by Chuck Petersen
Of the many boats I have operated or taken a ride
in, my all-time favorite has to be my dad’s 1953 14’ Switzer
Craft, Class D Marathon Racer. Besides looking like a rocket with
its original MK40H Mercury screaming its special song --- it is
fast! With identical power plants, the Switzer will leave my Aristo
Craft 14’ Torpedo in its wake by 10 mph. No wonder they were the
“weapon of choice” by marathon racers in the 1950’s.
Russ and son, Bob Switzer, built their first boat in 1946 for their
personal use in Chicago, Illinois. When neighbors and friends asked
if they could order similar craft, a shop was set up in McHenry,
near the Fox River. Most hulls built between 1949 and 1952 were 10
1/2 to 14’ runabout Speedsters. The Baby Bullet, 11’ Class A or
B utility became very popular. Family friend, Stu Anderson, has a
1952 Class B model with Merc MK20H power.
While brother Dave Switzer became the chief designer, and mom was
secretary/treasurer, Bob was making a name for himself on the facing
scene. One of the biggest events of the year was the Winnebago
Marathon held near Oshkosh, Wisconsin. In 1952, Switzer Crafts
finished 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 5th in the Class D 40 CID class. My dad
thought this was fairly impressive and ordered a new hull in 1953.
Used for some local racing, the boat primarily has seen duty
impressing the girls (my mom included) and scaring the heck out of
little kids (my brother Jim and I included.) Still in mint
condition, my dad and I trailered his Switzer Craft to the Antique
Race Boat Regatta in Clayton, New York in 1996.
Jerry Petersen's 1953 Switzer Bullet at the Clayton, NY
In the late 1950’s, a wide variety of pleasure craft were
added to the line including some “mini-cruisers.” The
Bullet racer gave way to the “Shooting Star” 15’
gentlemen’s speedster. While a bit slower and not a true
racing hull, the Shooting Star was very unique and offered
comforts including padded seats and a windshield. During this
period, racing efforts focused on the OPC or Outboard Pleasure
Craft division. The Shooting Star 16’ hull, powered by
Mercury 6 cylinder engines up to100 hp were fast indeed. By
the mid-1960’s Switzer Craft had moved to nearby Crystal
Lake, Illinois and converted to fiberglass hulls, like most
firms of the day. Unlike many, however, Switzer made a
successful conversion and many sleek hulls built into the
70’s and 80’s can be seen around the country.