Heartland Classics Winter Workshop  

Saturday, February 24, 2024 at


Nearly 25% of Heartland Classics members plus about a dozen guests gathered at Brent and Steve Howard’s Shop on Grand Lake in Oklahoma for this Workshop Day.  All were eager for a winter break to see friends, learn new things, and maybe, feel closer to spring and the next boating season.

Participants came from our six Heartland states and ranged from Charter members to newly joined, with several about-to-be new members.

Dan Diehl serves as planner, coordinator, food host, and MC for this annual event. The history of the Winter Workshop started with a Swap-Meet and Workshop in Dan Diehl’s shop even before Heartland Classics became an ACBS Chapter. 

As the event grew, it moved to Brent Howard’s shop in Langley, Oklahoma, and then in 2014 moved to his spacious new shop near Ketchum, OK. 

Chuck Gibbs was the official greeter this year and Mark Engstrom, Chapter President, manned the Ships Store.

Chuck Gibbs was the official greeter this year and Mark Engstrom, Chapter President, manned the Ships Store.

Mark led announcements about the Chapter’s 2024 scheduled events.  He also encouraged everyone to bid on the wide range of donations to the silent auction.

The Nautical Marine Services team from Avoca, Arkansas, showed some examples of fiberglass repair and gave suggestions for proper maintenance.  Most reassuring, was that oxidation discoloration of the gel coat can be buffed back to its original color.

Pictured here being introduced by Kerry Jensen, Chapter Vice President.

Ward Brasses raised everyone’s awareness about the dangers involved in charging batteries.  Battery technology has evolved from lead acid batteries that needed to be refilled periodically, to closed fluid chambers or absorbant glass mat (AGM) batteries, to the newest Ionic lithium batteries.  All three require different charging methods!  The danger lies in using older chargers with newer battery types which can result in explosive fires.

Ward always carefully explains new information and applications of the latest technology.  His presentation made participants add to their own shopping/wish lists.

Ward’s second topic was a Show’n’Tell of one of his new tools – an ultrasonic Cleaning machine.  By using some heat and intense ultrasonic vibrations in various cleaning liquids (from plain water to heavy degreasers), the machine can clean and polish anything from fine jewelry to old greasy motor parts.

Steve Howard told a little about joining the staff at Howard Classic Boats and now does much of the varnishing on the restoration projects.  He enjoys working in the “new” shop with its heated white floor, especially when laying on the floor to work underneath a boat.

Steve pointed out the closed dust collection system, and answered questions about the current projects in the shop.

The Class of ’47 is the Chris Craft Constellation that is the backdrop in the group picture.  Each year, participants are eager to check on the restoration progress.  Class of ’47 belongs to Brent Howard, so she gets worked on when the staff is not busy working on a client’s boat.  Most of this year’s progress was interior which was available for inspection.

Alex Barry shared through slides and storytelling, the history and ethics of the Cobalt Boat Company. Alex began his career with Cobalt in 1975 in Neodesha, KS. He still is with the marketing division leading plant tours every Tuesday and Thursday.

The Cobalt Boat Company was founded in 1968 by the Pack St. Clair family and has been known for top-quality individually crafted pleasure boats.  It was first known as Fiberglass Engineering and Cobalt boats’ hull numbers still start with FGE…

In 2017, Cobalt was absorbed by the Malibu Boat Group, although they are still named Cobalt Boats manufactured in Neodesha, KS.  Each layer, starting with the gel coat, is hand laid in the mold. And it remains the only major boat to have its interior components completely manufactured and finished solely by the company.

Twelve Late Classic Cobalts are registered in ACBS by Heartland members.

Al Stoller grew up in Chicago where he loved tools and building things. As a young married man, he drove to San Diego, CA seeking a job with a wooden boat builder.  Learning on the go, he became the “frame cutter” first.  A team of 13 men built custom made  ocean-worthy boats.  It took 18 months to complete each boat.

Now as a retired shipwright and living at Lake of the Ozarks, Al has his own large shop for restoring wooden boats.  

With pictures and stories, Al reviewed several repair techniques but emphasized how more careful maintenance might prevent damage. Complete drainage of all water out of the bilge when not boating is critical.  In the picture above, he demonstrates how in Antique boats, the trailer must be designed in a way to not damage the bow stem as the boat is loaded at the ramp.

The Annual Winter Restoration Workshop

Heartland Classics’ restoration workshop gives the opportunity for classic boaters to come together to learn and share knowledge about classic boating and the preservation of vintage and classic boats of all types.

Topics covered at past workshops include wood boat repair, boat plank replacement, stripping, staining & varnishing wooden boats, fiberglass boat repair, and engine maintenance.

Heartland Classics silent auction / swap meet is held at this event. Attendees bring unwanted marine “stuff” to donate to the club for the silent auction. Proceeds help fund the Mahogany & Chrome Newsletter.

For 19 years, the workshop has been organized by the Workshop Event Chair, Dan Diehl and held at Howard Classic Boats by Grand Lake in Oklahoma.  2022 was the first Winter Workshop to be held at Lake of the Ozarks organized by John Mason.​