Dock Find: 1941 Elco Marine 57

This 1941 Elco Marine model 57 is a major undertaking, but when it comes to anything produced in limited quantities, it certainly deserves consideration as a restoration project. This particular vessel is a rare one, believed to be one of just nine built and one of four to survive today. The 57 is also the very last one ever built, and comes with a colorful history that includes being used by a Naval base during WWII in Key West, Florida. The Elco was gifted to the Navy by the original owner, and following its military career, it went back to private hands where it’s been ever since. The 57 has numerous issues demanding attention, and it sounds like it will have to be moved from its current dock in the short term. Find it here on eBay with bids to $3,100 and no reserve.

But when you flip through the photos, the first thing you notice is the richly appointed cabin, that still looks stately despite years of deferred maintenance and general neglect. The 57 was conceived as a luxury liner, a niche Elco carved out for itself before WWII came along and it shifted its efforts to supporting the war effort. Elco would never bounce back post-war, with the company folding a few years later. This 57 features the salon area seen here along with four individual cabins. Ornate details litter the interior, from the wood cabinetry to the stainless counter tops and full kitchen array. While the interior looks quite welcoming, the boat does have some fairly serious issues to deal with elsewhere.

The primary issue is rot, and the seller notes there is a lot of it: several ribs and support beams need replacement, and other areas of concern structurally have to do with modifications made by previous owners. The boat has numerous leaks but the seller notes it does not take on water; in fact, the fiberglassed hull is said to be in excellent condition. Other interesting features can be attributed to numerous original details withstanding the test of time, including all interior doors, hinges, and knobs, along with the dressers in the cabins. The listing notes even the stanchions are all the original brass ones, for another dose of originality you don’t often see in a vessel this tired. Despite the rough exterior, other areas throughout the interior appear to be in excellent condition.

The seller notes that the boat has four A/C units with just one of them actually cooling at the moment. Power is supplied by two Detroit Diesel engines, which the seller mentions may be original to the boat. The engines were purportedly worked on in the past by a previous owner, but they’ve not been started in the last seven years. Other tidbits about the previous owners include lots of lazy trips down the St. John’s River, and open water fishing in the warm ocean waters of South Florida. I’m not sure where you begin with a boat like this, especially with the seller noting that the dock where it’s tied up is undergoing renovations and the non-running 57 will have to be moved in short order, but if you’re boat enthusiast collecting the obscure, it’s hard to go wrong with a luxury liner like this one – just don’t expect to see your money back anytime soon.


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  1. Howard A Member

    Let’s get this out right away, the SS Minnow was a 1960 Wheeler Express Cruiser, not that I knew that, but someone did. Not one, but TWO Detroit noisemakers,which look like a 4-53,,there’s your trouble. Actually, a 2 cycle Detroit made a much better marine motor than a road motor. Without shifting and a constant engine speed, they would spin forever. They made great stationary motors too. This boat? Pull it on shore, yank the motors, as I’m sure there’s a bigger market for those than the boat itself, and make a dandy apartment, it’s sea days are over.

    Like 26
    • BR

      Howard, these engines would likely be the DD 6-71N’s (160 HP version, Gray Marine #6HN49 for the Navy’s Higgins boats). The 53 series “barkers” didn’t come out until ’57.
      And yes, that’s a pretty pathetic looking engine room.

      Like 7
    • Jay E. Member

      What are the engines worth?

      • BR

        Complete engines with gears are worth around $2,500 ea. as non-running cores.

        Like 4
    • Phlathead Phil ☠️

      Agreed. There comes a time when materials used in watercraft & aircraft are no longer worthy. Arggh ye Matie, yank them thar cranks and send ye hulk to Davey Jones Locker!!!

    • wardww

      You are damn right. You could truck that onto a site and it would be a unique home. And the rot issue becomes a moot point.
      And making everybody ask permission to come aboard when drunk while dressed as Jimmy Buffet has my full attention and interest.

