1985 Tracker III Restore/Conversion


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Mar 15, 2014
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Picked up an old Tracker III and found an '88 Mercury 60hp 2 stroke to ride on the back. Learned a lot on my 1436 Alumacraft build, so wherever possible I'll be using solid rivets for joining the aluminum support angles together and any poured foam that goes in will not be allowed to block the drain channels stamped in the bottom of the boat.

Plan is to gut everything and install a rod locker running from the bow to under the steering wheel along with a larger front deck with lockable storage compartments. I'll be replacing the bench with a setup allowing for more storage beneath the bench seating area along with a folding extension for the rear deck which will cover the bench when not in use. Trying to maximize the amount of lockable storage space available while also adding more elevated surface areas. The inaccessible spaces will for the most part be filled with expanding foam, but each compartment will first have the drainage channels capped in FRP and then be lined with painter's plastic prior to pouring foam, the goal of which is threefold:

1) none of the drainage channels will be blocked
2) the foam will formed to the cavity but not be bonded to the boat hull making it removable
3) the plastic should form a vapor barrier so the foam will not be in direct contact with any drainage waters

My plan starting out is to cap the bow and have a hatch to allow access to the storage space and wiring (trolling motor & nav lights) underneath. Framing this looks to be a bit tricky with the round gunwales. I will be using aluminum sheeting for all the decking surfaces. The final finish will not be carpet, though going in I'm torn between a textured paint and marine vinyl, the jury will have to wait to decide on that later. I'll be sharing the trolling motor and fishfinder electronics between this rig and my 14'. As much as I'd like to make this a center console I won't have room for both the rod locker and the storage boxes I want if I use this configuration, so it'll be staying a side steering setup. Hoping to add a 3rd seat base for trips with both my kids. It'll be a tight squeeze in what is basically a 1648 but we'll make it work.

I got ahead of myself on the tear down and already had the steering wheel out before I remembered to take a before picture, so this is all I've got:


It was in OK shape, the plywood decks were starting to show soft spots and the mild steel base for the bench seat left a lot to be desired. The original bench was not in a condition I considered to be worth trying to restore, it has a 1/2 dollar sized hole in one spot, all the seams are separating and the foam needs replacing, but if someone thinks otherwise they're welcome to it just send me a PM.

Gutting went well enough, I'm going to leave the original framing in I think and work around it.


Removed the foam from one of the compartments up front. Slicing through it with an old-school hand saw makes it easy to remove in chunks.


And one last shot of the emptied out compartment, still needed to clear the drain channel that was clogged with foam:


Made up 10 rod tubes for the front using the RichZ heat gun and wine bottle trick. Once flared on the wine bottle I heated themn a second time and pressed them down on a cold floor tile to make a flat flange. After test fitting an arrangement I think I'll be able to add 6 more rod tubes outside the starboard locker along the port side of the boat (3 running forward, 3 running aft-ward), so I'm going to have to get 3 more pieces of pipe as these were all cut in half to 5' lengths and I think the others will need to be cut unevenly (6' forward / 4' aft). Having room on board to store 16 rods below decks in a 16' boat will be awesome.


That's it for now - waiting on an 1 11/16 Forstner bit from amazon to drill the holes for the tubes through the existing support panel. In the mean time I'll get the rest of the old carpet adhesive removed, get the foam out on the port side and the rear quarter to allow me to install the extra 6 tubes and start framing everything.
Dayum ... impressive plans! But knowing of you - you are most certainly up to it =D> !

I like your fore-to-aft rod storage idea! I may shamelessly steal that ... as I fit 8 saltwater rigs in my present tackle locker, but if I remove some foam and go aft, I'd have room for the Sabiki rod and dedicated trolling rods.
My only issue going aft is along the side is a block of foam in a side compartment - I'd prefer to bore into it and set the tube in the bore but I'm not sure if I can core the poured urethane foam by driving a piece of PVC with a sharpened end into it. If I can't then I have to open the compartment and re-fill it with foam once the rod tubes are set, which will cost quite a bit more for the extra 3 cubic feet of expanding urethane foam but it will be done right...

Though if you've only got polystyrene in there then you'll be fine core punching it.
Look forward to seeing it come together. I imagine paint would crack on top of anything flexible like aluminum. Not sure how much alum sheet costs but 1/4" composite is about $90 per 4' x 8' at Piedmont Plastics which weighs the same as 1/2" ply.
Paint has held up fine on my FRP decking in my 14' boat.

I finally scored a trove of scrap aluminum after a lot of searching, granted a lot of it is 6061 T6 in .03125" thickness, but I'll work with the material I have as best I can & use the super thin stuff in areas where it will be directly supported by foam (the same as I did with the FRP on my old build). I'm only adding 3 cubic feet of foam to the boat as a result, so that's only 6lbs.

I'll redo approximately half the flooring with the super thin stuff, saving ~1lb per square foot vs the 5/8 plywood it had originally, so that's roughly 30lbs in weight savings there, another ~20lbs of weight savings in the bow using the aluminum I have for up there vs. the original plywood. I'll likely add about 15lbs of additional framing, so in the end I'm conservatively going to be around 25lbs lighter all things considered, not too bad for a hull that started at 558lbs from the factory. I was picky on finding one of these hulls for the comparably low starting weight vs. a new 16' bass boat that can run 700 to 900 lbs. for just the hull - makes a big difference in the safety on the highway when pulling it with a Subaru.
That 60 hp should get er on down the lake. When I was thinking it over I almost used stock car alum sheet which is easy to find around here but very thin. Finally settled on Alupoly when extry money turned up.


