By Bob Steele
Boat restorations can take forever. When one starts such a project it is usually a labor of love and not necessarily a wise investment of time or money. For a project to take 20+ years to complete, while not unheard of, it is certainly not the norm.Brad Riggen is anything but the norm. First, Brad is no newbie when it comes to Campbell Boats and boat building. As the former President of the Campbell Owners Group, Brad has a long history with this particular brand. Brad has built or rebuilt several examples, including, “Slammer” an award winning, 1960 Campbell/Caribbean flat bottom with a blown 454 Chevrolet. “Born Ready” a 28ft Campbell Cuddy Cabin with twin big block Chevy motors and “Capital Loss” a 20ft Campbell with a high rise inducted big block chevy, more then capable of holding its own in the 20ft class.
“Lite Brew” began life as a 1975 24 foot Cuddy Cabin, formally known as “Gold Standard” owned by Cap Peckham. Brad and Beth bought “Gold Standard” in 1993 from the Peckham’s and used the boat for a short time when Brad discovered it suffered from a common Campbell problem, broken bulkheads. Brad parked the boat and began to disassemble it. Once the boat was apart Brad took the hull to Joe Stubblefield’s gelcoat shop out in Sunland. Joe told Brad, he would not touch that “thing” until the 5+ coats of paint and bad fiberglass had been removed. Brad replaced the bulkheads and then worked a trade with a local college student who was looking for a set of wheels. Brad, who was in the “car” business, suggested to the student, a trade for a vehicle in exchange for his labor, could be arranged if the student was interested. The young “starving” student, jumped at the chance to work off the purchase price of the car. It took 9 months of on and off again sanding and grinding to get the hull ready to be recoated. The hull was trailered back out to Joe’s shop where the slow process began. Brad wasn’t in a hurry as his business required lots of attention but he would check in from time to time to see how things were going. After a couple of years went by, Brad dropped in one day and discovered that the hull which had been flipped over to work on the bottom was now being used as a work bench. The discovery of the boat “workbench” caused concern and Brad ask if it could get back into the lineup, Joe agreed Lite Brew was once again on the front burner.
Once the new gel coat was shot the hull was carefully stored waiting its turn to receive the proper attention. Fly past running a business/family/home relocation/retirement/economy crash and returning to the work force and you have a recipe for the makings of a long long term restoration.
As things improved, Brad found he now had time and resources to move forward with the project. The trailer was completely reworked, starting with “clean room” quality stainless steel brake lines, stainless conduit for wiring and stainless steal hardware. The fenders, seams and welds were smoothed and painted to match the gel coat on the boat.
Motivation was needed for the project. Several options were considered before a big block Chevrolet was considered. Close friend Steve Parker had assembled a monster motor for his own 24ft Campbell “Rat Rooster”. Brad had drooled over Steve’s boat and when Steve decided to go in a different direction (think rebuilding the 35 foot Campbell “Double Martini”) Brad and Beth owned a TopKick GM truck and Steve Parker needed something to drag “Double Martini” with. Brad worked a deal to trade the TopKick to Steve in exchange for “Rat Rooster” against the wishes of his lovely bride Beth. How Brad smoothed over that deal with Beth is still a mystery but the stroked DART block with AFR Heads measured out at 598cid with an estimated 800hp at the flywheel!!! Rigging on the hull started slowly but picked up speed as well. A special billet cavitation plate system was designed which incorporates the plate system control into the swim step support. With the potential of large power, Brad knew that to get the Campbell to move, the big power would effectively need to be transferred to the water. To accomplish that task, the prop shaft would need to be slid forward. Brad’s wife and partner in crime, Beth, would be called into to assist with drilling a new prop shaft hole in the hull. Beth held the drill motor as Brad guided the drill bit into position and into the hull.
Almost every piece of this build has been touched by Brad. Some of “Lite Brew’s” unusual features include hard piped ventilation lines into and out of the bilge area, a fully functioning microwave oven inside the cabin, teak looking floors made by PlasTeak throughout the deck of the boat.
Each piece of the interior was hand made by Brad and then sent to Mac’s upholstery in Ventura for recovering. Years before, Brad, being a dealer of fine automobiles took in trade a 1975 Electric Glide Harley Davidson. Paul the owner of “Mac’s Upholstery” wanted the Harley big time and agreed to a deal with Brad for three boat upholstery jobs in exchange for the bike. Brad and Paul had known each other for years but Brad reminded Paul, he was going to be very particular (sic for the back part of an donkey/burro cross) on the upholstery work he wanted done. Paul agreed and had already completed two very beautiful interiors for Brad (Slammer and Born Ready). Lite Brew was to be the final installation of the work Paul owed Brad. Brad’s plan was to build a modern interpretation while saving the original flavor of the Campbell Cuddy Cabin. Brad used dark wood mixed with billet bits and pieces along with anodized window frames to update the look and feel of the boat. A custom made swim step was built from teak with hidden mounting bolts using a secret process and routing to give texture to the surface. Stainless steel bolts and hardware were used throughout.
When a project takes an extended period time, you would expect the build quality to be a very high level. After seeing Brads work, I would suggest to you that the time and detail to which Brad went, was time well spent and that Brad took the Campbell Boat Restoration to a whole new level. As for the name “Lite Brew”, tradition and possibly Campbell lifestyle suggests that your boat name has something to do with an adult beverage. In Brad’s case, his everyday beverage of choice is Miller Lite, which for a while was sold in light blue cans, I think you can figure out the rest.