Marine News from the Great Lakes

Now You Can Rent A 1950s Retro Outboard

Published: Friday, September 7, 2018
By: Captain Dennis J. Mykols

Ever seen one of those cool colored, jet age styled vintage fiberglass outboards — you know, the ones from the late 1950s and early 1960s — and say to yourself, “Man, I would love to get behind the wheel of that beauty”?

Well, do I have the answer for you! Now, you can fulfill your dreams… at least for a couple of hours. Head over to Retro Boat Rentals in Saugatuck, Michigan, and rent one of their several retro-styled outboards.

With two rental seasons behind them, John Sharar and business partner, Lauren Stanton, have a tiger by the tail. These little runabouts just do not sit at the docks very long. They are consistently on the go, with all age groups enjoying a 1.5- or 3-hour cruise around the Saugatuck Harbor and out to the pierhead of Lake Michigan.

But, here is the secret to their success. You see, John’s vision for his rental business was to eliminate the messy gas and oil-burning outboard issues typical of these engines. He did this by converting them into modern electric-power, placing the power “inside” the original vintage outboard motor. With the cowling covers back on, no one knows that it is driven by eco-friendly electric power.

Many renters are first time boat drivers, many of which hesitate to rent a big ol’ pontoon. However, most feel comfortable behind these wheels, cruising in the no wake waters around the harbor.

This past summer, Retro Boat Rentals added a liquor license and food service to their comfortable dock and patio areas to make the waiting area warm and inviting, even to stay after you cruise.

This rental business model, in my opinion, may just be the answer to getting more and more people into the classic boating hobby. Over the past two seasons, these little fiberglass runabouts have logged in over 8000 miles up and down the Kalamazoo River in Saugatuck, and never used a drop of gas!

Once people get the taste of driving one of Retro Boat Rentals’ girls — yes, each boat has an old-timey “girl name” as was popular in the 50s — they just might get hooked.

Learn more by visiting their Facebook page @RetroBoatRentals or their website at

This article first appeared in the Fall Issue (Sept/Oct) 2018 of Great Lakes Scuttlebutt magazine.

tags: Antique & Classic Boats, Environmental Impact, Lake Michigan, Rentals

Go back | Show other stories

Check the Map!

Boat shows, destinations, magazine locations

Check it out!