Cruise Craft history timeline

By: John Willis

Want to know where it all began? This timeline history tells all about how Cruise Craft began, from humble origins producing timber boats to the fibreglass boat powerhouse of today.





Nichols Bros Boat Builders is founded after Roy and Lenny Nichols purchase a property in Wynnum, Qld, with nothing more than "£10, a pushbike, a box of tools, and lots of enthusiasm". The property has water access and an old barn. Roy is 25 years old.



The brothers produce traditional timber and plywood Moreton Bay cruisers up to 32ft as well as inboard-powered professional fishing and recreational boats. A traditional boatbuilder named George Love joins as a partner for a short time.



The sheds, buildings and facilities grow enough to warrant opening a shop called Wynnum Marine Hardware.



Roy’s youngest brother, Lance, joins the company. Brands like Blaxland, Chapman, Clay, Hardman and Vire inboards are fitted and sold. British Anzani and Seagull outboards are also sold and serviced.


Late 1950s

The company takes on Johnson outboards.



A significant year for the brothers. The company becomes one of the first authorised OMC (Outboard Marine Corporation) dealers, paving the way for further expansion. The name "Cruise Craft" is also registered. Prior to 1960, all boats are branded "Nichols Bros".



Barry, Kevin Nichols’ older brother, begins work at Wynnum Marine Hardware. The shop is a retail store out front and a timber boatbuilding facility out back.



Kevin joins the organisation, aged 15.



A property is purchased at Hemmant for fibreglass boat manufacturing. A Rebel V16 is the first fibreglass boat.



The fibreglass Rebel boat is first shown to the public at the Brisbane Boat Show.



New models including the Cruise Craft Reef Ranger V18 and Renegade V14 are produced. These boats are 3in longer than the model designation.


Aug 5, 1969

An explosion at the new assembly shed at Hemmant causes the factory to burn to the ground. Only three deck moulds survive the blaze. A new 16ft 6in hull about to be tooled up is also destroyed.


Aug 1969 - Jan 1970

Eight staff work tirelessly to re-create new moulds, borrowing boats from dealers and customers. The Raider 166 and Ranger V18 are also created in this time. Production resumes  in January.


Jan 1974

The CruiseCraft facilities are surrounded by water during the Brisbane Flood but survive nonetheless.



The 1000th Cruise Craft Rogue is produced. It has a white hull and deck, blue non-skid, and is fitted with an orange-and-white 75hp OMC Stinger engine.



A boat mould purchased at auction becomes the Seametre 625. The mould is from marine designer and pattern maker Perry Hillian, who is also contracted at the time to John Haines (then Haines Hunter). The Nichols brothers conclude that the market will accept smooth-sided hulls (which take less than half the time to laminate compared to clinker-sided hulls).



Production ceases for the Rogue after 1534 units.



The Cruise Craft Explorer 570 and the 580D are produced. The 580D receives the Boat of the Year award, presented in Sydney by Sir James Hardy. Both models are destined to become iconic smooth-sided trailer boats.



The market readily adopts bowriders following the release of the Hustler 570 MkI Bowrider. The largest production CruiseCraft, the Executive 800, is also released. It sells over 80 units in nine years, most with Volvo Penta TAMD diesel engines.



Several new models hit the market, such as the Charger bowrider, Stinger runabout and Regal half-cabin, based on the new Cruise Craft 506 hull. Also new is the Cobra runabout and Colt half-cabin, based on the 1500 hull.



Kevin’s eldest son, Nathan, joins Cruise Craft, aged 15. He immediately commences his boatbuilding apprenticeship.



Kevin’s youngest son, Justin, joins CruiseCraft. The last Hustler 570 is built in January 1990.



The Cruise Craft Outsider 580 is released, sharing the same hull as the 570 but with a new concept "Walkaround" deck. It’s the first unit to get a full fibreglass liner on top of a laminated timber deck, virtually doubling its thickness.


Feb 1990

The Cruise Craft Galaxy 585 Bowrider is launched and receives the ABIA Boat of the Year award at Sanctuary Cove. The Galaxy hull performs so well that a new underwater design is implemented in future models.



The 22ft 3in Cruise Craft Outsider 750 is released. Outboards became more fuel-efficient, thanks to EFI and DFI technology, allowing boats to carry larger outboard motors.



The Cruise Craft Outsider 650 is released. It uses a new curved cabin design that still appears on current models.



The company celebrates 50 years.



Employee Neil Paton officially retires after more than 50 years of service.



Kevin retires and hands over responsibilities to Nathan, Justin and Darren. Peter Benston is appointed national sales and marketing manager.



The company celebrates 60 years.



The Cruise Craft Explorer 625 is released.



The Cruise Craft Explorer 685 is released.



The Cruise Craft Explorer 485 and Explorer 530 models are released.



CruiseCraft "Next Generation" hulls are released. The Cruise Craft 530 Explorer is a finalist in the TrailerBoat Australia’s Greatest Boats shootout. The Cruise Craft Outsider 595 and Explorer 685 Hard Top models are also released.



The Cruise Craft Explorer 595 qualifies for the Australia’s Greatest Boats 2014 shootout. It performs admirably and ties equal first for the title of TrailerBoat's Australia’s best fibreglass fishing boat.



Cruise Craft continues to release innovative new fishing boats, including popular new hardtop models like the Explorer 625 Hardtop and Explorer 595 Hardtop.



Originally published in TrailerBoat #281, April / May 2012. Why not subscribe today?



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