Illustration by Jim Ewing
“Cabin-cruiser dazzle … dazzling performance … dazzling appointments.” The Seaflite Seville had it all. This 17-footer from the 1950s was the creation of Glastron, the pioneering Texas-based builder. No plank-on-frame here. The fiberglass Seville was “molded with majestic splendor” in “tu-tone” colors matched with “harmonizing pleated upholstery.” The automobile-style tail fins topped off the “exclusive Seaflite style.”
The eye-catching design was combined with a simple, family-oriented layout that included side-by-side bunks “below” and space for an optional head. The boat was driven standing up — seats were optional — and the helm was protected by an aluminum-frame windscreen, with side controls for the 120-hp Johnson outboard.
Glastron was founded in 1956 by boatbuilders Bob Hammond and Bill Gaston, along with casket maker Bill Shoop and plastics expert Guy Woodward. The four partners had a new material called fiberglass to work with, and the nation was enthralled by the emerging Space Age, which began with the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the first artificial satellite. When it came to design, whether boats, cars or architecture, “anything goes” was the motto.
Soon Glastron’s over-the-top models were the boats to have. President Lyndon B. Johnson drove a Glastron, as did the king of rock ’n’ roll, Elvis Presley — a Bayflite Deville, by the way. Even Hollywood got in on the act. Glastron built the “Batboat” for the 1960s Batman movie, a Glastron made the 110-foot jump in the James Bond movie Live and Let Die, and Disney’s The Boatniks featured a Glastron.
By 1972, Glastron was the world’s largest fiberglass boatbuilder. Models included the Fireflite sedan, Surflite fishing boat, the sporty Bayflite series, Jetflite ski boats and the outdrive-powered Futura 500. The company continues to build boats today as part of the Rec Boat Holdings Group, based in Cadillac, Michigan. And more than 50 years after its debut, Glastron’s dazzling 17-foot Seaflite Seville — now a fiberglass classic — remains a “marine marvel that’ll make others sit up and take notice.”
May 2015 issue