An Obsession with Old Boats
And How Did That Get Upstairs? By:JPaul Henderson
People who collect things have always fascinated me. Whether it’s pie safes and grandfather clocks, chrome and tail fins, Motown and the Beetles – or boats, they all have one thing in common: a passion for what they do.
Mention a song to an avid record collector, and he’ll tell you where it was recorded, what label it was on, who produced it, who the background singers were and what its current market value is. Say the word “boat” to Ed Longino, and off he’ll go, regaling you with stories about boats in general, or any boat in particular.
I recently met Ed when he picked me up at my home in his non-collectible pickup truck and took me to see his prized boat, a beautiful hand-made 87-year-old Chris-Craft 100.
Before telling you about the boat, I feel I should share a little bit about Ed Longino. He’s a friendly, affable and all-around regular guy. The kind of guy you’d like to have a beer with. The primary thing that separates Ed from most people is his love of antique and collectible boats.
And his passion. His beautiful home on Lake Norman is filled with all things boats. Boat photographs, boat paintings, vintage boat parts and boat memorabilia. Including another completely restored boat – on the second floor. Whether it was taken up the steps by the strongest and most careful moving men in the moving business or the mysterious people who built the pyramids, I don’t know. But amazingly, there it is. Upstairs. On display. And it’s a beauty.
I didn’t get to meet his wife, Judy, but she has to be a saint. I mean, it’s not like he’s keeping his stamp collection upstairs. I can hear her now, calling out to the maid, “Don’t forget to dust the boat!”
Like most collectors, it’s not just about what he collects, but the history and the stories that go with the boats. Collectors are important. Think of them as highly specialized historians, teaching us about the culture, economics, technology and fashion that were an important part of various artifacts and society. Ed’s boat exemplifies the lifestyle of people of means as the country entered the great depression.
This particular Chris-Craft isn’t just an old boat; it’s an old boat with a history of its own. Only 297 of these were produced, in 1930 and 1931. Made of beautifully hand-crafted wood, with fine leather seating, when it was built it wasn’t for the hoi polloi. With a retail price of $1,895.00 it would have cost about $28,000.00 in today’s dollars.
As an aside, I found this little factoid about the boat’s steering wheel interesting. Chris-Craft saw no reason to spend money making its own, so opted to buy their steering wheels from Ford Motor Company. The steering wheel in Ed’s boat is from a Model A Ford.
The only part of the boat that’s not original is the engine. The stock engine was a 75 horsepower Chrysler flat head six cylinder. It’s since been outfitted with a 350 Crusader. And when the throttle is opened up, it’ll go like a bat out of Hell.
The boat was originally sold by a boat builder named E.J. Mertaugh in Hessel, Michigan. Mr. Mertaugh was also the first Chris-Craft boat dealer in the country. Hessel is a small town, about twenty miles from nowhere way up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and E.J. Boat Works is still in business.
Details of what the original owner did with the boat remain a bit murky. Perhaps the owner could no longer afford to keep and maintain it as the country fell into the economic depression. Years later it was found abandoned in the woods, by none other than Mr. Mertaugh’s grandson, Dan Mertaugh. What are the odds?
The boat was restored to its original condition in 2003 and ended up in the hands of Ed Longino, who will, I assure you, never let it be abandoned in the woods again.
Today, the boat spends many hours cruising Lake Norman, and when not on the lake, spends its off-hours out of the water in a seriously cool boat house, where it’s wiped clean and thoroughly dried after every excursion on the lake.
About a year ago, the boat acquired another new life when a Hollywood movie producer was looking for a vintage boat to feature in a prohibition-era gangster movie. He saw Ed’s boat, fell in love with it and called to ask if he’d let the boat to be used in the movie. After giving it very serious thought for about a nano-second. Ed said yes.
The movie, released in January of this year, is “Live by Night,” starring and directed by Ben Affleck.
If you’d like to see Ed’s beautiful boat, I suggest you plan to attend the annual Charlotte Antique & Classic Boat show, held this year at the Trump National Golf Club in Mooresville, NC.
Along with Ed’s boat will be plenty of others, each with its own history and stories. And as an added attraction, this year the boat show will also feature a collection of beautifully restored Austin Healy sports cars. Whether on water or wheels, there will plenty at this year’s show to make it a day well-spent for the whole family.
The Antique & Classic Boat show will be Saturday, August 26th from 10 until 3.
Going? It’s easy to find. Take I-77 to Exit 33 and go west on Williamson Road. Turn left on Brawley School Road and follow it about five miles to The Point. At the traffic circle, take the third right onto Point Drive, then turn right on Meeting House Circle and right again on Trump Square.
For more information (or maybe to display a boat) contact Ed Longino at 800-633-6224 or go to www.CharlotteAntiqueBoatShow.com.