Vintage Chat Board 

with pictures

You have found the place to share an interest in Vintage Australian Outboard Runabouts.

There has never been a better time to find a classic Vintage outboard boat. They are out there and need you to lovingly restore them to former glory. If you are lucky enough to have found one, please share your story with other keen vintage enthusiasts.     



1. A bit of history

2. Australian Outboards

3. Australian Runabouts and ski boats

4. The imported motors

5. Skiing history

6. Racing

7. Plywood runabouts

8. Fibreglass

9. Your outboard stories

10. Clubs

11. Runabout Restorations

12. Outboard Restorations 

13. Old outboard Maintenance / Dealers

14. Collectors/Museums

15. Second pull

16. Literature

17. House boating

18. Boating, Family, Friends gallery

A little bit of history

The Outboard industry really didn’t get cracking in Australia prior to the 60’s, when the American manufactures with their two, three, four, and six cylinder engines, were sold here under license, no doubt fed by the burgeoning water ski explosion. Our budding Australian boat manufacturers were competing with each other for wooden hull designs to accommodate the Johnson, Evinrude, Scott and Mercury outboards privately imported by the more fortunate and affluent boating enthusiasts.

Outboard Motors had a substantial import duty slammed on them to protect our own chances of building an outboard motor industry here in Australia.  

Our bondwood beauties both inboard and outboard, kick started an industry in ski boats that was rather short lived, but designed to ply the waves of our favourite beaches, lakes, rivers and harbours. Just around the corner marked the arrival of the newer Fiberglass hulls and generally, the Australian manufacturers “stole” some of the more sedate lines off the American designers. After all, why re invent a shape when we had proven designers to copy from. Now we’re talking about the early 60s. Even though Australia was a place of opportunity and diversity, it was conservatively dictated by the rule of the British Empire and still cringing from its colonial cum convict past.

This site is not about speed and grunt; it’s about outboards, runabouts and family life of a particular post war culture that lasted through the 60s and continued well into the 70s. With this new lifestyle came houseboats,  camps and beach houses along the banks of our diverse waters. Whole families gathered together to share their wonderful healthy sport.

Of course runabouts were synonymous with water skiing and with the introduction of these larger American “power houses”, a 30hp pushed the average runabout along at a whopping 25 mph and had enough strength to pull out a set of doubles or a light single.

We at Real Runabouts welcome you and encourage your input. If you were there and have stories, pics, slides, negs, share them to make this your web site. Family outboarding is important to us, but if you were a young hoon then, your input is just as valuable. Most of us who ever mixed camping and ski boats back in the 60s, could share some good stories I bet.

Let’s also gather together our rare designs along with our more attractive hull shapes. Also needed are the all important boat manufacturers of the era, the people and characters behind them. The manufacturers themselves, magazines, ads, photos, stories, who is restoring what, vintage outboard enthusiasts, project boats, completed restorations that we can post or discuss on our forum and message board.

I have pieced together a little of the stuff I have collected to kick start the project.

Some facts accrued along the way may need correcting, we certainly appreciate your input to add to or correct our text. After all it is designed to be totally interactive.  If you were there and have interesting relevant information, please share it with us.

So many times when I’m at the launching ramp and I see a nice old classic runabout, I always have a chat to its owner. Many boats have been handed down father to son.

Lets keep our real runabouts afloat.  

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2. Aussie Outboards

Only a few Australian outboards were designed for performance. 

This is were you will find them.

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3. Aussie Runabouts and ski boats



Bell Boy





Crest Craft

Cruise Craft



Haines Signature

Haydan Hydrodyne




Marlin sabre (outboard Version)






Riviera Craft


Sea   Runner






Swift Craft






Benson and Shaw













4. The imported motors


Mercury, Evinrude, Johnson, Scott/McCulloch, West Bend, Gale, Anzani,

Homelite, Perkins,




5. Local Skiing history


The Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens had its beginnings when local businessman Keith Williams pursued a vision to combine his love of water skiing with a Gold Coast tourism attraction. In 1957 he bought a dairy farm on the banks of the Nerang River at Carrara and here he established the Surfers Paradise Ski Gardens. By 1959 he was presenting water ski shows that combined comedy, aqua ballet and action. On the site he operated a learn to ski, kiosk, swimming pool and modest ski shop selling water ski’s and related equipment.

