Industries-A Minnesota Legend - By Lee Wangstad
In the late fifties, when most of the players in
the recreational boating market had either sputtered to an
inglorious halt, or had elevated themselves into that group that
were writing their success stories, Luger Industries of Minneapolis
made a bold move that would launch them into the winnerís circle.
The kit-boat market, never really feared by the
front line boat manufacturers, was about to change with the
introduction of Luger's new fiberglass boat kits. Before this, the
kit-boat industry was composed almost entirely of boats made of
marine grade plywood fastened to hardwood frames.
At the start of the post World War II boating
boom, these kits were extremely popular, not only with the average
do-it-yourselfer, who felt that he could build anything better
himself, but also with those boaters who now had the leisure time
and necessary skills to build their own boat out in the garage.
Looking back at the market, these home-built plywood outboard boats
were very comparable in both looks and performance to the
professionally built outboard boats turned out by the manufacturers.
While not for everyone, this was boating at a cost
level that almost everyone could enjoy. Maybe this is also where the
habit of leaving the family automobile outside over those cold
Minnesota winters began, leaving enough room in the garage for a
nice sized boat shop. The garage would become a place where the guys
in the neighborhood could come on a cold winter evening and discuss
the merits of the Johnson versus the Mercury, or more likely in this
atmosphere, the Buccaneer and the Wizard.
inclined to think that kits were the only avenue for those whose
skill level matched their desire to be on the water will have to
look towards another market: boat plans. This built from scratch
approach, while seemingly more economical, took vast amounts of
skill, and by the time you were finished, had every bit as much
money invested as the kits. Some of the plans could be bought as
frame kits, so at least the general shape and structure of the boat
had the potential of being correct.
Towards the end of the fifties, the recreational
boating market had changed dramatically. While fiberglass and
aluminum boats were a novelty in the early fifties, within a few
short years they had taken over the market. While a kit boat looked
right at home in 1955, by 1958 the kits were looking slightly behind
The new fiberglass kit line from Luger would
change the way kit boats were perceived by the boat buying public.
They were easy to build, cost up to 60% less than a manufactured
boat, and most importantly, had all of the good looks and styling
features of a professionally built boat.
Their initial offering in 1959 had three models:
the Skylark, an open utility type boat; the Royal Lancer, with seat
backs and a walk-through front seat; and the Le Continental, their
top of the line runabout with all of the features expected to be
included on a premium boat in this market.
The basic kit came in three pieces: the deck, the
hull, and the upper hull. Luger advertising claimed that it could be
"easily assembled in one enjoyable evening!" The three
main pieces were interlocking and after assembly were screwed
together with stainless steel screws. The joints were then
reinforced from the inside of the boat with fiberglass mat and
resin. The only tools needed were a screwdriver and a hand drill.
The Luger boats came with decks available in any
of three color options: Tropic Coral; Bali Blue; or Harbor Green,
all with a Harbor White hull.
The boats featured molded-in flotation chambers in
the seat bottoms, full length molded fiberglass stringers, and a
transom consisting of two layers of 3/4" plywood with a
1/4" layer of fiberglass between them. This transom would hold
either two 45 hp engines or one 90 hp outboard.
How far you wanted to take your Luger boat was
entirely up to you and your budget. The back pages of their catalog
had every accessory item imaginable, from windshields to deck
hardware all the way to life jackets and upholstery kits. Of course,
you could do any of these things through a local upholsterer or buy
your hardware through a marine dealer, but it was made available
The boats were designed by Orm and Ren Luger in
collaboration with leading industrial designer Charles Butler &
Associates of New York. The boat came to you with a molded-in
gelcoat finish, relieving the builder of the hardest task in
building a kit boat: a professional looking finish. The styling
given to this boat is still as fresh and crisp today as it was in
brother Ren and I started Luger Industries in our garage in
1950," remembers Orm Luger. "We had another company make
the kits to our design, and we sold them.
It was just part time at first, until we became
too busy. I was first to quit my job to work on the kits full time.
Ren soon followed, and we were in business."
"The boat business was just starting to gel
at the time. We were just in the right business at the right time
with the right product," claims Orm. "We had always had an
interest in boats while growing up."
"In 1959 we developed the first fiberglass
kit boat," says Orm Luger. "The fiberglass industry was
still in its infancy back then, so we did the fiberglass work
ourselves. We used all hand lay-up. After we started to sell
fiberglass boats, there were no more wood boat kits developed."
Just as the rest of the marine industry had seen
great changes in methods and materials during the fifties and
sixties, the boat kit manufacturers also had to adapt. At one time
there were over fourteen boat kit producers in the market, but by
the 80's this number had dwindled to just three, with Luger still
among them. Ren and Orm sold Luger Industries in 1986, but both
continue their involvement in boating today.