      Like 4
      • PRA4SNW PRA4SNW Member

        Based on the pictures, my guess is that someone has been living in it and having a good time (booze on the counter, dishes in the kitchen).

        They have probably lost their slip or are being kicked out, so it’s time to sell.

        Like 3
  2. davew833

    I’m gonna say it anyway:

    “A three hour tour, a three hour tour…”

    Like 16
    • Chris

      The weather started getting rough

      Like 9
      • wardww

        Stop this right now. Mary Anne just died last week and I am still pining. LOL

        Like 2
  3. Mark

    Do not, I repeat, do not put a bid on an old wooden boat like this unless as Jimi Hendrix said “are you experienced?”, in this case with old wood boats. I’m more of a boater than an old car guy, but I love both (have had 71 Chevelle, 64.5 mustang, 76 TR6, Triumph Bonneville 750) I have,and work on it myself, a fiberglass 1970 36′ Nautor Swan. I have boated, and done most of the work on our boats, my entire life. Old wood boats are worth nothing even though they are incredible pieces of art. Anyone who has been a true boater that does all the work themselves because we aren’t rich, would never touch something like this. The cost to redo the entire bottom, which is likely, would be *huge*. The cost, time, knowledge,etc puts this in rarified territory. I wouldn’t take this boat if they gave it to me, because within 12 months just to move it/store it/insure it etc would cost you 5-7k. And that’s doing nothing to it, that’s your yearly “do nothing” cost. Monty Pythons “Run Away!” comes to mind.

    Like 21
    • Jerry

      I agree . As a long time hot rodder and Wooden boat owner I would say run , don’t walk from any large wooden restoration project . Small ones are still manageable.

      Like 7
    • Richard Isenberg

      Untie her. Pull it out a way. Target practice. I agree with the gentleman that said these old wood relics aren’t worth the time.

      Like 5
    • Djjerme

      Never got into boats, but knew plenty that did. And I group them in with owning a horse:

      Unlike a car that can just sit on the side of the garage without cost a dime, boats and horses continue to cost money even if you do nothing with them.

      Though with a boat, the worst that’ll happen is a visit from the coast guard because your artificial reef is littering the marina versus the ASPCA knocking on your door.

      Like 5
  4. Kev

    My Dad told me that a boat is a hole in the water in which the owner throws his money. Not original but it seems to apply here.

    Like 18
    • Dave

      A boat is a black hole in the water just like a plane is a black hole in the sky.

      Like 3
  5. Bultaco

    If I’m not mistaken, Elco built many of the WW2 PT boats. This is a beautiful boat but it’s the kind of project that only a very skilled wood boat builder could ever finish.

    Like 8
  6. Neil G.

    Always wanted a woodie; though mine would have 4 wheels.

    Like 14
  7. Steve

    Boat. Bust out another thousand

    Like 6
  8. 8banger 8banger Member

    Ya, cool boat for sure, but you’d be sunk on this one. Seems like it’s serving someone who likes to hang out in it, drink beer, and eat snack chips…ahh, the lazy days of Florida…

    Like 6
    • Lou Tripper

      Might be the best option rather than a full blown dry dock resto. Fresh up the interior and use it as a low cost vacation hang out.

      Like 9
  9. Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

    Even though a lot of space is tied up with the cockpit, this thing could only be used for live-aboard in a nice climate, parked dockside and never used again. But hey, it is nearly 80 years old. Yank the engines, plug the stuffing boxes, change the sheets, drag it somewhere else and skip the mortgage payments.
    And it was silly to use the Wheeler on GI. Didn’t have enough open space for taking tourists for any cruise.

    Like 7
  10. Skipper

    I had a 32 or 33ft. Elco w/ Twin Screws. A great boat for cruising the
    Hudson River. Never took it out to the ocean. It was “documented” and
    didn’t need numbers. Enjoyed it long ago.

    Like 7
  11. duggie

    Let me state this up front. I am clueless about boats and more so on wooden boats. I have always been told there are no stupid questions, so here goes nothing – Could the wood hull of this boat be fiber glassed over as a less expensive repair?

