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Restoration Specialists: Making Old New Again At Carter’s Powerboats

Restoring vintage high-performance V-bottoms, particularly those from Cigarette Racing Team, started long ago as a hobby for Dustin Carter and his father, Danny, in Broken Arrow, Okla. Some 18 years later, that hobby has become a full-time business called Carter’s Powerboats—the company became a Limited Liability Company (LLC) last year—for the 38-year-old machinist by trade and his dad.


In progress at Carter’s Powerboats, this 1990 Cigarette 31′ Bullet sportboat is coming back to life.

“It started as a part-time job, but now we have so much going on its not even funny,” said Carter, who still owns and runs an oil industry application machine shop called Manufacturing Solutions. “It just turned into a full-time gig.”

“Dad and I will take a boat down to its shell,” he continued. “Rigging is our specialty, and our engine compartments speak for themselves.”

With Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees and Lake of the Ozarks in Central Missouri as his home waters, Carter has found a steady stream of classic performance boats to restore. He outsources work beyond his scope to vendors in his home state and Missouri including Vincent Custom Paint for hull and deck painting, Moss Interiors for cockpit and cabin re-upholstery and Gaines Grinding for engines and engine rebuilds.

And with each completed project, his reputation for excellent work—especially with the Cigarette brand—has grown.

“I am on Cigarette 31’ Bullet No. 9 and doing my fifth 35’ Café Racer now,” said Carter. “I’ve done six Top Guns. Cigarette built 68 Bullets and I think I’ve owned nine of them.

Transformation—1992 Cigarette 35′ Cafe Racer. Said Carter, “This one we are going all out on.”

“So a lot of it is Cigarettes,” he continued. “But we have done a P-29 Scarab and it has to be the nicest P-29 on the planet. We took that one all the way down to its shell. It has some of the last motors (late engine builder) Brad Smith ever built, some killer little 427 small-blocks. Brad used to do all my engine work. We were good friends.”

Carter said that he and his father can handle approximately three extensive restoration projects a year, but demand for his services far outstrips his current ability to fill it. He wants to carefully expand capacity for extensive powerboat restoration projects while “filling it in” with maintenance work and less-intensive renovation jobs such as dash and gauge replacements.

Transformation—1991 Cigarette 35′ Cafe Racer Carbon 70 Edition with valve covers painted by Brandon Smith is honor of his father, Brad Smith of Smith Power fame. The boat, which has engines built by Bob Smith, is owned by Robert Kusch of Baton Rouge La.

“Trying to find the right people with same kind of passion and drive we have, that’s the hardest thing to do,” he said. “I’d like to grow this a little bit more, but I’m trying to figure out on what level we want to grow. The restoration business is good, but it’s so time consuming.”