About Elite Craft and David S. Smith – Inventor & Creator

about elite craft

David Smith

David Smith, the inventor and creator of Elite Craft, was involved in the boating industry for most of his adult life. His special interests were always classic, mahogany inboard speedboats. Growing up near Lake Michigan, he developed a deep appreciation for their varnished beauty and graceful design, their precision craftsmanship, and the unmistakable rumble of a powerful inboard engine.

Smith’s appreciation of the old runabouts grew to the point where he began to collect and restore them in the 1960’s. He soon was aware that not withstanding the desirability of the classics, the constant time consuming and laborious maintenance such as re-planking, caulking and varnishing greatly diminished the enjoyment and made it impractical to own a classic “woodie”. Owning a modern fiberglass runabout, however, was an unacceptable compromise. Although they were easy to maintain, the grace and elegance of the classics were sadly lacking.

Smith decided that a logical alternative would be a handcrafted, classic-design inboard with the look of varnished mahogany but without the need for constant maintenance. But how to blend such seemingly irreconcilable goals? If oak and mahogany construction were used, again the boat would demand much maintenance. Besides, marketing experience told him that the cost of such materials and the labor required to manufacture such a boat would make the price out of reach of all but a few buyers.

The solution would be an innovative technique in which fiberglass is given the appearance of highly varnished mahogany. Developing the process was time-consuming and painstaking, but eventually it was perfected. The entire structure is a thick, tough, rigid, yet lightweight sandwich of fiberglass and foam core along with other key materials. This sandwich would be further strengthened by a rigid network of bulkheads and stringers.

about elite craft

Dave Smith with Boat

During the time Smith was perfecting his process, Jay L. (Skip) Bregand, a friend and an electromechanical engineer, joined him to form Elite Craft, Inc. in 1978. Bregand had over 20 years’ experience in designing, building and testing boats which began in his early teenage years. He received much early support from his father, who also built and raced boats throughout the country in the ’40’s and ’50’s.

Studies were done on the designs of all the well-known runabouts of the period, and a boat was created to incorporate the best features of the various makes and model years.

Smith and Bregand agreed that an Elite Craft boat must capture the spirit of a wooden runabout from the era when they enjoyed their most popularity. Above all it must be of exceptional quality that will endure.