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Restoration of Brad Smith-Owned Sportboat Nears Completion

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This 1987 Liberator pickle-fork hull sportboat once owned by engine builder Brad Smith should be back on the water this season.

Jeremy Strup and Ryan Branch of Joplin, Mo., planned to have the restoration of a 20-foot Liberator pickle-fork sportboat built in 1987 and owned by the late Brad Smith of Smith Power fame finished almost a year ago. But as with most renovation projects involving vintage boats—in this case one that’s 30 years old—there was a lot more work to do than they anticipated. But according to Branch, the project celebrating the popular engine builder, who died during a poker run accident in 2013, should be complete in two or three months.

“We’re coming up on our third summer working on it,” said Strup. “It needed way more work than we thought—new transom, new stringers, new floor, getting rid of the rub rail, you name it. The 240-hp outboard motor has been rebuilt by Top Gun Marine in Nixa (Mo.) and we have a new jack plate for it from Bob’s Machine Shop. We have gauges coming from Livorsi Marine, and Fred Ortega there was a big help with getting them and the shifter and throttle. The new interior has been built by the original shop in Texas that was building them for Liberator.

For a closer look at the project check out the slideshow above.

“Ryan and I did 99 percent of the fiberglass work,” he continued. “Shane Baker at FiberTek in Grove (Okla.) helped show us how to do transom rebuild. US Kustoms in Joplin sprayed the paint—we’re going to have Brad’s son, Brandon, paint accents on the outboard cowling. He’s a really talented painter. We’ve tried to do it the way we thought Brad would if he were restoring the boat.”

Strup, who has funded the project from the beginning, said that he and Branch plan to run the 20-footer in events around the country—including the Tickfaw 200 Poker Run in Louisiana—this season.

“We plan to take it as many places in the country as we can,” he said. “It’s such a small boat that we have take it places where it’s smooth enough to run, though.

“This was Brad’s first boat, the one that really got him into the boating thing,” he added. “He had it for several years, then sold it. It popped up again after he passed away. We’ll never get rid of it. Brad was one of our best friends. You still see Smith Power T-shirts at events and Smith Power engines in boats. He was something else. We want to keep his memory alive.”

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