Model Year 1960-Things Were A Changin’ or Were They?

Model year 1960 for the Lake ‘n Sea Division of the Parsons Corporation was a big year of change for the company when they moved the manufacturing of two of its boat models from their plant in Traverse City to a subcontractor in southwest Michigan in March. During this change very little changed in the styling of the boat line except for colors and an extension hull drain plug for the cockpit floor level which allowed the passengers to open the drain from the inside vs. the outside. As an owner of both the 1959 and 1960 model years boats it is very hard to remove the drain plug from the outside when the outboard motor is in place.

Lake ‘n Sea boat jumping at Cypress Gardens, Florida, from the 1960 Lake ‘n Sea brochure. (Image courtesy of the John T. Parsons collection (Ms-1987-016), Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic and State University)
The 1960 Lake ‘n Sea line of boats was introduced in the late summer of 1959 like the other boat manufacturers did but consumers saw very little change in the styles or sizes of the boats offered by Parsons Corporation in their September 1959 brochure. A few months before, in April 1959, designer Donald Goodland sent a memo to John T. Parsons that suggested some small design changes to all models except the Biscayne model for the 1960 model year but appear to have been ignored. By January 1960 the low number of boats ordered during the previous months frustrated company officials who already felt that the newest division of Parsons Corporation was destined to fail.

1960 Lake ‘n Sea 15′ Caribbean was essentially unchanged from the previous model year including the 14’ length. (Image courtesy of the John T. Parsons collection (Ms-1987-016), Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic and State University)
In February of 1960 two new company brochures were issued to consumers. In those two brochures some models appeared to be lengthened by 1 foot from the previous year:  Caribbean from 14-feet to 15-feet, Arrowhead from 16 feet to 17 feet, and Saratoga from 18-feet to 19-feet. The older styled Biscayne model remained unchanged at 15-feet. In reality the boat lengths never really changed but the way the measuring was done had. Instead of the length overall (LOA) measurement used in 1959, the 1960 company brochures and boating magazine articles used the length at gunwale (LAG) or along the rub rail from bow to stern. I have measured several boats from both model years and found that to be true. The new color options included Sky Blue, Surf Green, Beach Beige, and Suntan. The company also shipped each boat fully equipped with all hardware and running gear, unless requested by the customer, leaving only the choice of the outboard motor and trailer to the customer and their dealer. This would explain some the hardware variety, although small, that I have seen on some 1959 model year owner’s boats.

(Image courtesy of the John T. Parsons collection (Ms-1987-016), Digital Library and Archives, University Libraries, Virginia Polytechnic and State University)
In March of that year, the Parsons Corporation subcontracted the manufacture of their 15-ft Caribbean model and 17-ft Arrowhead model to Michigan Fiberglass Company, located in Holland, Michigan. By March 24, 1960 Michigan Fiberglass Company was building boats using the same suppliers and molds used by Parsons and under the careful eye of Parson Corporation inspector Gus Linnel.

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

After the molds arrived, a crew of 35-50 people began the process of building the 15-ft Caribbean and 17-ft Arrowhead models using a detailed procedures manual provided by Parsons Corporation. Hull numbers beginning with 0475 1000 or 0575 1000 and after were made at MFC according to Parsons Corporation records. In May of that year Gus Linell reported to John Parsons in a memo that production at the MFC plant was not going well. During one of his regular phone meetings with Meyering, Linell discovered that MFC was constantly changing the production schedule to less and less boats produced largely due to imperfections in the gel coat which was then repaired and the boats painted in epoxy and sold as “seconds.” Even the “firsts” were later reported to have imperfections by dealers. Linell’s report must have been hard for Parsons to read:

“I am very much afraid that it we cannot produce and deliver good boats before the
middle of this month, we will without a doubt lose the little confidence of the                       customers now have in us, not only for this year but for the next year.”

Linell’s later reports were equally dire as the company struggled to find a solution to producing a quality product for 1960 consumers.



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