seven people in a 13-foot boat must have been quite a sight.)

Somehow, the boat became Mom’s boat. She cared for it, varnished it … and when she died at a relatively young age, it was pushed into a garage, covered and forgotten for decades.

I’m a fair mechanic and know even better mechanics. I could deal with any engine problems. But I’m a lousy woodworker. So I liked the prospect of getting a classic wooden boat needing relatively little wood work.

So I jumped into the bidding. Quickly, the competition was down to two … me versus an out-of-town collector. He started choking at $3,000. I got it for $3,200.

Too much? Perhaps.

And when I realized that the ancient Mastercraft trailer had more problems than the boat itself, I really started feeling I had paid too much.

Then the motor turned out to be in excellent condition, needing little more than a new impeller.

Then the glow of the mahogany was restored with a single layer of new varnish.

And then, once I slid a modern trailer under the Whirlwind, I learned what it’s like to go to a launch with a classic wooden boat…

Which has to be something like going to Yankee Stadium with a supermodel on your arm.

Everyone looks at you and just about everyone wants to talk to you.

To tell you how beautiful your boat is.

To tell you about their grandfather’s old boat.

To tell you about the time they went fishing with their father in their grandfather’s old boat.

To get misty eyed as they tell you how much they miss their father and grandfather.

And for reasons I don’t quite understand, the appeal of old boats seems to extend to all ages. The best example of that came in a grocery store parking lot.

I parked the truck, boat and trailer on the edge of the lot to avoid the busy traffic in front of the store. When I came out, I saw a slammed Honda – “slammed” as in excessively lowered and excessively loud – coupe sitting beside my truck way out on the edge of the lot.

And when I got there, a Hispanic kid in full adolescent regalia – baggy shorts, crooked hat, et al – stepped out and said, “Man, that’s a beautiful boat.”

We got three summers of great fun out of the Whirlwind. We even upgraded the motor to a 25-horsepower, electric-start Evinrude of the same vintage so my 100-pound wife could start it on her own.

But the small size of the boat kept me looking elsewhere for something a bit bigger … a search that sped up after a frightening incident in the main shipping channel of the St. Lawrence Seaway in the Thousand Islands of upstate New York.

And that search brought me to another 1957 Whirlwind, this time, a 16 footer.

Again, I’d love to tell you a tale about how I raised it from the dead, but I can’t... I received it in incredible condition from Dr. Jim Much, who took the faded hull and restored its beauty with many, many coats of Captain’s varnish.

The motor was assembled by Tim DiGennaro and tuned by the fine folks at Lancaster County Marine near Ephrata, Pa.

Me? What did I do? Well, I dealt with a few electrical and mechanical issues. Added a GPS and marine radio. Refurbished and repainted the trailer.

Most of all, I gave Jim the 13 footer and a small amount of money. For his part, Jim got a new project boat, which he has already stripped and restored with about, oh, 90 layers of Captain’s varnish. In effect, Jim has taken the supermodel and put a bikini on her.

Yes, it’s that beautiful.

As is the new Whirlwind.

But does the new boat attract as much attention as the old boat?

Oh, yes, it does indeed.

And so, for the guns that weren’t there, I’m very thankful.