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More exotic materials I've never heard of for me to look up and oogle at!

"You don't know what you don't" ... such good advice...I learn so much just trying to keep up with everything people talk about on this site.

Nidacore is an awesome looking support material that I'd never heard of until today and now alupoly...between the two someone could **** near make a full size bass boat that two guys could carry down to a lake.

Love this site.
In my 1436 build I made a slotted storage space in the floor for housing my std. 3700 trays. Unfortunately, each slot is fixed at 2" thick, so now that I've added some of the 3730 bins to my collection I cannot store them in my formatted space as they're 3.25" thick.

Not to repeat the mistake and to simplify my life on this build, I found these bins to use as drop in hatch liners. The lip on the edge should keep them from taking on water, while also making the framing fabrication a bit easier as I can do it all with solid rivets. They have available slide in dividers so you can subdivide them all the way down to 1-1/8" little squares if you so wished:


Wow...getting no where thanks to what feels like a month of straight rain...every night I get home from work in the middle of a thunderstorm or just before another one hits.

Needless to say no progress has been made since the bin liners arrived.
It's that drain pipe or the other kind? I bought a piece of 1 1/2" black ABS at Lowes to try out. It seems lighter compared to the other kind.
I used SDR 26 sch. 40 pipe from lowes, but you could use drain pipe. It certainly doesn't need to be pressure rated, I used it because it was easily accessible at a big box store.
Finally got to pour some of the foam. I blocked the drain channels on the bottom of the boat with some scrap FRP from my 1436 and laid a piece of bamboo atop them to create a horizontal cavity on the underside of the foam so any water in the boat can drain to the channels. I cut a piece of heavy painters plastic oversized by more than twice the width and a few feet longer than the main floor section, so the foam can be poured inside the plastic and expand to fill the voids between the ribs. The plastic will act as a vapor barrier for the foam, while also keeping it from spilling into the drain channels and filling them.

Protecting the drain channels and creating the latteral drain cavity:


Fitting the plastic to the main floor section to be foamed. Notice how it's folded over on itself. I pour the foam at the inside of the fold and shimmed the trailer so the foam naturally runs toward that side.


Plywood in place to form the foam level to the top of the ribs:


Plastic opened up for pouring:


Foam is made combining equal parts A & B. Solo cups are great for quick measurements - fill each to the same marking inside the cup and you know you're working with even proportions:


Stirring foam is about the only thing a plastic knife is good for:


Mix till the color of pancake batter:


That little test batch expanded into this messy blob. I was testing to see if the leftover foam from my 1436 was still good...it appears to be!


Mixed a 3/4 full cup of combined 2 parts and poured in the cavity in the boat. A few cinder blocks keep the foam expanding only inbetween the ribs where it's been poured. It doesn't exert too much pressure where it would blow out the plastic on the inside edge of the fold.


About 15~20 minutes the foam is done expanding and solidified in its proper form:


The plastic actually doesn't bond well to the foam and pealed away easily:


View from underneath lifting the poured plank up - note the thin spot at the center formed by the bamboo in the way. All that gets moved onto the next cavity right on down the line:


Posting between pours while I wait for it to set up. Going to be at it for a while tonight. I'll circle back and complete the little bit of the end on the side opposite the fold once each cavity is 75% filled.
Some more progress last weekend. First, the arsenal of tooling that took me forever to refurbish/ build/ acquire so I could work with aluminum without access to a metal shop:

Bought a home depo cheapo table saw, refurbished a craftsman bandsaw and an old benchtop drill press. The bandsaw and drill press are the 2 of the 3 tools I wish I had when I built the 1436 - they make the framing SOOO much easier.


Home made sheet metal bender - 1/2" flat steel bars and 3/8" 3x3 angle my father had lying around:



And lastly the 3rd favorite tool...pneumatic riveter for the cherrymax rivets:


I should mention setting the framing with solid rivets, while noisy as hell, does yield a much tighter connection.

Rough layout of where everything will be going in the boat as I progress:


Tight bends for the edges of hatches do not work on this bender - I needed the vise brake by Grizzly (H3243) and slowly nibbled my way down the bendline 4" at a time, taking 2 passes to make the full 90 degree bend. These jaws come in a 6" size which would have been nicer but my vise isn't big enough.:




Cutting the sheets to size with a fence and circular saw:


Bending the edges of the sheets under the side plates to control the flow of rain water towards the floor drains that will be installed later (one side tucked behind the side plate, needed to adjust the bend before I mounted the other side plate):



Nice & tight once lined up:


Cherrymax rivets for the framing connection to the hull ribs:


Framed the stringers for the rear bench seat and the first stringer for the extended bow deck. I'm doing all the long stringer runs first, then I'll come back and cut the vertical supports from the scraps I have left. Very likely I'll need to hit up https://www.onlinemetals.com for another order of 1"x1"x.125" 6061 angle before I'm through.


That's it for now. Headaches and bad weather will probably sideline further progress until the weekend.

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