It was a classic case of love at first sight. Who could resist eight elements of gelcoat striping laid down in colors and patterns that once were the highlight of high school daydreams, graphics so long out of style that they’ve become nostalgic. Not Johnny Bauer, that’s for certain, who learned how complicated love can be, especially when the object of affection is a boat.
In 2014 Bauer became aware of a 1987 Eliminator 23 Daytona for sale in Texas, a long way from his home base in Wisconsin, where he works as Lead Engine Calibration Technician at Mercury Racing.
“I have always been attracted to the look of the gel schemes of performance boats from the 1980s and early 90s,” said Bauer. “I knew the boat had a rotten transom, but the price reflected that fact. I could not get away to inspect the boat myself, but I had a knowledgeable friend look it over, and I decided to dive in.”
In January, 2014, Bauer, who is known as “Johnny B” around Merc Racing, drove to Texas and trailered the boat back to frozen Wisconsin. A quick inspection in his home shop confirmed the soggy transom, and also revealed even more disappointing news – a suspect floor over rotten stringers. It would take five years and approximately 2,000 man-hours before the boat Bauer dubbed Stress Eliminator could hit the water.
“It was re-launched August 7, 2019, exactly 32 years to the day after the boat rolled off the line at the Eliminator plant in Shawano, Wis.,” said Bauer. “It was quite a journey.”
Bauer documented the project in incredible detail in a 20-page forum post at River Dave’s Place. Some might consider the amount of work Bauer put into the Eliminator to be, well, obsessive, and he will be the first to admit that he did not anticipate how deep he’d get into refurbishing this boat.
“I guess it’s just my personality to never quit on a project,” said Bauer. “I wanted the boat to be fast but solid. My family was going to ride in this boat.”
By the time he was done Bauer had replaced the transom and stringers, installed new bulkheads and framing, trued the bottom and cut the aft pod out of the hull and replaced it with a shallower pod (this was done twice), replaced the floor, replaced the dash, and installed an audio system. The interior was reupholstered and the floor covered in custom-cut SeaDek. When he was done – if a project like this is ever done – Bauer had re-worked just about every element of the Eliminator, except the colorful Reagan-era gelcoat on the hullsides and deck.