Hacker Boat Company, now in its 114th year of building traditional wooden boats, has decided it’s time for something new and different.
The company was founded in 1908 in Detroit, around the time that Henry Ford started building cars there. Following a move in the 1970s, Hacker has continued to build boats in Ticonderoga, New York—until this past September, when production moved about an hour south to a more suburban location in Queensbury, New York. This move gave the company 35 to 40 percent more space to run its boat-restoration business and build custom boats, including three new models unveiled in January as The Evolution Collection.
“We’ve been wanting to take Hacker-Craft to that next era of design. We don’t want to do away with our Legacy models, but we want to offer something new,” says Erin Badcock, chief operating officer and daughter of George Badcock, who has owned the company for more than a decade. “We’ve been fine-tuning different concepts of models over time.”
The Evolution Collection adds three models to the existing five (available in various lengths overall) that Hacker will continue to offer in its Legacy collection. The first Evolution model is a 37-foot 6-inch Commuter, which has an open-style cabin, a hardtop and twin inboard engines. The second Evolution is a Center Console available in sizes from 30 to 35 feet, and with inboard or—in a rare option for Hacker—outboard engines. The third and most contemporary of the Evolution models is the Monaco, a 40-footer with an open transom, flexible cockpit seating and a customizable cuddy cabin.
Several of the new designs have already found a following among wooden boat enthusiasts the company was speaking with prior to the Evolution Collection’s public unveiling. The first Monaco in the order books is expected to be on the production line by March, and a number of customers have asked Hacker’s team to spec out plans for other Monacos and Center Consoles.
“Depending on the size of the boat and the power, a majority of these designs are for coastal cruising—for day boating, not necessarily for overnighting,” Badcock says. “The Commuter could be an overnighter if the model is scaled up. Probably 50 percent of the boats we build are going into salt water. About 50 percent are going into lakes, but they’re often Lake Ontario, Lake Michigan—lakes with some serious weather.”
All the boats that Hacker builds still have traditional wood construction. The stringers, frames and interiors are mahogany. Some of the boats can be ordered with a thin layer of fiberglass on the sides, and then with mahogany decks for the classic styling that boaters have long associated with the Hacker brand. “If somebody wanted to build in all-wood, then we would do that,” Badcock says. “A boat can be delivered in either finish.”
There’s a “build your own” feature on the website for choosing basic models, paint colors, stain hues, upholstery and the like, but if a buyer would like to see a design tweaked, Badcock says the conversation can happen.
“If somebody wants to make a small change or is looking at a picture and wants it a different way, because we’re working in wood and not dealing with the tooling of fiberglass, we can make those changes,” she says. “Every boat becomes semi-custom for the owners. It’s the honest truth. We have customers who visit their boat on the production line, and they say, ‘I was thinking, could we do this?’ And we are able to make those changes in-process.”
The Hacker team is expecting to see more customers visit the factory since the move to Queensbury, which Badcock says is a more accessible location than the previous headquarters. In addition, the new location is expected to enable Hacker to attract new employees, who can help the builder keep up with the current level of consumer demand. Hacker can turn out 15 hulls per year at the new facility. As of late January, Badcock says, order slots were already filled into 2023.
That may seem like a long stretch of time to wait for a new ride, but these are traditionally built wooden boats, and the Evolution designs were 114 years in the making.
“The idea behind this collection is that we are a company with a legacy and a history, but we are constantly evolving,” Badcock says. “We want to remain innovative and change with the times.”
This article was originally published in the April 2022 issue.