Eager Beaver

1941 Gar Wood

Deluxe Utility, hull number 6629, 20 foot

Owner/Driver - Dave Whitcher

Crew Chief - Jason Conley


Eager Beaver - restored by Dave Whitcher & Jason Conley

When looking for a shop project to highlight for a Cutwater article, a conversation with Dave Whitcher about his current project perked my interest. Dave was restoring a 1941 Gar Wood Deluxe Utility that he pulled out of a boat house on Beaver Island on Lake Winnipesaukee. The boat was good original condition with all the original hardware, instruments and motor. Dave lives in Strafford, New Hampshire and while not a professional boat restorer, his work rivals the best, and I thought it would be inspirational to remind people that there are always some interesting projects, and some very good work being done in our local back yard shops.


Dave's professional career as a commercial builder has given him access to many techniques and resources that might not be available to the ordinary person. And to pass on the knowledge, Dave is mentoring a young carpenter named Jason Conley, who helped on this project and is eager to enter the boat restoration trade. Jason is learning from Dave's experience of having completed at least 10 major boat restorations along with many antique car restorations.


Although not everyone may have the background that Dave has in building and restoring things, everyone has access to E-bay or Craig's List when looking for a vintage wooden boat to buy. In the case of Eager Beaver, that is exactly what happened to Dave. A friend called him and asked him if he ever looked at Craig's List, an Internet site of classified ads. Dave said no. His friend told him that there was a Gar Wood boat for sale on the list and he should check it out. Dave did exactly that. 


What Dave found was a 20 foot, Gar Wood Deluxe Utility boat, hull number 6629, built in 1941 by Gar Wood. There were just 211 boats built in this series. The boat was being offered for sale by the administrator of the estate of John Beaver, a local Lake Winnipesaukee resident who had passed away in March, 2008. John Beaver, who coincidentally retired onto Beaver Island, was the retired president of a medical manufacturing and supply firm based in Waltham, MA. Dave heard about the boat for sale in September, 2008. After talking and meeting with the administrator of the estate, the 1941 Gar Wood Deluxe Utility was his.


The boat was originally owned by C.B. Delhomme of Houston, Texas and apparently came to Beaver Island in the late 1940's. The original Chrysler Crown V-6, 110 HP engine was still in the boat and there had been some bottom work previously done to the boat along with some other repairs and refastening. All in all, the boat was in great shape except for ordinary wear and tear. When Dave went to get the boat, which had been stored in a boathouse, he hooked the original engine to a battery, charged her up and drove the boat to shore. 



This unique Deluxe Utility came with two walk around seats up front and a nice bench seat aft. The woodwork on the inner ceiling boards and seat backs is beautifully stained and varnished. Especially notable on this model is the high crown of the fore deck and beautiful tucked upholstery. The original burgundy upholstery has now been replaced with the same style as the original. All of the original Gar Wood hardware was intact and did not require re-chroming, just a lot of elbow grease and polishing. Dave was especially lucky in that the original folding windshield was still intact. Replacement cost for this item alone could have cost upwards of $14,000!


Most of the wood on the boat was in excellent shape. Dave estimates that only about 10% of the wood needed replacement, including 2 planks on the port side, one plank on the starboard side, the covering boards and front deck. This is where Jason came in. He did the replacement planks, staining and varnishing under Dave's watchful eye.


Another problem that faced Dave and Jason was the looseness of the many screws, so they had to refasten all the many, many bottom and hull screws. In order to maintain the original integrity of the fastening, Dave and Jason bunged the original holes and then re-drilled them for the new screws. Dave had some mahogany wood left over from previous projects that were of the same age as this boat, which he and Jason used for the replacement planks and bungs. Pretty handy.


After stripping, bleaching and sanding all the wood, Interlux filler stain was used to fill the mahogany grain of the wood. After a sealer coat, twelve coats of varnish were applied to the hull sides and 15 coats were applied on the fore/aft decks and covering boards. Two coats of Interlux Brightside paint was applied to the bottom, keeping the original red color, and of course a nice white boot stripe !!!


One of the most time consuming jobs of the project was re-straightening the long rub rails, that extend in one piece for the entire length of the boat, 20 feet. It took both Dave and Jason many hours remove the many years of dings and dents, to get the two long rub rails smooth, straight and correct.


Even though the original engine ran okay, Dave wanted this restoration to be a simple "turn the key and go" boat, so he installed a newer 1982 small block Chevy. This created a problem however as the new engine was wider and higher than the original. So he and Jason had to enlarge the original engine cover by adding trim pieces of wood to increase the height and width. If Dave had not pointed out the additional wood, you could not tell it was not original. The top of the engine cover is also upholstered. Dave said that one thing he made sure of was to have the underside of the upholstery be of a soft material so as not to scratch the wood on the top of the cover. This is wood you never even see. Very meticulous, very impressive. 


Dave insists that when he starts a project, it must be completed in one year. His goal for the Eager Beaver was to have it completed in time for the 2009 boating season. So far, his part of the project is on schedule. However, completion may be delayed by the time it is taking to have all of the gauges restored. Dave is using Clawson Classic Instrumentation of Anacortes, WA a well known firm that has been restoring original gauges for 24 years. Let's hope Mark Clawson comes through in time for a spring launching.



Currently, Dave is still in the building business, owns 4 other boats and about a dozen antique cars and trucks. The boats include Baby Ruth, a 1935 Hackercraft, Timeless, the Gar Wood featured on the cover, a 1956 Shepherd and a 1938 Chris Craft currently undergoing restoration. His classic cars include 2 Cords, a LaSalle, Buick, and 1956 T-Bird.





Congratulations to Dave Whitcher on his many restoration projects, especially his most recent, a 1941 Gar Wood Deluxe Utility. Eager Beaver that will be on display this summer at our 36th Annual ACBS Boat Show at the Meredith public docks ???!!!

Click here for Boat Show details


Click here for Boat Show photos


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