HOW HACKER-CRAFT SPORT BOATS INSPIRE BUICK’S NEW AVENIR CARS
OUR FACTORY VISIT DIGS IN TO THE ESSENCE OF BOAT-BUILDING AND HOW IT INFORMS AUTO DESIGN
In a warehouse at the northernmost end of Lake George in upstate New York, Jeff Brown walks the length of what will become a 27-foot Hacker-Craft sport boat. Although it’s only a skeleton right now, the mahogany ribs will soon be planked, varnished, and fitted with a motor and interior before being delivered to a proud new owner. Brown is the director of special projects and the former production manager at the Hacker-Craft facility, where 40 craftspeople work anywhere from 1,700 to 3,000 hours building each boat by hand.
“It’s attention to detail that’s the sign of our brand,” Brown says, heading over to another boat under construction and points out the wooden plugs covering hundreds of screw holes. The grain of every plug lines up perfectly with the grain of the plank. “We can even tell if a boat has been worked on by someone else by the way the hardware lines up,” Brown tells us.
In 1904, marine designer John L Hacker built the fastest boat in the world. Four years later, he founded the Hacker Boat Company in Detroit, Michigan and went on in the years that followed to break several more sea-speed records. Among his innovations were there first twin floats on an aircraft, which he built for the Wright Brothers’ biplane so it could take off and land on water. Today, Hacker-Craft not only sells custom and semi-custom mahogany boats (which start from the mid-$200,000s), it also offers full restoration services at its facility in Ticonderoga.
At the company’s showroom in Silver Bay, NY (about 20 minutes south of the production facility), potential customers can peruse brochures for new boats, or choose from one of several pre-owned models. One example, a 25-foot sport boat built in 2000, is furnished with Hacker’s signature green interior. Another, whose first owner was a successful car dealer, has its gauges custom-fitted into an old Chrysler instrument panel. Sizes, colors, and options vary, but all Hacker-Craft boats share one thing in common: timelessness. To the untrained eye, it’s hard to tell a freshly varnished, 40-year-old Hacker-Craft from one that’s just rolled out of the factory.
We visited Hacker as guests of Buick as their quality and sense of agelessness is what Buick hopes to convey with its new upscale line-up, Avenir. Available in three models: the Enclave SUV, the LaCrosse sedan, and—most recently—the Regal sportback, Avenir editions come fully loaded with upgraded materials.
“The Avenir is the highest expression of Buick luxury,” says Chris Hilts, Global Director of Buick Interiors. “Buick is not something that gets old really quickly; they age gracefully.”
About the same time Hacker was building boats, The Buick Motor Company was producing cars in Detroit and later in Flint, Michigan. In the years that followed, Buick became the best-selling brand in the US. Today, Buick is not only enjoying a resurgence in America, it has become a status symbol in China, the world’s fastest-growing automotive market.
Avenir models are differentiated on the outside by a front grille insert with a crosshatch pattern and unique wheels. The cabin uses upgraded materials and comes standard with nearly every option, including heated and ventilated seats. Mechanically, they are identical to their standard Buick counterparts. On the Enclave SUV, the optional tow package is rated for 5,000 pounds—enough to tow a 26-foot Hacker-Craft runabout. Just unveiled this summer, the Regal Avenir is the most yacht-like of the line-up, with a sleekly sloping roofline reminiscent of more expensive luxury sportbacks such as the Audi A5 and the BMW 4 Series Gran Coupe. It’s powered by a 250-hp, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, paired with a 9-speed automatic transmission. Inside, the Regal Avenir gets an exclusive interior clad in Whisper Beige leather with ebony trim and a new, more refined central touch screen. Other standard features include an eight-speaker Bose audio system, navigation, and wireless device charging. Buick Enclave and LaCrosse Avenir models are available now; the Regal Avenir will go on sale this fall at a starting price of about $36,000. A handful of options will be available such as adaptive cruise-control, perfect for those with a tough daily commute. For those who’d rather play hooky, we recommend heading to the shores of Lake George for a little boat shopping. - Via Cool Hunting/Laura Burstein & Steve Fecht