By Barry & Diana Hall member of the Blue Ridge chapter
Bill and Scott Turner custom built Hanky Panky for my wife and me in the summer of 2017. She is a 1955 model Torpedo 16-foot with several custom features: inlaid wood trim aft quarter, interior fabric seats and back cushions, floor boards, mahogany steering wheel, 1955 AirGuide speedo, epoxy bottom, custom-fit burgundy bimini top, 1950’s stern light, stern grab handles and custom-made retro engine cowl for the 2017 40HP Mercury outboard made to resemble the Mercury Mark 55 of the 50’s.
I discovered Aristo Craft by visiting their Dawsonville, Georgia fabrication and restoration shop and museum with a classic car club sixty miles from our home in Marietta. As soon as I walked into the shop and saw the wood working equipment, smelled the mahogany and boats under construction and restoration, I was hooked. I grew up on Jamestown Island in the middle of Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, in the mid-1950s. Neighbors built bass fishing boats and racing boats and the island had several yacht clubs and boatyards.
As we entered the shop there was a restored 1955 Torpedo 14 rescued from a garage. A fire had damaged the old boat. The Turners get many calls about grandpa’s Aristo Craft abandoned over the years and the families trying to figure out how to get rid of them. This one was beautifully restored and named Fire Cracker. After a couple of visits, we asked Bill and Scott to build an exact duplicate to their current specifications as a Torpedo 16. Bill encouraged me to have him build a custom fiberglass mold to resemble the Mercury Mark55 engine cowl popular in the 1950s to give my new 2017 40HP Mercury a retro look. I agreed and the result was outstanding and has received much attention at the boat ramps and ACBS events. Bill had custom molded cowls for Evinrude and Johnson outboards for modern (Yamaha, etc. ) outboards before for classic boat owners who did not want the modern look. Hanky Panky even draws the Millennials over from their Waverunners!
The original 1950’s vintage trailer she sits on is a result of the deal we made that the trailer and boat had to fit on my four post lift above my 1955 Chevy BelAir. A standard trailer is both too wide and tall. Scott brought Fire Cracker to my home for the trial fit and dimensional measurements. The result is a close tolerance fit with a maximum clearance of 2 inches at the windshield vs door motor drive unit and lift arm and 1 inch at the engine cowl top to ceiling.
The build took about 14 weeks and I was able to visit and watch progress and bring friends, one of whom ordered a Torpedo. Original templates are used. Mahogany is used throughout and the craftsmanship is outstanding in addition to the friendly family environment. It has been a great experience to get to know the Turners and their unique company.