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Toledo brothers to build storied watercraft

  • Toledo-brothers-to-build-storied-watercraft-2

    This Dart speedboat, in a 1992 photo, is the type that was built in Toledo until 1933 and used by bootleggers during Prohibition.

  • Toledo-brothers-to-build-storied-watercraft

    Ramsey brothers, Scott, Chris, and Dave, from left, have established a business restoring wooden-hulled boats in Toledo. They hope to resurrect an entire line of Dart speedboats.

    Jeremy Wadsworth / The Blade
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Toledo-brothers-to-build-storied-watercraft

Ramsey brothers, Scott, Chris, and Dave, from left, have established a business restoring wooden-hulled boats in Toledo. They hope to resurrect an entire line of Dart speedboats.

Jeremy Wadsworth / The Blade
Enlarge | Buy This Image

A few hundred yards from the Toledo lighthouse, beneath the murky waters of Lake Erie, lies a sunken wooden-hull Dart speedboat that was made in Toledo during the early days of the Great Depression.

The wreck's current owners are three brothers who have built a thriving business restoring and maintaining vintage wooden-hull boats in Toledo's uptown neighborhood.

But Scott, Dave, and Chris Ramsey hope to raise more than just one 18-foot rumrunner; they are preparing to resurrect an entire line of triple-cockpit Dart speedboats that haven't been made since the vessel's Summit Street factory closed in 1933.

"We don't aim to sell a ton of boats," explained Scott Ramsey, co-owner of Ramsey Brothers Restorations in the 300 block of 20th St. "Our goal is to make and sell a very few handcrafted reproductions of these boats as they originally were when they were made here in Toledo."

For five years, from 1928 to 1933, the Dart Boat Co. built wooden-hulled runabouts at a plant at 3026 Summit St. The boats were speed demons, used by bootleggers during Prohibition to transport booze across Lake Erie, and in one famous photograph from England, a Dart raced - and beat - the fastest steam locomotive in the kingdom.

Toledo-brothers-to-build-storied-watercraft-2

This Dart speedboat, in a 1992 photo, is the type that was built in Toledo until 1933 and used by bootleggers during Prohibition.

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The runabouts, built in lengths from 18.5 feet to 30 feet, were sold both in the United States and abroad, thanks in part to the role played by the company's president, Webb C. Hayes II, grandson of President Rutherford B. Hayes.

In their day, the vessels were high-powered luxury crafts powered by big Chrysler engines, but just as the former company was hitting its stride, the Depression ravaged the market, which put the Dart Boat Co. out of existence.

Though hundreds were built, less than three dozen Toledo-made Dart boats are known to exist today, including three owned by the Ramsay Brothers: an 18-footer, a 22-footer, and a 26-footer, none of which is seaworthy.

The wrecks won't float right now, but they are valuable because they provide the dimensions and the hardware that graced the originals 80 years ago, Dave Ramsey said.

The three brothers, who make their living caring for and restoring wooden-hulled powerboats, estimated that it would take "a couple hundred hours of labor" to build a new 22-foot Dart from scratch.

They estimate the sale price will be "about $100,000, give or take," Scott Ramsey said.

The brothers have acquired the name of the Dart Boat Co. and re-registered it, and are putting together a Web site from which to find patrons for their handcrafted water vessels.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette at:

lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.

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