Trash or Treasure: Collector passionate about model boats
“During the 1930s, Detroit had a large complement of highly skilled workers supplying the automobile industry capable of making just about anything,” wrote Kent Lund. “In the early 1930s a group of men calling themselves the Detroit Model Power Boat Club began running their homemade model boats in the children’s wading pond at Water Works Park in Detroit.” And a collection was born.
Lund collects the boats that these craftsmen designed and built in their home workshops. So far he has purchased or been given 20 of the early boats that date from 1924 to 1947 in original condition. As part of our ongoing spotlight on collectors, we caught up with Lund to find out more about his interesting and history-rich hobby.
What do you collect and why?
I collect model boats that were home built in the 1920s to the 1950s.
The boats were built by local craftsman who were working in Detroit as machinists, tool makers, pattern makers, designers and dreamers. I collect the boats because I appreciate fine craftsmanship, ingenuity, and creative design. Also I am a wooden boat enthusiast no matter what the size.
How long have you been collecting this/how did you get started?
In 1989 I was wandering around the Royal Oak Antiques Market. A vendor had a stack of Model Craftsman magazines that caught my eye. I started looking through the stack and came upon a 1939 issue that had a story about the Detroit Model Power Boat Club that had recently held an international model boat race on the July 4th weekend. The article listed the winners. I was intrigued. I bought the magazine and began my research, wondering if I could locate and talk with any of the boat builders and if any of the boats had survived. Within one hour I was taking to the builder of a model boat that he had built 50 years ago. I was hooked and my passion was launched.
What are your favorites?
They are all my favorites, especially if they are in original 'as raced' condition.
I do have favorite stories about meeting the builders and locating boats built as many as 96 years ago.
What has been your best find/deal?
Not only am I so grateful to have this boat built by Mike Succarde but the story is just an interesting as the boat. Mike Succarde was a member of the Detroit Model Power Boat Club and raced his tether boats in the pond at Water Works Park. In 1933, his 5-year-old neighbor was having a birthday, and Mike presented a hand-built boat to the young boy as a present. What a gift to me when I received an email from his daughter explaining to me that her father was given a model boat by Mike Succarde for his fifth birthday and would I like to meet her father and see the boat. I was so excited to meet the owner of this boat some 85 years later and hear his story firsthand. He and his family were kind enough to add the boat to my collection. It is a gem of a boat and I am so grateful that the family contacted me.
What can't you resist?
I enjoy the thrill of the hunt to find boats that are in original condition that have homemade gas or steam motors. Finding a boat that has been hidden away for years and talking with the builder of the boat or a relative to learn the history.
Do you have a "Holy Grail" piece?
Tough question, but yes I do, really any surviving original. One in particular "Miss Detroit" built by Mike Succarde in the late 1940s. It disappeared 35 years ago from a garage sale -- I’d love to know its whereabouts.
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