Restoration Tribute

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Longtime friends of Brad Smith have paid tribute to the late marine engine builder by storing his 21-foot Liberator sportboat.

Stroll around almost any go-fast boating event and you’ll probably spot someone wearing a Smith Power shirt. A bright light in the high-performance marine engine world, Brad Smith, the 39-year-old Missouri-based engine builder who died in a boating accident in 2013, made a big impact with friend and customers, who more often and not were one of the same. Smith Power earned a reputation for building reliable products and providing exceptional customer service.

Smith died four years ago next month, and during the past three-plus years several of his former friends have been restoring his first go-fast powerboat, a 21-foot Liberator pickle-fork model built in 1987. Longtime Smith companions Jeremy Strup, who owns the 30-year-old boat powered by a 2.4-litre outboard engine rebuilt by Top Gun Marine in Nixa, Mo., and Ryan Branch led the restoration project.

“It’s hard to believe we’ve been working on it for three years,” said Strup. “But everyone really wanted to get it done. It’s a tribute to Brad. We all spent so much time in that boat 20 years ago.

“We tried to use as many of the original parts, like the foot-throttle, Brad had in it as we could,” he continued. “We also found a box of anodized purple parts that Brad was going to use on another boat of his years ago. Purple was his favorite color. We were able to use the cupholders grab-handle trim-rings, hose clamps and other pieces, so that was cool.”

Of course, the project also required a lot of new work. Shane Baker at FiberTek in Grove, Okla., helped Strup and company rebuild the 21-footer’s rotted transom. US Kustoms in Joplin, Mo., handled the paint. Mike Krueger or Galena, Mo., tackled the boat’s new interior. Jeremy wade and creative car audio out of joplin did all the wiring and audio work. For fresh hardware, Strup turned to Hardin Marine.

“Hardin hooked us up with all kinds of goodies,” he said. “Kevin Coss out of Diamond (Mo.) helped us get a lot of the fiberglass work done. There was lots and lots of fiberglass work—we put in new bulkheads and stringers, a new transom, a new sole and a new dash. The engine is a installed on jack plate from Bob’s Machine Shop. We put in Livorsi gauges and a Forever Sharp steering wheel. We installed a U-Flex hydraulic steering system and new throttle and shifter cables.”

So far, Strup and company have run the boat to a little more than 70 mph on the Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees in Oklahoma, which is about 45 minutes from his home in Kansas.

“We think we can get it up to 80 mph—Brad ran it up to 82 or 83 mph,” he said.

Three years ago, Smith was installed in the Lake of the Ozarks Shootout Hall of Fame. With the 2017 event coming up next week, Strup said he’s considering hauling the boat there for display.

“The boat looks great, but the trailer looks like crap,” he said, then laughed. “We’re going to have to work on that.”

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Matt Trulio is an award-winning journalist who has covered the high-performance powerboat world since 1995. He wrote for Powerboat magazine for 17 years and was the magazine’s editor at large until it ceased publication in 2011. Trulio is the founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of speedonthewater.com, a daily news site that covers the high-performance powerboat realm. He’s also the former editor of Sportboat magazine.

 

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