Earlier today an extensive and challenging restoration project was unveiled at TNT Custom Marine in North Miami as an experienced boater—who prefers to remain anonymous—hosted a party to celebrate the re-launch of the 31-foot Bertram raceboat White Tornado.
The White Tornado, a 1966 Betram offshore raceboat, is as good as new thanks to TNT Custom Marine and several other outfits that were involved in the restoration of the 31-footer, which is now powered by twin Mercury Racing 520 engines.
After decades of deteriorating, fading, rotting, etc., the owner happened upon the classic international raceboat turned drug smuggling machine through notable boat designer Michael Peters. After acquiring the rare V-bottom, he did plenty of research via pictures and conversations with offshore racing experts such as Italy’s Marco Bertini, England’s Graham Stevens and American Sammy James, who was the head of Bertram Racing in the ’60s and ’70s.
Once he found out which Bertram it was, it didn’t take long to determine that he wanted to restore the 1966 model to as close of a period piece as possible—although he planned to use a modern power package to make the boat more current, drivable and user friendly. From there he turned to the crew at TNT, which is owned by Mike Thomas and John Tomlinson, and the project took on a life of its own.
With TNT handling everything besides the paint job and interior, which were contracted out to the talented teams at Guardado Marine in Opa-locka, Fla., and Miami Prestige Interiors in Hialeah, Fla., the owner waited patiently for the reconstruction of pretty much everything in the classic boat, which is now powered by a pair of staggered Mercury Racing 520 engines.
Check out the slideshow above for more images related to the restoration of the White Tornado Bertram.
“We wanted to have a little launch party to show our appreciation for everyone who had a hand in the project,” the owner said. “None of this would be possible without the amazing people who had a hand in recreating this modern version of a classic machine. Besides the overall beauty of the boat, the details are impressive. I mean these guys were able to fabricate control handles and machine the splines to fit on a Mercury yacht control box so it looks like an old Morse throttle control.”
While the boat reached 77 mph during its first test run, the owner said it isn’t set up to go much faster, nor does he need it to be.
“During out first test ride in the boat last week, there were smiles all around,” he continued. “Although I’ve owned a Fountain, a Magic and a Powerplay, I’m not strictly a powerboater—I like boats of all shapes and sizes, and I love sailing.
“In all my years of boating I’ve never had such a good experience at a facility as I did dealing with TNT,” he continued. “Without TNT this boat wouldn’t be where it is. I was blown away by the accessibility of both Mike and John throughout the whole process. They are both their greatest critics and they hold their work to a super-high standard.”
The owners said he didn’t restore White Tornado for any special notoriety. Rather he wanted to do it for many of the old-time offshore racers who would truly appreciate it. And while he’s not 100 percent certain, he’ll most likely take the boat to Key West for the upcoming Super Boat International Offshore World Championships and the Florida Powerboat Club’s Key West Poker Run.
“We’re very proud of the Bertram,” Thomas said, adding that he and the TNT crew enjoy doing restoration projects just as much as new rigging jobs. “The boat was challenging in the sense that we were looking at some pretty old photos for the basis of what needed to be done and because you can’t buy a lot of the parts from back then. We definitely kept our machinist busy with this project. Overall it is something we’re real proud of.”
Editor’s note: For a more detailed look at the boat’s history and everything that went into the project, look for a full feature on the boat in the next digital issue of Speed On The Water magazine.