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"The World's Largest Manufacturer of Kit Boats"

Written by
J. Rilling Johnston for The Luger Sailboat Mooring

in collaboration with
Ren J. Luger, co-founder of Luger Industries, Inc.

"The Luger Concept of building top-grade pleasure craft in easy-for-anyone-to-complete form, and marketing them to you at half the cost of factory finished boats, is one that has withstood the test of time."

A description of "The Luger Concept" was the opening statement used in many Luger Boats catalogs.  "The Luger Concept" became the company's foundation, and with it, two brothers built and sustained a boating industry legend:  Luger Industries.

The two brothers, Ren and Orm Luger (serving as President and Vice-President), built a kit boat empire that introduced thousands of pleasure craft enthusiasts to the world of boat ownership. 

                O.L. (Orm) and R.J. (Ren) Luger
Under their direction, and the popularity of their boat kits, Luger Industries grew from its small beginning in the garage behind the family home into an industry leader.

Since childhood, the two brothers had shown an interest in boats, so it was not unusual for Ren and Orm Luger to build a lifetime career from something they enjoyed.  Minnesota - The Land of 10,000 Lakes - was the heartland of America's boating industry, so the young entrepreneurs were in the perfect place to make their business grow.  Orm Luger remembers,

"The boat business was just starting to gel at the time.
We were just in the right business,
   at the right time, with the right product."  *

The boat kit business had its advantages - and product testing was one of them.  In 1951, Orm demonstrates the agility of the 12' Ranger Deluxe Runabout, while a family friend, Bob, puts the 14' version through its paces.

For many reasons the fifties were ideal times to begin a business based on recreation.  After WWII, it seemed Americans made more time for leisurely activities, especially those that involved their cars or boats.  "Boat Trailering" combined these activities, and owners started to equip their automobiles with hitches.  Trailering opened a limitless number of locations to the powerboat owner, and eliminated costly mooring and docking fees.

Power and speed were factors motoring enthusiasts could finally apply to their boats as well as their automobiles.  Wartime's advances in motor technology were being applied to peacetime industries, and manufacturers were building outboard motors large enough so boats could plane on water.  A boat's ability to plane provided passengers with faster and more comfortable rides.  The advent of the electric starter for these large outboards then put power boating into the hands of anyone.  This new accessibility to the water bolstered the newest family sport: water skiing. The combination of more time, expanded horizons, and the promise of an exhilarating ride created the perfect setting for a business built on boating.  Older brother, Ren, recalled a drive he took through North Dakota,

"Driving through in the 50s, we saw only one boat dealer.
But when we drove though the state again, in the '60s,
we saw many more dealers."

Ren's children, Debbie and Tim, volunteered to test the planing capabilities of the V-bottom hulls of Luger's  houseboat kits.  This feature enabled the 22' boats to attain nearly 30 mph with two 45-hp outboards - powerful enough to pull two water skiers!

The Business of Boating was indeed growing.  The Luger brothers launched their boat kit venture as "Minnesota Marine" when the boating industry and a new era of water-sport activities was evolving.  Once their business was well established, it then incorporated, and the name changed to Luger Industries.  With so many companies already competing in the well established markets of factory-finished boats, Luger Industries would tap into an underdeveloped area:  The Pre-Assembled Kit Boat Market.

The "kit boat" idea was not a new one.  Science, craft, and hobby magazines and their associated clubs already offered detailed boat plans for the do-it-yourself handyman.  But Luger seized on the idea of offering pre-assembled kits that would supply the home-builder with precisely cut, top-quality parts that only needed final assembly.  Detailed plans assured the hesitant they could enjoy not only the pride of ownership, but that great feeling of accomplishment that comes with knowing, "I did it myself."  Descriptive and well-illustrated catalogs reinforced the would-be-buyer that they really COULD do it:

"Cap Luger"
was a character used in early Luger catalogs.  He introduced readers to "The Luger Concept" and assisted them through the selection and ordering process.

Huge inventories of boat kits, accessories, engines and other equipment offered in their catalog were stocked in Luger's modern warehouse - geared for immediate processing of orders without delay. 

Large trailer trucks pull up to the spacious loading dock, and within minutes crated kits were on their way - bound from the Luger plant to states from California to Florida, and for foreign embarkation points.

"Large, progressive, pictorial illustrations and explicit
instructions in the simplest language, lead you through
each assembly stage with full confidence."

Luger's wooden boat kits were easy to assemble.  Correct alignment of the boat was built-in at their factory, and parts were marked to correspond with the instructions.  No measuring was needed to find locations, and the frames (ribs) were already notched for all members, and beveled to receive the sides and bottom planking.  Critical wood parts were marine grade 3/4" plywood or oak, and the kits supplied the steam-bent oak stem and all the stainless steel screws, trim, and fasteners.

The first boat kit manufactured and listed for sale was an 8-foot pram, and sold for $29 - total price.  Customers were reminded there were no "hidden costs" behind the catalog's prices:  The listed price included freight and postage charges - which in 1952, Luger claimed could save the purchaser as much as $18.00, depending on the kit and its destination.  The price even included up to three quarts of first quality marine paint, in the purchaser's color choice of red, white, blue or green.

 
The home builder did not need special forms or jigs to assemble the boat.  All guesswork and the need for costly or specialized tools had been eliminated.  Since all the parts arrived fully machined, only a screwdriver and hand drill (to drill the lead holes for screws) were required to complete the framework. 

When factory-finished fiberglass boats were introduced to the marine industry, Ren knew the kit boat market couldn't lag behind:

When the fiberglass sections were removed from their molds, all the skill and craftsmanship needed to make a beautiful boat were provided:  the colors were permanently molded in, all surfaces were glass smooth and beautifully contoured.  The new owner provided only the final step of assembling the parts together.

There was no difference between the methods used in the factory assembly of molded fiberglass parts and the assembly methods the original owners would use to assemble their Luger fiberglass kit.

"When fiberglass boats first came about, I knew… 
We better get into this!"

In 1959 Luger catalogs introduced fiberglass boat kits alongside their wooden counterparts.  Boat builders had a choice:  "Wooden Pre-Assembled Boat Kits" or "Factory Molded Fiberglass Boat Kits".  Previously, wooden boat owners gained the advantages of fiberglass only by application of an optional  fiberglass "boat covering" to the outer wooden hull.  Although this method rejuvenated older or leaky boats, and could strengthen already strong hulls, proper application of the glass cloth and resin took considerable care, increased completion time, and added additional weight, as well as cost, to the finished boat.  Luger's new factory-molded kits replaced the disadvantages of the fiberglass "covering".

The fiberglass boat's glossy contoured finish and molded-in deck colors swayed many to the new kits.  It's flanged sections were joined inside the boat and out of sight - and when completed, an owner-finished Luger boat could not be distinguished from its factory-built counterpart.  The new fiberglass boats took less time to complete - and when finished, "...would meet or exceed the highest present day standards combined with the finest in nautical tradition."  Luger had built its own nautical tradition of excellence, and an admirable reputation within the boating industry.

Blazers lent a professional look to the salesroom staff - and rightly so:  Dick Kruger (middle) and Todd Peterson (right) of the sales department team, together with Sales manager Dick Tarnowski (left) were well versed in the advantages and quality of Luger boat kits.  Boating enthusiasts themselves, they stood ready to serve showroom visitors with expert and friendly advice.

Luger employed as many as 100 people.  Many of Luger's "family" of employees had been with the company for years, and had been involved in boating for most of their lives.

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