The Tale of the Transoms

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When the Lake ‘n Sea Division of the Parsons Corporation unveiled its new line of 1959 Lake ‘n Sea boats the most striking feature for many of the models was the transom which looks a lot like a rear end of a 1958 Chevrolet Bel Air or 1959 Chevy Impala.

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Wherever the inspiration came from the transom defines the brand from 1959-1962, even after Parsons sold the line to Holland, Michigan-based Michigan Fiberglass Company in 1960. Why change a good thing, right? It was a design dealers could got behind and customers appreciated enough to purchase.

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The story behind the transom starts with Lake ‘n Sea Division draftsmen/designers Donald E. Goodland (1925-2002) and Bertil Holm. Goodland was poached from the automotive industry by John T. Parsons and together Goodland and Holm fundamentally discarded the original Lake ‘n Sea brand style, save the diminutive fins, and created the all new 1959 model year look leaving the old 1958 15′ Pleasure Runabout model, now called the Biscayne, in the wake of the wider and more stylish models. According to the 1959 brochure the ribbed transom added strength and distinctive style to the 14′ Caribbean and 16’ Arrowhead models. It might have added strength and durability in theory but is really a decorative exterior to the 15″ high transom made up of a plywood core and fiberglass inner skin.

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On at least one 1959 Arrowhead model, the decorative feature was full of foam. I would love to know what other owners are finding in that area of the boat when restoring their boats.

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The two largest models in the line included the 18′ Saratoga and 18′ Grand Traverse cruiser. The transom piece of these two models was in the shape of a grid which distinguished them from the smaller models and every other boat in the industry. The transoms were also wider and taller (20″) for mounting twin, long shaft outboard motors should the owner desire them.

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The ribbed design was so revolutionary that eventually it was patented by the Parsons Corporation in February 1960.

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Later that same year the company sold the brand and molds to Michigan Fiberglass Company where workers, like those below, did the delicate work of creating the distinctive ribbed transom detail out of resin and fiberglass in every new boat. Sixty years later owners and admirers are still enjoying their fine work.

Michigan Fiberglass Company Women Workers Applying Fiberglass Cloth to Lake 'n Sea boat ca. 1960

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