Bob Lowe wrote:This has been discussed here before and from that as well as talking with the owner of one in Oak Harbor WA, I was under the impression that it is a Newton 28. Not sure if Newton built it or not.
Bob had just made me aware of the "GB28" topic link. Here are some facts I can add to the discussion. Hopefully, this can answer some of the questions raised in that thread.
Were the Newtons senior managers at the American Hong Kong Boatyard?
Short Answer: They were not only senior executives, they were the owners!
American Marine was started in 1956 by Robert Newton and his two sons Whit and older brother John in Hong Kong. The first Grand Bank built there was the Grand Banks 36. Then came the Grand Banks 42 as the luxury model. The Grand Banks 32 was the last to be introduced as the economy model.
Initially, both John and Whit Newton worked with their father in Hong Kong. At that time, John and Whit, together with their young families, shared a large 100-year old farmhouse not far from my parents. As I recall, John and his family lived in the back. Whit and his family lived in the front. The entire extended family lived under one roof, just liked what the Chinese did back then. No wonder the Chinese workers loved them
Eventually, Robert Newton retired and moved back to the U.S. Not long after that, John moved back to the U.S. to run the company headquarters as the chairman. I remembered my father was a bit sad one day when he came home from work and told my mother that John was moving back to the U.S. John and my father were pretty close back in the early days of American Marine. Whit stayed in Hong Kong and ran the production side of the company as the president until 1975.
Was the Singapore Boatyard Started to Build Fiberglass Boats?
Short Answer: Unclear. The preponderance of evidence says no.
By the late 1960s. the Grand Banks 32, 36, and 42 were already on their ways to become legends. John and Whit had big plan for the company. Their plan was to expand the production capacity and eventually turn the company into a public company via an IPO in the U.S. stock market.
The problem with their expansion plan was lack of land in Hong Kong. Fortunately, they got this great deal from the Singapore government: "Come, we have plenty of land, and financial incentives for you too"
Rumors had it that the deal was personally approved by the legendary PM Lee Kuan Yew himself. I recalled my father and some of his top shipwrights were sent to Singapore to set up the boatyard as well as served as technical advisors.
Were the GB48, 50, and Alaskans Ever Built in Singapore?
When the Singapore boatyard was first opened in 1968, only the GB32 production line was moved from Hong Kong. GB36 was moved to Singapore shortly after that, all built in wood. The GB42, however, remained in Hong Kong until 1973 when the production of 32, 36, and 42 were switched to fiberglass. Also in Hong Kong were the production lines for GB48, GB50, and the Alaskan 49, 53, and 55. The production of these bigger boats, all in wood, remained operational until 1975 when the old American Marine filed for bankruptcy. Furthermore, GB48, GB50, and all the Alaskans models were never built in Singapore as far as I know.
I guess one advantage of having two production facilities was that it enabled them to develop the fiberglass boats in secret while only giving customers/dealers tours of the Hong Kong boatyard. They needed to develop the fiberglass boats in secret because if the words leaked out, nobody would buy the wooden models
While it is true that the fiberglass Grand Banks models were eventually developed in Singapore in 1973, I doubt fiberglass production was the main reason why the Newtons opened the Singapore boatyard in 1968.
How the Torch was Passed From the Newtons to the Livingstons?
Disclaimer: The events I described below happened close to 40 years ago and was based purely on my recollection of what my father told me. Many people may have different views of the events.
American Marine did managed to go IPO in the U.S. in the early 70s. My father used to have some very nice American Marine stock certificates with a nice GB42 drawing on them. Unfortunately, they probably worth less than the paper they were printed on after the company went bankrupt
Looking back, the IPO may be more a curse than a blessing for American Marine. True back then as it is true today, once a company becomes a public company, investors expect constant quarter-to-quarter revenue growth.
