Thunderbird Yacht History

George Whittell had a life-long fascination with the latest technology of the day, particularly that which manifested itself in aircraft, automobiles and boats. Among the many he owned were a DC-2, outfitted for his private use, a Grumman Goose seaplane, six of the most uncommon Duesenberg motorcars, a 145' pleasure yacht and the legendary 55' speedboat, Thunderbird. The latter is certainly one of the most unique and elegant wooden vessels crafted in the Twentieth century and, like his Duesenbergs, is as much a work of art as a means of transportation.

Commissioned by Whittell specifically for Lake Tahoe while he was building his fabulous estate there, the Thunderbird was designed by famed naval architect John L. Hacker and built by Huskins Boat Works in Bay City, Michigan. Enamored of the lines of his DC-2 aircraft, also named Thunderbird, the eccentric millionaire requested that the hull and cockpit of his new speedboat resemble the fuselage of his personal airplane. Fashioned of double-planked mahogany and brushed stainless steel the new acquisition would enable Whittell to get about Lake Tahoe with unmatched speed and style. Outfitted originally with twin V-12, 550 hp Kermath engines, the vessel was capable of 60 knots. To accommodate the Thunderbird its notoriously reclusive owner ordered the construction of a 100-foot long enclosed boathouse with 600-foot tunnel that would connect it to the main residence, both blasted out of solid granite.

Thunderbird Statistics

Length: 55' (16.8 m)
Beam: 11'10" (3.6 m)
Draft: 3'8" (111.8 cm)
Powerplant (2): Allison V-1710
Gross Weight: 18 tons (16.3 mt)
Cruising Speed: 24 kph
Top Speed: 60 kph
Prop Diameter: 22" (55.9 cm)
Fuel Consumption: 60 gph (227 lph)

For more information about cruising aboard the Thunderbird Yacht: Take a Cruise