The "Great American Yacht Classics" Series

Distinctive, limited-edition, fine art prints commemorating magnificent yachts from "America's Golden Age."




Thunderbird
- Builder and Owner History

Huskins Boat & Motor Works ~ Bay City, Michigan ~ 1939

Specifications: Model: Commuter - LOA: 55' ~ Beam: 11.10' ~ Draft: 3.8' ~ Machinery: (current) Twin V12, 1100 hp Allison Aircraft Engines (then) Twin V12, 550 hp Kermath Sea Raider Engines ~ Max/Cruise Speed: 60/30 knots ~ Fuel Consumption: 60 Gph ~ Hull: Double-planked Honduran Mahogany with brushed stainless steel trim over Eastern White Oak ~ Displacement: 18 gross tons.

Builder History: Ben Huskins founded the Huskins Boat & Motor Works located along the Saginaw River in Bay City, Michigan in the early 1900's. In 1937, John L. Hacker (1877-1961) teamed up with Huskins to build a trio of amazing commuter yachts. Hacker was considered to be one of the greatest designers of speedboats in the 20th century, but had no shop of his own at the time and considered Huskins the only firm capable of delivering the craftsmanship he demanded for his clients. The first was “Wee-Joe II” commissioned by Joe Cooper of Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. “Shim II” was built in 1938 for Jules Stein, but shortly before WW II the
boat was conveyed to Guy Lombardo who renamed her “Tempo.” Finally, in 1939, “Thunderbird” was built for George Whittell for use on Lake Tahoe. Thunderbird at 55' was the largest of this amazing yacht tri-fecta. Significantly, each of these boats remains operational to this day. In 1966, Meade Gougeon and his brother Jan founded Gougeon Brothers Boat Works on the former Huskins site. The firm would later become well known as builders of multi-hulled sailboats into the 1990's.

Vessel History: George Whittell commissioned John L. Hacker to design “Thunderbird” with lines inspired by his favorite airplane - a custom DC 2. In November of 1939, following sea trials on the Saginaw River, the boat was loaded for rail car transport to Lake Tahoe where she re-launched in July 1940. Whittell used the boat extensively for the next two summers to cruise the lake while entertaining show girls from the Cal-Neva Casino. Fearing the boat could be confiscated for its engines during the war, he kept her in an elegant boathouse for the duration. After becoming more reclusive and breaking his hip in his seventies, Whittell was confined to a wheel
chair and the yacht lay idle for much of the time. In 1962, following a ten-year stretch of inactivity, “Thunderbird” was purchased by his friend and casino magnate William F. Harrah and used as his private yacht to entertain casino high rollers and show headliners such as Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Sammy Davis Jr. In 2011, following a succession of owners, the yacht was transferred to the Thunderbird Lodge Preservation Society. Given much needed financial support by loyal supporters, the yacht should remain under the stewardship of the Society for the foreseeable future.







  Archival Pigment Print Limited Edition: 100
Size choices: Large* 20"x 30" I Medium 12"x 18"




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