The boat was built at Higgins Industries in 1943 and measures 78 feet.
According to Bruce Harris, director of the restoration, the boat was acquired by the museum in 2005 from its initial restorers in Texas. The project, which relies only on talented, unpaid volunteers, began four years back and there’s still one or two years to go.
“To keep all these volunteers dedicated to one project for this length of time, speaks very highly of their devotion,” said Harris.
Most of the guys working on the restoration seem to have backgrounds that fit the project. Part of the small team are a retired car dealership customer relations director, the former owner of a propeller repair shop, an engine mechanic, a cabinetmaker, an interior designer, a pilot and a former federal law enforcement official.
“We love working together, there’s a lot of love goes into this boat,” confessed Jim Letten, a former U.S. Attorney.
They all became part of the project at different times and for different reasons but it didn’t take long until they turned into a family, the nola.com reports.
The PT305 had to be almost completely stripped of and replaced and only 20% of the original wood was left. The main goal of the project is to make the boat seaworthy again. The team’s plan is to put the wooden boat back in Lake Pontchartrain, where 70 years ago it was first tested for speed and durability. If their plan goes well, the new PT305 could do more than 40 knots, which is about 50 miles per hour.
The estimated cost at the end of the project will be between $500,000 and $1 million, however, without the help of the volunteers, the total cost would have gone up to $4 or $5 million.
PT boats are extremely rare nowadays, as there were only 199 of them built. After the Second World War, it would have been too expensive to bring all of them back, so they were burned. The PT305 was brought back from Europe by the Navy and was later sold in New York where it was used in the oyster business.
Randy Smith, one of the volunteers, said that a visitor donated a 1500 horsepower Packard engine that he found in his father’s storage, in Peoria.
If you want to see where the PT305 is being restored, you can go on a John E. Kushner Restoration Pavilion tour. The tours are given everyday at noon and are included in the museum admission fee.