In order to provide that kind of growth, the Newton brothers had to open new revenue streams, which included ventures such as:
1. Greatly increased the production rates of GB32, GB36, and GB42. After all, these were now fiberglass boats that could "pop out" of the molds easily. As it turned out, it was a big mistake
2. Set up their own sale channels to bypass the dealers. Many old timers will tell you that this was one of the fatal mistakes since this really alienated the existing dealer network. It is easy to see now with 20/20 hindsight, the dealers simply could not compete with the direct sales channel. After a while, they just gave up selling your boats
3. Start a bunch of subsidiaries to manufacture marine products such as:
a. Marine diesel engines. They developed a very high performance
engine that was used in the Laguna series of fiberglass boats.
My father told me it was a very expensive development program.
b. Electronic navigation equipments.
c. Chalking compounds.
d. Marine paints ... etc.
Needless to say, this really distracted the company from their core competency, which was to build and sell highest quality boats.
In any event, they may still had pulled it off (and my father would have been rich with all his American Marine pre IPO stock
had history not thrown them a curve ball (I had just recently finished reading a book called "Black Swan." One important lesson from the book was that NEVER confuse your economic projection that is based on mathematical models with REALITY. History was shaped by unforeseen events). Right when the company was highly leveraged with all these expansion plans, the oil embargo of the early 1970s came alone
With fuel price skyrocketed, the U.S. economy went into a deep recession, American Marine's bread and butter business of building luxury yachts suddenly found themselves building more boats than they could sell.
This eventually led to American Marine's bankruptcy in 1975. The Newtons were forced to resign, the Hong Kong boatyard was closed, and the Singapore boatyard was eventually sold to a new investment group led by Mr. Bob Livingston, the company controller at that time. So 1975 marked the end of the Newtons Dynasty and the beginning of the Livingston Dynasty. And we all owe Mr. Bob Livingston a big thank you for keeping the Grand Banks Dynasty alive and thrive. Otherwise, none of us will be discussing Grand Banks on this board today
What Happened Shortly after the Hong Kong Boatyard Closed Down?
It was the worst of time, the best of time
After the Hong Kong boatyard closed down in 1975, there were some unfinished hulls for the Grand Banks 48 and Alaskan 49, 53, and 55 left in boatyard. My father Joe Kong, by that time the "General Manager" of the Hong Kong operation, then hired some of the layoff workers to finish them. They were all completed in the original American Marine Hong Kong boatyard. One of such boats was the Alaskan 53 Joanne and I came upon last year in the San Francisco delta, which was listed as a "1977 Alaskan 53" (click the following link to my facebook album: The Original Grand Banks AL53):
http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=1 ... d79d79db42
While my father was working on these boats in the old American Marine Hong Kong boatyard, John Newton had returned to Hong Kong with an offer my father could not refuse (when you were layoff, anything to generate an income was hard to refuse): To build a scaled-down version of the Grand Banks 32. After all, the U.S. economy was in a deep recession so the reason went: smaller cheaper is better. The boat was named Polaris 28.
My father did not feel comfortable building the Polaris 28 in the old American Marine boatyard since that could have legal consequences. Fortunately, my uncle, my father's younger brother, had a factory that made wooden dining wares (salad bowls, nut dishes ... etc.) just down the road from the American Marine boatyard. That was the place where the Polaris 28 were built, with all the Grand Banks spare parts my father purchased from the holding company that was appointed by the bankruptcy court to oversee the old American Marine boatyard. The boat was built with wood only since neither John nor my father had any money to invest in the fiberglass molds.
One interesting note. When my father hired the layoff workers to work on the unfinished Grand Banks and Alaskans as well as the Polaris 28, he had a large talent pool of workers to chose from. Consequently, he hired only the most senior and capable workers. So one way to put a positive spin on this is that all those boats were built by the all-star team from the old American Marine Hong Kong boatyard
I am sure this can be spinned in many negative ways too ... but I will stick to my positive spin and let other pundits spin the other way
After all, I like stories with positive endings
In any case, that is the story as was told to me by my late father, a long time ago, at a far away place
I really appreciate all the interests in these old stories and the opportunity to tell them in this forum. So a BIG heartwarming THANK YOU to all of you Grand Banks enthusiasts out there who have kept the Grand Banks brand alive all these years. Grand Banks Forever