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Grumman Boats, The World's Best Leisure Canoes With Fighter Plane DNA
If you know Grumman, it's probably because of their famed Navy Cat line of fighter planes spanning all the way from the late 1930s until the mid-2000s. There's a lineage behind the military aircraft made by the Long Island New York aerospace company before their merger into Northrop-Grumman that few others can match.

Grumman Boats, The World's Best Leisure Canoes With Fighter Plane DNA

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But what is such a company to do if they find themselves wanting more revenue streams than the military-industrial complex can offer? Well, if you have a whole bunch of aircraft-grade aluminum lying around, you have lots of options. One option was designing the iconic Grumman LLV mail truck. A fire-prone metal box synonymous with the U.S. and Canadian Postal Services.

They also worked with fellow Long Island company Olson to build the iconic Wonderbread and Hostess Treats transport trucks, but that's a topic for another day. For now, let's set out sights on the consumer-grade leisure canoe built by the same people who made the F-14 Tomcat. You may ask yourself, why canoe building of all things? Well, consider the specifics of conditions just after the Second World War for a moment.

After the war, the American military manufacturing complex had one heck of a conundrum. With Germany and Japan in ruins, hence no enemies to defeat, how were they supposed to maintain profitability? Well, when you had the insane reserves of aircraft quality aluminum, the answer was simple: just build something else.

Canoeing was not the most popular recreational activity before the war. Its use was largely reserved for practical applications like fishing or even bare basic river transportation. They were also almost always made from layers of stretch-formed wood that needed lots of maintenance and TLC to keep in water-worthy condition.

As for Grumman employees like Vice Presiden William Hoffman, they thought they could do even better. One day, Hoffman dragged his 13-foot, wooden, and waterlogged canoe into the Grumman offices in Bethpage, New York.

Hoffman was an avid outdoorsman, spending much of his off-time camping in New York's Adirondack Mountains. One look at the stricken wooden boat was all they needed to know. Grumman aluminum could absolutely make it better. As it happens, they were right. 

The end result was a 13-foot canoe that was 30% lighter, while being significantly stronger than any traditional bonded wood canoe. The aircraft-grade aluminum needed a minimum of maintenance to look shiny and new, a complete revolution in the field. Hoffman commandeered the first model off the production line for his own personal use.

The rest of the Grumman canoes, be them in sizes ranging from 13 to 19-feet, would go on to become the gold standard of the newly emerging private leisure canoe industry. To say these canoes were melted down from old Grumman F4F Wildcat and F6F Hellcat Navy fighters would be a bit of a stretch, but to say these boats had the spirit of a Navy fighter within them all is no understatement.

By the mid-1980s, Grumman was cranking out over 50 canoes a day and employed over 200 Long Islanders just to keep up with demand. An American company called Outboard Marine Corp acquired the division in 1990, and produced the last Grumman canoe at the Bethpage factory in 1996. Soon after, production was moved to the Cortland County town of Marathon, New York.

By this time, Grumman aerospace had merged with Northrop to form Northrop-Grumman. Outboard Marine came to an agreement with Northrop Grumman to keep on using the iconic Grumman name on their products for a nominal licensing fee every year. Today, genuine Long Island produced Grumman Canoes are sought after collector's items that are as capable as they are valuable. It sure beats a dingy, wooden boat.


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