    Like 4
    • BR

      Not a stupid question at all, in fact it is done a lot. And the ad does say that the hull has been glassed. But whether it was done properly by a pro or half-assed under a shade tree will make the difference. I would jump on this, pending a survey and if it was closer. This boat doesn’t scare me at all. I’ve resurrected much worse.

      Like 12
      • Kevin

        You’re the only one here commenting that can see light for her. It would make a good live-aboard but one would still spend all their Sundays keeping her dry and afloat.

    • Fahrvergnugen Fahrvergnugen Member

      Yes indeed hulls can be fiber-glassed from the outside – but the boat can turn into a wood-lined plastic tub, where the wood on the INSIDE of the plastic will absorb everything and rot away unchecked. Which appears to be the case here, below the waterline at least.

      Then, all you have to do is scrape and paint everything above the hull, and you can wind up with a nice houseboat.

      Like 3
      • BR

        I guess what you don’t understand is that dry rot will stop and the fungi will die when the conditions that started it are removed. And a complete hull fiberglass overlay, if done correctly, will do that. I’ve used this system on a carvel planked 36 footer and a 28 footer. The 36′ went to Ketchikan, AK and back to Seattle.
        Also, you can steam bend sisters and saw frames in situ if you have doubts.

        Like 2
      • BR

        Oops. This system.

        Like 3
      • Bill McCoskey


        I suspect the Gougeon Brothers use a system by where they induce a vacuum into and around the wood sections of the boat, then inject epoxy resin into the area, allowing it to soak into the weak wood. It also stops the rot because air & water no longer have access to the wood.

        I had a manager at my restoration shop who did a fiberglass exterior over the wood hull, and then applied the vacuum/epoxy system to fully coat the entire hull. He said the only real problem with this system, was drilling into the wood was like drilling into metal blocks.

        Like 5
  12. Kenneth Carney

    Now that most of us here agree that the
    word boat does indeed stand for Bust
    Out Another Thousand, let me say this:.
    This could be a project for Agent Gibbs
    on NCIS. The producers could write the
    boat into the show and we could all see
    just what he might do with it.

    Like 5
  13. Capt RD

    I am a wooden boat guy and have spent almost all my 4 decades of professional work running, sailing and caring for old wooden boats as my special niche.
    As mentioned Glassing over the hull outside just exaggerated the rot process inside as there is no ‘breathing’ for the wood. A short term solution for certain death. The interior strength components will not hold the hull in shape as they lose integrity. An absolute total tear down and complete rebuild is the only way to save this old beauty – and it will never approach the value of the investment if that is the plan. It will only be done for love and a commitment.
    Turning it into a fine dockside live aboard is the likeliest future here — never to be ocean going again – where is Travis McGee and his Busted Flush?

    Like 9
    • Lee

      Would make nice playhouse for the kids it you had a hauling company.

      Like 3
    • KevinW La

      Bahia Mar Marina slip F18 Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Man, I loved those books.

      Like 5
      • Brigantine

        I just bought the entire series on Kindle. Over the years had read a few, maybe 1/4. Decided it was time to read the entire series start to finish. Finished Book 1, last night. What a delight.

        As it happens, I am currently living aboard a leaky old Marine Trader. (leaky coachworks, not hull) Aside from the romance of it, what a pain to chase those leaks…

  14. Capt RD — The brothers have a great system – no doubt – but it is a saturation technique WEST – Wet Epoxy saturation Technique – fine when it totally encases the wood and saturates it – a coat outside? Not the plan for WEST system.

  15. Mike

    Since the hull is gonzo and it would cost multi thousands to make it sea worthy, I would drag it up on land have a foundation put under it and call it a fine man cave or an apartment, summer home on the lake, something. About 40 years ago in Jax Fla, I knew of an old boat for sale, which there are thousands but I checked this one out. A teak hand carved absolutely stunning example with major major problems, I bid but lost. I asked the winner how he would restore the boat he said he wasnt gonna do that but make it into his new home.
    I remember the beauty of the interior nothing compares.

