Just Wild About Woodies

Cherished by collectors, old powerboats fetch buoyant prices

They were the waterborne roadsters of the jazz age, built of mahogany, bedecked with nickel-silver fittings, powered by rumbling six-cylinder engines and capable of slicing nose-down through the chop at a brisk 40 m.p.h. But during the late 1950s and '60s, the arrival of lighter, carefree fiber-glass hulls persuaded many boat buyers that the rot-prone wooden models were a thing of the past. Gary Scherb, who spent his summers back then working in the boatyards on Lake Hopatcong, N.J., sadly recalls the time when one of his bosses ordered 40 of the wooden craft sawed into firewood.

Today that collection of...

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