Pictures—C.R. Rae, John Vorhies, jr.
At MasterCraft boat manufacturing, Donnie Brown has the title of Test Technician but, he refers to himself as the “crash test dummy”. He got the job because he plays ice hockey. That may sound a little strange taking a hockey player and putting him out in the ocean to test boats but, Brown owned a boat repair company and really knew his boats. Where did the hockey come in? He played on a team with an engineer from MasterCraft.
Brown attended the Antique and Classic Boat Show at Portage Lakes last June and brought with him the very first MasterCraft ever built.
The classic boat was built in 1968 in a warehouse in Orlando, Florida by Rob Shirley, a water ski instructor and founder of MasterCraft. In its first year, the newly founded company built 12 boats. Shirley first showed the boat at the U.S. Nationals in Canton, Ohio and the James Garner family, from the area, purchased it.
In 1987, the company tracked down the Ohio family and gave them a new boat, so they could get the original boat back as part of the celebration of the company’s 20th anniversary. Today the company uses this first boat as a promotion, taking it to shows.
Brown shared pictures that were taken during the restoration of the boat at the show. They tore it apart the boat and found the fiberglass boat was originally put together with nuts and bolts and they had to cut every single one of them out. They sanded the boat down and re-glassed it. Brown also said they had to hand cut the gaskets as they were no longer made.
In talking about the company, Brown said that Vonore Tennessee, home of MasterCraft manufacturing, is located near Knoxville and is one of those little towns where the mayor’s son is the police chief––“an Andy Griffith type town.”
Today the company builds 17 boats a day in that small town. He showed the most recent MasterCraft boat which he brought to the show and the retail price–$235,000. But Donnie said, “It is tricked out and then some.”
He has been with the company for some 14 years and when he first began with MasterCraft they built their first salt water boat and sent Brown to the ocean to test it for 500 hours. Now every new model they build, Brown takes it out on the ocean for durability testing.
Brown enjoys his job and is a regular at the Tavares Antique and Classic boat show in Florida, sit down and talk with him and have him show you the pictures of the “first” boat restoration.