TROJAN BOATS AND THE TROJAN
For those of us who love our
sleek wooden boats, especially the original Trojan boats, 1949 was a year to
remember. It was four years after the end of World War II, with U.S.
manufacturers still converting to peace-time uses of construction materials no
longer needed for the war effort - steel, aluminum, rubber, nylon, and newer
products such as plastic and vinyl. Novelties of 1949 included inflatable
plastic boats, and a surfboard coated with fiberglass.
That year two young men tired of their jobs at Norman Owens’ Boat Company, and
decided to leave to form their own company. Jim McQueen and Harper Hull traveled
to Troy, New York, where they bought the Cottrell-Spoore Boatworks, a small
builder of wooden racing boats and runabouts. McQueen and Hull renamed the
company “The Trojan Boat Company” and moved operations to York,
Pennsylvania. There they bought a dairy barn, converted it to factory use, and
started to build boats in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch Country where they had
access to the local Amish work force, hard working and skilled craftsmen. Not
long afterward they moved their main factory to nearby Lancaster.
In January 2001, when Bob Cushman interviewed Larry Warner and John Leed,
keepers of Trojan Boat archives, Warner recalled, “Problem was they didn’t
have any idea on how to run an assembly line. So they thought, Let’s go back
and get ol’ Ernie Warner and get him over here with us. So that’s how he got
there.” With Ernie Warner in charge of manufacturing, McQueen’s area was
Sales, and Harper’s was Engineering. Larry was one of Ernie Warner’s five
sons who also joined the firm. John Leed’s father had been Line Specialist at
Trojan Boats, and John himself had also worked in production.
In 1950 the Korean War apparently slowed the start of the new company, while Jim
McQueen left for the service. After 1953, when the war was over, business boomed
for The Trojan Boat Company at its Lancaster factory, and within two years the
young company was producing some twenty boats a week. In 1954 it introduced the
famous Trojan Sea Breeze which before long generated 800 orders.
In the 1960’s the 31-foot Sea Voyager came out; 10,000 of these wooden family
cruisers were produced over the next decade. In 1966 Trojan acquired the
Shepherd Boat Co., a Canadian builder of up to 50-foot wooden motor yachts.
Larry Warner recalled that in 1964, he was involved with the engineering of the
Sea Voyager, the first 42-footer he worked on, a boat that took about a week to
“Did you design the ‘42 a special way? Or was it pretty much stock?”
“They were all the same design, but there were options. They had what we
called x packages, offering things beyond our normal features. If you wanted a
depth finder or something like that, you’d get written up as an x-package. If
they were really busy they would try to discourage that, but if they were
looking for work they didn’t seem to mind too much. . . But as far as a major
redesign, it didn’t happen.”
By 1968 time Trojan facilities in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Elkton, Maryland, and
Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada, had made Trojan the second largest
producer of inboard boat-builders in the world, building a complete line of
wooden boats. The company was an early user of computers, and even had the
capacity to contract payroll and data processing work for other business firms
in the Lancaster area, using the new automatic tape punch equipment then
becoming available for data processing. The early computers being developed in
1949 worked thousands of times faster than their predecessors. These new
machines used vacuum tubes to replace the more cumbersome electro-mechanical
wheels and levers of older models. The Trojan team was ahead of its competitors
in using this new technology.
Larry Warner recalled, “They built a lot of the little 14-16 footers. They
built those boats, probably 25-30 of them a week. Put them on trailers. My Dad
used to put six boats on a trailer and deliver them all over the place. But the
boat that really brought them into the limelight was a 20-foot cabin cruiser
with a stand-up head.”
“Did it have a kitchen in it?” asked Cushman
“Yes,” Larry replied. “It had an alcohol stove in it.”
John Leed added, “It had a 5-gallon jerry jug for the fresh water system, an
old military can they set up in the head.”
“What year did they make that?” asked Bob.
“I think it was 1953,” replied John
“And they made a lot of them?”
“Yes. See, back in those days Trojan actually had an incentive system on their
production line, which was unheard of. Nobody in the boating industry had an
incentive system. Everyone else did it in time. They actually encouraged the
guys to work harder and faster and they’d make more money if they made more
boats. Trojan was really the envy of the industry. We could build boats unlike
As capable and forward-looking as McQueen’s team was, it did not foresee the
revolution in boat-building that was soon to come. By 1960 boat designers had
finally realized the practicality of using fiberglass in place of wood. At the
Trojan Boat company, however, the change would come slowly.
“Why did they wait so long to do the fiberglass?” asked Bob.
‘Jim McQueen said that fiberglass was a passing fancy. He thought that
fiberglass just wouldn’t stay around. He said, “We’re not getting into
that.” There were signs in the office that said “If God had intended there
to be fiberglass boats, He would have made fiberglass trees.” And that kind of
“Yeah, he fought it. Then eventually he couldn’t do that any more.” When
McQueen finally realized that to remain competitive fiberglass must replace wood
in the manufacture of boats, Trojan Boat did not have the capital to build the
molds for a complete line of fiberglass boats to replace their existing wooden
models. In 1969 the needed financial backing came in the form of a buy-out by
the Whittaker Corporation. The Trojan acquisition was one of a number of boat
businesses that Whittaker bought at that time, with a plan, said John, and “What
GM did for cars, they were going to do for boats. They were a little ahead of
So Trojan at last ceased production of wooden boats and began production of
fiberglass boats. Moving into fiberglass production, Larry Warner remembered the
32-foot boat as “Probably our best boat. I guess it was the boat that turned
the company around.”. A transition period began during which Jim McQueen and
the old line Trojan managers were obliged to adjust to changes brought by the
new management team from
Whittaker, some of whom had no boat building experience.
The company survived the change and, operating as a Whittaker subsidiary, began
to produce well-built fiberglass boats. John and Larry remember the most
successful models as the 28, 30, 31, 32 and 36-foot boats. For twenty years from
about 1972 to 1992 about 2,200 of the twin inboard 32-foot “sedans” were
built. In 1981 Trojan introduced the International series of motor boats, one of
several popular models.
The original Trojan Yacht Company of Lancaster, Pennsylvania ended production in
1992. Miramar Marine, later known as Genmar, owner of Carver Boats, purchased
the Trojan Boat brand name and assets. Genmar Holdings, Inc., the largest
independent manufacturer of recreational powerboats in the world, located in
Pulaski, Wisconsin, produces motor yachts with the Trojan name through its
Carver Yachts subsidiary. Boatbuilding technology has changed, and the Trojan
yacht of today is an entirely different vessel from the historic Trojan Sea
Breeze of 1954 or the Sea Voyager of 1968.
With great thank to Bob from trojanboats.net
Information contained in this narrative has been
obtained with the help of Roger DeVore who cites Powerboat Guide’s 2000
Edition, Ed McKnew & Mark Parker, TROJAN 1949-92, and from Bob Cushman’s
interviews on January 26, 2001, with Larry Warner and John Leed, former Trojan
Boat employees, now owners of Marine Tech, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Marine Tech,
is a supplier of Trojan parts, electric wiring diagrams, electric parts,
hardware and manuals.