Is it a speedboat? A sports car? Both? Neither? It’s the fabulous Evinrude Lakester concept created by famed industrial designer Brooks Stevens. Here’s a closer look at this singular machine.
The late Brooks Stevens (1911-1995) was one of America’s most original and prolific industrial designers. Along with automobiles—Willys Jeepster, Studebaker Hawk GT, Oscar Meyer Wienermobile, to name but a few—Stevens and his firm, Brooks Stevens Design Associates, designed Harley-Davidson motorcycles, railroad trains, pleasure boats and outboard motors, home appliances, office furnishings, lawn equipment… the list goes on. And on. The New York Times called Stevens “a major force in industrial design.”
Here we present one of his lesser-known designs, but a fascinating one in any case: the Evinrude Lakester of 1970.
This rendering illustrates the Lakester concept in a nutshell: a conventional fiberglass pleasure boat, more or less, that can be mated to a modular auto chassis for highway travel. A 50-hp outboard motor provides the road vehicle’s power through a power takeoff unit and coupler driving a hydrostatic CVT transmission. Integrated driving controls allow the Lakester to be operated from the same seat on both land and sea, and a handy electric winch hauls the 14-ft. hull into its docking position.
Here’s Brooks Stevens (in his trademark double-breasted suit) explaining the Lakester to a television presenter. As the story goes, the Lakester project was sponsored by the promoters of the Chicago and San Francisco consumer boat shows, who were looking for an attendance booster for their events. We can presume the concept also received consideration from the Evinrude division of OMC, the Outboard Marine Corporation, a regular Stevens client.
Here, a skipper looks over the Lakester concept in its boat show berth. An item in the March 1970 issue of Popular Science magazine describes the Lakester as using Volkswagen suspension and running gear and mentions a projected price of $2,500 “when it becomes available.” How functional the Lakester show vehicle actually was, or if it ever reached a working prototype stage, is not known. Does the Lakester concept still exist today? We don’t know, but we’d love to find out.