Restored 1980s Savage Escort Runabout project boat

1980s Savage Escort Runabout project boat

The 5.2m Savage Escort you see here was purchased in a private sale for $2500. It had been  garaged for most  of its life but despite that was still a bit rough around the edges — “neglected rather than beat up”, says its owner, Andrew Finocchiaro.

But that didn’t deter him one bit. “It was a great Australian hull,” he says. “Although I didn’t have a limitless budget on this resto, I thought that with a lot of hard work she’d turn out to be a pretty nice boat.”

But first things first. Andrew sought advice from experts before stripping this classy little classic in preparation for extensive refurbishment. “Getting good advice is important in a project like this,” he says. “I’d advise anyone launching themselves at a large restoration job to do all their homework first because it’ll save heaps of time later on.”

Andrew has been around boats since the age of 16 so he had a few ideas about what he wanted his boat to be, and what he would be using it for — namely, going after bread and butter species in Port Phillip Bay. Andrew describes himself as “dedicated” and that attitude enabled him to concentrate on the gear that mattered, not on bells and whistles.

When you scan the specs on this boat you’ll see that despite the sensible budget, all the important gear is there. What’s more, the structural components have been beefed up too, and the old classic is now powered by a modern, fuel-injected two-stroke.

And so a boat that “looked like it might have some potential” has been given a new life, though not without a lot of blood, sweat and beers. The Savage Escort Runabout deserves its reputation as one of the finest boats Savage ever made. It’ll be nice to see this one out of the garage and on the water again.

 The Savage was in remarkably good condition for a boat of 30 years. It was a bit run down but there was nothing seriously amiss with its structural components, although they had to be reinforced during restoration. The transom was in top shape and the boat looked strong.

The original motor was an 85hp Johnson two-stroke, since replaced by an Evinrude 90 E-TEC. Andrew says he chose that outboard for its impressive range of features, not the least of which was its up to-the-minute fuel-injection. The fact that it’s a two-stroke also meant less weight on the transom.

The boat was totally stripped before work began. Andrew was up to his armpits in sandpaper for a while, and a boatload of rubbing and sanding was required before the task of fitting all the new gear could be undertaken.

A new floor was part of the deal, fully sealed with 17mm marine ply on both sides, three layers of ’glass to strengthen the stringers, and an underfloor bolstered with pine pieces and plenty of carbon fibre and epoxy resin. Two coats of Norglass marine undercoat were applied before a top coat of Snow White. Every nut, bolt and screw in this boat is stainless.

The trailer was in good nick but still copped what looks like a set of new rollers. Total cost of trailer refurbishment: 300 bucks.

Andrew didn’t go overboard with electronics but he fitted what he considers essential. That includes plenty of classy Navman gear and good utility instrumentation.

 In all its glory. Check out this list of additions: new 40mm gunwale rubber; new stainless bowrail; new tinted, powder-coated windscreen frame (modified so you can reach the anchor without bending over); high grade marine carpet; 70lt underfloor fuel tank (and a 25lt “emergency tank”); new fuel lines; 12-rod snapper rack; new bimini; six-rod rocket launcher; LED deck floodlight and nav lights; new grabrails; and a transom step and ski hooks.

1980s Savage Escort Runabout project boat specs

Length 5.3m

Engine Evinrude E-TEC 90 two-stroke outboard motor

Owner Andrew Finocchiaro

Favourite fishing spot Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne

Target species All the usual suspects


1980s Savage Escort Runabout project boat cost

Purchase price (pre-rebuild) $2500

New motor $8000

Restoration $2500

Battery and electronics $2200

Stainless work $1000

Trailer work $300

Seats and trim $1000

Painting $600

Fibreglass, timber and resin $300

TOTAL COST $18,400 approx.


6 project boat restoration tips

From Andrew

1. Spend time researching which boat to restore.

2. Restore with a mind to future use.

3. Look around. Many classic hulls are still available.

4. Talk to people who know more than you.

5. Buy the important things, not baubles and bangles.

6. Take your time. It’s not worth rushing. 


Originally published in TrailerBoat #269, June 2011. Why not subscribe today?