Though TNT Custom Marine still tackles plenty of new-boat rigging and re-power jobs, particularly in the outboard engine segment, the Miami-based outfit takes on just two to three restoration projects a year. As company co-founder John Tomlinson candidly explains, such labor-intensive projects are far from the company’s mainstay.
Originally owned by Ben Kramer, an infamous figure in high-performance powerboating history, this 47-foot Apache belongs to TNT customer Lorne Leibel.
“Unless it’s a complete start-over or close to it, we don’t even entertain it,” said Tomlinson. “If someone comes in with a half-finished restoration or re-rig he want us to ‘just finish up,’ we won’t touch it. That never works. We always ended up getting nickel-and-dimed on those jobs so we don’t take them.
“Older-boat jobs are hard to bid because you never know what you’re going to find,” he continued. “So we get really picky about which restoration projects we are going to do.”
As it happens, Tomlinson and company have two such projects currently in the shop, a 50-foot Cigarette Marauder with Mercury Racing 1350 engines—one of the first to be equipped with the Fond du Lac, Wis.., company’s turbocharged quad-cam four-valve engines—and a 47-foot and a triple-engine Apache originally owned by the infamous Ben Kramer.
“Mercury Racing is refreshing the engines for the Cigarette,” said Tomlinson. “Since we won’t have the boat’s new interior from Fineline back for a while, I told them there was no rush. We should have the engines back in two months. It just got back from being painted by David Hunter about a month ago.
“The customer bought the boat in Europe and brought it back about a year ago,” he continued. “It was a wreck. One of the engines was locked up, the other was OK. We are rebuilding the drives and replacing the gimbals, repainting the bilge and replacing a lot of the old rigging. We’re also replacing the Garmin GPS units with new models and installing all-new Livorsi gauges.”
Tomlinson said that the project should be finished in one to three months, depending on when the new interior is complete.
The TNT crew is doing extensive renovation work on this Cigarette 50 Marauder powered by Mercury Racing 1350 engines.
Built in 1987 and powered by triple 800-hp Keith Eickert engines, the famed Apache is owned by Canadian Lorne Leibel, a longtime friend and client of Tomlinson’s. (In 1987, Tomlinson drove his first offshore race with Leibel handling the throttles.) Leibel sold the boat to another buyer 17 years ago and has regretted it ever since, according to Tomlinson.
“Lorne finally convinced the owner, who lives in New Jersey, to sell it back to him two years ago,” he said. “We are redoing the drives and the rigging. The engines are being rebuilt by Mike D’Aniballe at Sterling Performance in Michigan. It should be done next month.
“The boat still has its original paint and interior and they still look as good as they did 25 years ago,” he added, then laughed. “I remember the first time I rode in it, probably 20 years ago. It was the loudest boat I’d ever been in.”
As a rule, TNT Custom Marine tackles two or three restoration projects a year such as the Cigarette and Apache V-bottoms above..