Howard M. Arneson, one of the marine industry’s greatest innovators, has passed away at the age of 99.
The recipient of more than 45 patents, Arneson revolutionized offshore muscleboating with the development of the Arneson Surface Drive in the 1980s, which has been produced under several licenses. His own boats won two Open Offshore World championships, and on one fateful day in 1983, Arneson drives powered the World Champions in Open, Sport and Modified classes.
Arneson started out racing 225 Hydras, and owned a series of high-powered offshore sport boats before single-handedly exploiting the potential of turbine power in the pleasureboat arena. He became the undisputed “King of the Turbine,” having built plenty of them over the years. At age 68, Arneson climbed into the open cockpit of his 32-foot Skater, powered by a T-58 gas turbine, and shattered the elapsed time record between New Orleans and St. Louis by an incredible 7.5 hours.
In 1990, Arneson drove the thousand miles in 12 hours, 40 minutes by himself, nonstop—much of it in darkness—and became the 16th new record-holder in more than 1,100 attempts. The feat only reinforced his contention that the turbine is the ultimate power for a boat, and his installations became progressively wilder. He built at least six of them for himself, including a spectacular 46-foot Skater powered by a 4,500-hp Lycoming turbine. It carries enough fuel (1,000 gallons) to travel from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and cruises comfortably and reliably at between 120 and 140 miles an hour.
Based in San Rafael, CA, his Arneson Industries developed the Bravo Conversion Kit, which have proved extremely popular over the years for boat owners who want an upgrade for their existing Bravo drives.