    Like 8
  16. Chip Lamb

    Bust Out Another Trillion

    Like 3
  17. lbpa18

    Bidding on parts or apartment, likely both.

    Like 1
  18. Bruce

    No commentary, but good music and short. A beautiful old wooden boat.

    Like 3
  19. Brian M Member

    Sold for $3,150.
    Was tempted but my Captain’s license stops at 42 feet.
    Sanford is only 50 miles from me.
    I guess that I’ll stick to Little British Cars. (Smaller and cheaper)

    Like 3
    • Phlathead Phil

      Yes, that and $3,150.00 set sail like the old merchant mariner of the sea Enoch Arden, (One of Tennyson’s Classic Stories.) If the old thing (and the money) ever returns, the town may have a parade, but I seriously doubt it. Old B.O.A.T. = Being Old And Treacherous. Perhaps indeed she’s a “Drylander.”

  20. PairsNPaint

    Nah, wouldn’t fit in my garage.

    Like 3
  21. dogwater

    give it to the Navy they could sink it

    Like 3
  22. Maestro1 Member

    I’m with BR. I would jump on this if I was in the right location (near water)
    and I didn’t have several car projects underway or stalled because of the Virus. I’m an Atlantic Seacoast Boy now living on the Left Coast. The boat doesn’t scare me. Howard is correct as well as the fellow that said there are thousands of these sitting around doing nothing, but rarely will you find an interior like this, and yes, away with the engines and maybe Chrysler Marines……..

    Like 2
  23. Mountainwoodie

    Oh man the hate! Its an Elco! Its beautiful! Wooden boats are irreplaceable! All this opining is a separate issue from the cost and skills to resurrect the hull. I hope whoever bought it tears it down and restores it. After all what would you do wwith all that money otherwise? Buy a loaded F350?

    Like 4
  24. Kenn

    A real boat lover will take this, restore it and enjoy it. Nothing compares to the ride of a big cruiser, the smell and appearance of the wood, the sound of whatever engines are powering it. No modern plastic boat comes close. The price paid was a bargain if the buyer has a place to park it. That fibereglassed (sp?) bottom will last a long time, the naysayers notwithstanding.

  25. John Oliveri

    Break Out Another Thousand. BOAT

    Like 1
  26. Bob McK Member

    The owner should tow it out to sea and sink it. t could turn into an artificial reef.

    Like 1
  27. Bill McCoskey

    A long time friend from the Rolls-Royce Club designed and had constructed a 59 ft 7-sail fiberglass boat with twin Kubota Diesels. Cost $1.2 million to build, using only the best materials. Sailed it from the Chesapeake bay, thru the Panama Canal, then to Hawaii.

    From there it disappeared, torn from it’s moorings by the Tsunami that resulted from the Fukashima earthquake, only to be found in the middle of the Pacific ocean 2 years later, stripped of everything of value. He had it insured for $2 million, but the insurance had a $100K co-pay, and he was told the rest of the $ wouldn’t be paid until he spent the $100k. So he walked away.

    I enjoyed crewing on his sailboat, used to take car club groups out on the Chesapeake Bay for day trips. Lots of fine memories, just glad it wasn’t on my dime!

    Like 4
  28. firefirefire


    Like 1
  29. ADM

    Maybe someone will spend the money to restore it, because they can.

    Like 1
  30. Bakyrdhero Bakyrdhero Member

    I’m not a boat enthusiast, but the write up on this and the ensuing comments made for a great read. Best barn finds thread in awhile for me.

    Like 1
  31. Captain RD

    As I mentioned earlier Wooden Boats have been my life interest, as Captain and caretaker.
    This vessel should have been posted in Wooden Boat Magazine
    Anyone mildly interested in wooden vessels shpould check out that site, wooden boat sailors already subscribe.

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