In the mid-1980s, Chrysler invented the minivan. At the time, people acted as if their brains had just exploded; nobody had thought of something so brilliant before.
While many brains did explode, the technology that made the minivan special had actually been prevalent in the industry for about a decade. Think sliding doors, captain’s chairs, and so on. So it’s not that the components required to make minivans didn’t exist. Chrysler just happened to be the first company to put everything together in the correct way.
Chrysler used clever design tricks to turn ordinary, off the shelf components into something genuinely new and versatile.
Glastron did the same with its 1967 tri-hull or ‘Aqua Lift II’ series of boats. These boats were (as far as I can tell) the first fiberglass bowrider boats ever produced. The tri-hull Glastron boat used technologies that had been readily available for years to revolutionize the entire pleasure boating market. By doing what seems so obvious today.
GLASTRON TRI-HULL BUYER’S GUIDE
Glastron Boats produced the Aqua Lift and other tri-hull boats for over a decade in a wide variety of lengths. Outboard and stern-drive motor setups were available. Glastron boats are known to hold up well with age, and parts are plentiful.
What are Glastron Boats Worth?
A stripped hull can be found for as little as a few hundred dollars. Restored boats rarely cost more than $6,000. In 2020, Glastron boat prices usually range between $1,500 and $3,500 on local classifieds. $10,000 is the typical maximum for vintage Glastron boats.
What to Look For
Before you buy a used Glastron, make sure the fiberglass isn’t cracked or rotten and that all the fittings are in good shape. Check the floors and transom for signs of rot or damage, and inspect the wiring for corrosion.
Some boats require an engine rebuild due to heavy use. Inboards are a pain; I would personally gravitate towards outboard models. Outboards are going to be easier and cheaper to repair. Plus, if an outboard motor is trashed, you can just throw it away and get another.
As a general rule, boats used regularly (and have been used recently) are often in the best condition.
Glastron Boat History
By 1967, fiberglass boats had been around for at least a decade. Hundreds of boatbuilders, propped up by the economic prosperity of the era, were producing variants of common fiberglass speedboats, sailboats, and fishing boats.
But typical 1950s fiberglass boats looked nothing like what we’re used to now. At the time, the majority of designers styled fiberglass boats to look exactly like the conventional wooden boats they replaced.
That is, until the Glastron Aqua Lift and the Glastron Aqua Lift II came out. It was instantly a great, family-friendly alternative to typical wooden or aluminum runabouts.
During the 1950s and 1960s, traditional small wooden boats were open and lacked creature comforts. A small bow seat outboard engines were common, as were console controls. Glastron had already been making fiberglass boats with console controls and outboards. But the real game-changer here was the hull design.
With the Aqua Lift II hull, Glastron identified the most significant flaws of 1950s and 1960s fiberglass boat design:
Fiberglass boats were cheap, and people expected them to be cheap. To keep them cheap, companies made them small. As a result, fiberglass boats had limited seating capacity and abysmal handling capabilities. They were small, cheap, and uncomfortable.
Glastron decided to bring the party to the boat instead of bringing the boat to the party. The company managed to double the seating capacity of its boats while making them ride smoother using a deep-V hull. And most importantly, they kept it small.
People expected fiberglass boats to be cheap and small. Glastron made a fiberglass boat that was cheap and small, but with the capacity and comfort of a much larger (and more expensive) boat.
Glastron Creates a New Standard
The open-bow ‘tri-hull’ design was Glastron’s stroke of genius; and it paid off big. Glastron had effectively made the traditional runabout obsolete. Glastron boats were cheaper, more comfortable, spacious, and lower-maintenance.
Bow-riders and deck boats now vastly outnumber traditional runabouts. The old Glastrons might look like ugly ducklings compared to the flashy speedboats and cruisers of the 21st century, but every fiberglass boat with open seating in the bow can trace its roots back to the Glastron Aqua Lift series.
While the old Glastron may not be a show stopper, I believe they’re tasteful and far less tacky than many modern boats. And if Glastron boats are a little too mundane for you, give the Addictor a chance. Or perhaps check out the Mastercraft Prostar 190. But for most, a speedy and easy-to-maintain Glastron will provide countless hours of fun. These ancient glass boats are almost classic, and there’s no cheaper way to get yourself and seven other friends to the shoal for the Fourth of July.