Even in its early stages, the Ski Gardens attracted national and international attention - in 1959, the Ski Gardens hosted the Australian Water Ski Championships, and in 1965 became the venue for the Ninth World Water Ski Titles.

The property included land on the other side of the Nerang Road, and by 1960 Williams had decided this would ultimately become a sister operation to the Ski Gardens as a motor racing circuit.

Tremendous changes were happening in Surfers Paradise in the 50s. One of the first developments was the Chevron Hotel built in true 50s style with Hollywood style double pool and gardens that were full of activity.


6. Racing.


Albert Park lake was the venue for Melbourne’s outboard racing in the 1950s. (info needed)  

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7. Plywood Runabouts 

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Australians loved Plywood and most amateur builders choose this method. Well into the 60s many of our manufacturers still preferred ply construction, like this beautiful 1964 Stylecraft. Also a popular method was moulded ply.

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8. Fiberglass


When fiberglass boats first appeared, there was a lot of resistance from boat builders and the public alike, often referring to them as plastic boats. It was some time before fibreglass was totally accepted. There are stories of keels of smaller boats wearing through from dragging them over sand and disgruntled boaties returning to the wooden hulls. Certainly the tinnie soon stole the small boat market from clinker and ply dinghies.

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9. Your Outboard Stories

Here’s one for the record, Surfers Paradise 1960. Ted Smith, (a mate of my Dad’s) took us to Surfers Paradise Gardens to buy a brand new set of skis to take us kids skiing behind his new 12.5 ft runabout, power equipped with a 1959 18hp Evinrude. First days skiing, Ted driving the boat, had trouble getting my hefty brother Paul up on two skis, so to reduce weight, Ted’s son Geoff and I sat on the bank and watched. Ted (the only occupant) gave the boat full stick and Paul finally emerges from the deep. Once up, he went straight for the right side of the wake. The ski rope was tied to the left side and with Ted’s weight on the right, over she goes. Ted fell out and the boat righted itself, Paul was now skiing behind a driverless boat. So much for the observer rule. The boat went straight for an embankment, nose up, and slid back into the water. The engine submerged. I didn’t see this, but can sure imagine it.

The only real damage was to Ted’s pride. He lost his false teeth and the skis floated off.  We hired a put put and found the skis the next day floating downstream. Ted never found his teeth though.  


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10. Clubs


Melton Water ski club Vic

Eildon water Ski Club Vic

Eildon Boat Club

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11. Runabout restorations


David Brown’s Mouldcraft


Alex Brown’s  Mouldcraft


David Dixon’s Stylecraft.

Paul (Rolf) Popp's Javelin

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12. Outboard Restorations


David Brown’s 1962 100hp Merc


Alex Brown’s 1962 45hp Merc


David Dixon’s 1964 65hp Merc. (Not original colour scheme)


David Dixon’s 1956 30 hp Johnson (Extremely rare original colour scheme. Red and white was the factory colour that year) This motor was never red/white) Any info on this motor appreciated. Reconditioned buy Guy Hanson. 

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13. Old outboard Maintenance / Dealers

We need a list of those willing to do maintenance on old motors. Also to come is a list of dealers where you may pick up a good oldie.

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14. Collectors/Museums

One of the best museums in Victoria is in Locksport on the Gippsland Lakes. Phone, Address and times of operation will be supplied soon.

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15. Second Pull

Market place for old outboards, runabouts, and bits and pieces. We need a good wrecking yard for boats.

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16. Literature


All the books and where to get them. Including “The Old Outboard Book” buy “Peter Hunn” 

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17. Houseboating


In the 50s Outboard powered houseboats appeared on the scene, Eildon weir was Victorias haven for this tremendously popular activity. Where was your favourite houseboat spot?

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18. Boating, Family, Friends gallery


Got any early pictures re skiing, vintage runabouts, family, friends, etc. Beach, lake or river activities from 1950 onwards?  I picked up some I953 Sun Beach girl pictures at the Camberwell market. Though not really boating related, they sure have Vintage appeal I’ll post some here. So if you can contribute, please do so in our Forums.

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