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History

 

If you tried to imagine the most unlikely profile for success in the west coast custom high performance boat business you might start with something like a Michigan native working for cereal giant Kellogg's as a sales rep. But that's how the Eliminator Boats forty-year ascent to the pinnacle of the performance marine industry began.

In the late 1950s a then teenaged Bob Leach hitch-hiked his way out of the Saginaw snow and into Southern California sunshine with $50 in his wallet. After working at several different professions, Bob discovered boating as a much enjoyed diversion from his daily routine. Toward the latter part of the1960s, Bob and brothers Bill and George Verkamp teamed up to build a flatbottom SK boat. The hull was fiberglass and the deck was custom handcrafted wood. The finished product was such a hit that people wanted to buy one just like it. The salesman in Bob immediately recognized that a business opportunity was blossoming. The Verkamps decided to remain firefighters while Bob found an empty gas station in Huntington Park, California that soon became Eliminator's first official home in 1969.


"The first couple of years in business were a real struggle," recalls Bob. "We'd finish a boat and then hope that another customer wouldn't be too far behind. We did some flatbottoms but the jet boat business was really booming so we added an 18-foot semi-vee hull to the mix and that did pretty good for awhile."


What Bob, or anyone else in the marine industry didn't foresee, however, was the looming national energy crisis of late 1973. "It seemed like it happened overnight," said Bob. "When people can't get gasoline for their automobiles, the interest in buying a new boat dries up pretty quick. It was especially hard on the jet boat industry."


With tenacity and innovation, however, Eliminator made it through. Bob's saving grace was his idea for a very new and quite revolutionary different kind of performance boat. The concept was an air-entrapment modified tunnel that was originally intended for the jet boat market. "I contacted race boat designer Ron Ehde to build me a scale model," remembers Bob. "It was a little bit hydroplane, a little bit catamaran and a little bit vee-hull. Basically it was a tunnel hull with two full-length outer sponsons and a center pod. Once I saw the scale model I knew we had something. It was gorgeous and totally different from anything else on the market."


In late 1974 the 19 Daytona with its unmistakable picklefork bow debuted. The first time it went to the water it performed flawlessly, even better than anticipated. "It totally changed the jet boat market," comments Bob. "In contrast to conventional vee-hulls that got difficult to handle at high speed, the Daytona was steady as a rock and faster too. At the drag races it became the first jet boat over the 100 mile an hour mark. Once the word got around, we couldn't build them fast enough."


Largely because of the success of the 19 Daytona, Eliminator re-located to a new 25,000 square foot facility in Anaheim, California, adjacent to the busy 91 Riverside Freeway. Two years later in 1976, Mercury and OMC (Johnson and Evinrude) introduced the first V-6 200 horsepower outboards. Within months both the 19 and 21 Daytona models were fitted with outboard transom brackets and Eliminator was on top of a totally new emerging performance marketplace. The Mod VP class instantly became the most popular outboard racing class in APBA and Eliminator Daytonas were setting more records and winning championships all across the country. It was the 19 Daytona that became the first Mod VP boat to officially exceed the 100 mile per hour mark in competition.


In 1979, the country's second energy crisis slowed the boating industry to an almost standstill. Eliminator again weathered the economic downturn and emerged even stronger in the early 1980s, broadening its line of models to include Daytonas from 19 to 27 feet and a number of new vee-bottom daycruisers and bowrider sportboats. By now, the Eliminator reputation for incredible multi-color gelcoat graphics, exceptional quality and race-proven performance was routinely being recognized by leading performance publications like Powerboat and Hot Boat Magazines with awards and accolades.


The late 1980s was another renaissance period for Eliminator. The factory headquarters had now moved to a larger Mira Loma, California facility with even greater freeway exposure. In order to remain on the cutting-edge of performance technology, Eliminator was one of the first to introduce the step-vee design to its production models. Reminiscent of how the first Daytona performed the first-time off-the-trailer, the 250 Eagle XP astounded everyone when it clocked 80 miles an hour with a stock MerCruiser 502/415 HP package.


For the next ten years, Eliminator focused its attention on debuting larger and consistently more innovative models. In the mid-1990s came ICC, the use of integrated cockpit canopies on select Daytona and Eagle XP series models, the first in the industry to do so. In offshore racing, Eliminator demonstrated that its Daytona design was as comfortable in ocean as it was on a lake or river winning both national and world offshore racing F-3 class championships. In 2005, Eliminator dazzled the Los Angeles Boat Show audience with its debut of the 36 Daytona Coupe, the first enclosed cockpit high performance pleasure boat with removable T-Top panels. A year later, Eliminator inked a partnership relationship with the prestigious Daytona International Speedway, becoming the first boat manufacturer to enter the world of primetime motorsports. Eliminator Daytonas are now recognized as "The Official High Performance Recreational Power Boat of the Daytona International Speedway" appearing on site at such events as the DAYTONA 500 and the Auto Club 500 at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Most recently, Eliminator expanded its Eagle XP line by obtaining the exclusive rights to build the 43 Scarab vee-bottom model from creator Larry Smith. Called the 430 Eagle XP, the boat is a combination of Scarab ventilated step-vee technology with a totally new sculpted deck to Eliminator standards. Powered by a pair of 1075 SCi Mercury Racing engines and twin Number Six Drives, the 430 is a force to be reckoned with on the national poker run circuit with speeds upward of 130 miles an hour.


Present day, Eliminator continues to be the largest performance boat builder in the western United States. Its growth has recently prompted another re-location, this time to Perris, California in Riverside County where Eliminator has developed an entire industrial park including a 100,000 square foot state-of-the-art manufacturing/showroom facility with over 100 full-time employees, a 400+ unit indoor boat/RV/trailer storage complex and numerous commercial buildings. Eliminator product is also represented by a network of dealers worldwide specializing in marine performance.


"If it was just about making money, this business would have never been this successful," says Bob. "I know it's hard to believe, but I'm just as enthused today about taking a new model to the water and testing it as I was forty years ago. And I know that everyone here at Eliminator feels the same way. The only difference is we now do things on a little bigger scale."

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Eliminator, 2008
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