Howard Pipkorn started it all in Minnesota in 1968. Initially they were race boats, but by the early '70s the company started rolling in the recreational market as the venerable Ventura, Viper, and Vector hulls were released. Model lineup included the Hustler (12'), Vixen (14'), Viper (15'), Ventura (16'), Panther (16'), and Vector (17'). Pipkorn was (is) extremely intelligent and a true innovator. Many of his ideas and designs were unheard of before and he continually pushed the envelope on designs and performance with much testing done in the early years. He was the first in the industry with many of his concepts and construction techniques. Much of the designs followed a concavo-convex form, and that concavity/convexity theme was prevalent throughout the HydroStream reign. The designs not only made for a very unique looking boat, but they also served the purpose of adding strength. The concave deck used on many of the models allowed him to build boats light (while having the added bonus of hiding imperfections better), and eventually he eliminated the use of balsa in the deck and was one of the first to use core-mat which was strong and prevented print-through in the final product. Everything Pipkorn did was very well thought out and there was usually a reason behind it. For example, the Viper construction was somewhat difficult because of the strakes and laying out the balsa core (as those who have had to recore one have found out!). When Pipkorn designed the Vector, he came up with the idea of filling the strakes in with a Pearl-lite material which not only helped in resisting flexing, but also made it easier to just lay the balsa core on flat. If it was cheaper and easier to, say, use a full sheet of some material, then that's what he would try to do.
Pipkorn also owned a wire factory which made parts such as vinyl-coated baskets for kitchens and rolls of wire mesh for concrete reinforcement.. Many wives of the HydroStream factory workers worked there. In the down years of the boat industry, the wire business was there to help financially offset those lows.
In the late '70's, in response to the new V6 engines, the Vulture and Viking were offered. 1977 to 1979 were HydroStream's strongest years and weekly output was 25 boats a week (that's a lot of boats!) at their peak, but it all came crashing down as a result of the '79 energy crisis. 1981 saw the company file for bankruptcy; it continued production and finally came out of it in 1984. The Voyager had been released in 1983 and grew in popularity as the public welcomed this 20' family oriented high performance boat. New hull designs finally emerged with the XT hull released in 1985 and the YT in 1986. The AT hull debuted on the all new HST model in 1987 where it was designed to compete in mod-VP racing though it did not fair well. The HydroStream plant finally closed in March 1991 due in part to the Luxury Tax and construction delays on a new plant.
Canadian Edition, led by Jim Tucker, was licensed in 1983 to start building the Valero, Viking, Vegas, and Voyager V hulls. In 1987 C.E. broke the agreement and started building tunnel hulls. Tucker put forth great effort, but in 1994 their doors closed too. John Spaeth made the boats towards the end of C.E. and after the doors were closed he teamed up with Jim Contzen to continue building boats under the name X-Stream which were essentially just a continuation of the C.E. boats. Eventually, the HydroStream name was re-established with the boats now being built separately in Canada by John Spaeth, and in the U.S. While the U.S. side has floundered, the boats built by John Spaeth are some of the highest quality to be found anywhere, and he uses the latest technology to construct an extremely durable and lightweight boat. John Spaeth can be reached in Canada at 705-484-0407.
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