Every once in a while an “oldie turned goodie” story pops up and is an instant winner on speedonthewater.com, and this appears to be one of them. Why? Because the iconic Popeye—one of two, or three depending on who you ask, 47-foot Fountain Powerboats V-bottoms constructed at Douglas Marine in Douglas, Mich., by Peter Hledin and the talented team behind Skater Powerboats—is in the final stages of receiving an incredible makeover thanks to Ryan Retter, who purchased the former national and world championship-winning raceboat that was built in 1998 by owner Dominic Visconsi Jr., at the end of 2015.
Introducing the new Popeye—the full conversion Fountain/Skater pleasure boat is going to be on the water soon with a pair of turbocharged RED 900 engines hooked up with Arneson ASD-8 surface drive. Photo courtesy Chris Mills
Retter, of Retter Engine Development in Colfax, Ill., bought the boat with the intention of “cleaning it up” and putting a pair of his turbocharged LS-based marine engines in it to showcase the cutting-edge engine and EFI technology capabilities offered by the full-service engine shop his father started as a one-map shop in 1968.
Currently the V-bottom is at Marine Dynamics in Byron Center, Mich., where the RED 900 engines, which run on 89-octane fuel, have been installed and are being rigged with the purpose of getting the boat to the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout and Super Cat Fest coming up on the popular Central Missouri lake in a week and a half.
“When I was thinking about buying the boat, I talked with my friend Keith Holmes about redoing it,” Retter said. “Obviously he had a lot of experience with Skater and he really liked the boat—he just told me to get the tanks checked. So I took it to Chris Mills at Boat Customs and he said he could handle anything I wanted to do. I literally bought it with the shrink wrap on it and I had no idea how bad it was. We found so much damage, Midwest storage damage as I like to call it. That’s what happens when you leave a boat outside for that long. It was blistered and it had some water damage, and Chris spent I don’t even know how many hours fixing all of it.”
Retter said the race canopy was removed in 2007 when Visconsi opted to start converting the boat for pleasure use, but, because of business obligations and eventual loss of interest in the project, the V-bottom sat untouched for eight years.
“When I got Popeye, I took it to Chris for his assessment and I took the trailer to a local shop—AJ’s Collision Repair in Colfax—and we stripped it down to nothing, sandblasted it, did the disc brake conversion and electric over hydraulic, added LED lights and gave it a nice Imron coat,” Retter said. “The boat sat at Boat Customs for a long time as Chris and his guys worked on other projects. It was OK though because I was busy with work so I didn’t have a lot of time to focus on the boat like I wanted. When the time came to work on it, I needed to be there to make decisions in person.
“Although it took longer than expected, I’m happy with what Boat Customs did and happy with what they charged me for all of it,” he continued. “Because we were already so far into it, we ended up doing some things that we were going to do later, such as fixing the bottom, and it’s a good thing we did that because it would have been more work after the fact. It’s kind of hard to fathom how much time and money went into this boat. I’m glad we did it though.”
Check out some current images of Popeye and its new LS-based turbocharged power plants, as well as a few shots of the V-bottom from its glory days as a raceboat, in the slideshow above. Photos courtesy Chris Mills, Adam Low and Jim Dyke.
Jim Dyke, who throttled both Popeye boats—an early 2000s Platinum catamaran followed the Fountain/Skater—with Visconsi, said he loved racing the V-bottom, which was powered by twin 1,300-hp Sterling Performance engines with No. 6 drives. He also seemed interested in the boat and its current setup with the RED engines and Arneson ASD-8 drives.
“Dominic won a lot of races with that boat, well we did, but it was Dominic’s deal,” said Dyke, who now owns Airship RIBs in Vermilion, Ohio, with Visconsi. “I’m glad someone finally did something with the boat. It’s been sitting around for a long time.”
Retter said he picked up the seats for the boat from his friend, Cole Leibel, and he had Appearance Products in Michigan clean them up and put new stitching in the headrests. He also said he’s excited to work with Marine Dynamics’ Adam Low on the project.
“I have a feeling Ryan’s motors are going to be perfect for this boat,” said Low, who started Marine Dynamics earlier this year. “We got the boat last week and started putting the engines in and measuring everything so CMI can get the tailpipes made as quick as possible for us. The guys at Boat Customs did a great job with all of the bodywork, paint and everything else. The boat is beautiful—I can’t wait to see it on the water.”
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