Why Buy Allison?

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What Makes an Allison So Special?

  • October 01, 2018
What Makes an Allison So Special?

In a nutshell: Each Allison boat is the end product of a unique and uncompromising synthesis of design, materials, and craftsmanship.

By other boat builders’ standards, Allison takes extreme measures in the design process alone. Design begins not on paper, not in a computer, but in one man’s head. Mr. Allison applies his ideas directly to models that we call “plugs”. (A finished hull plug looks just like a real boat hull from the outside). The plug usually starts life as a few pieces of other previous Allison models. Sometimes the plug is a hull from a previous model. The old pieces are split, chopped, channeled, raised, lowered, widened, filled and glued with bits of plywood, cardboard and lots of bondo to hold it together and finalize the shape. Elbow grease and sandpaper are other primary elements used abundantly. The Allison designed hydraulic modeling platform is utilized to hold, level, and stabilize the plug as it takes form. Laser instruments are employed to measure symmetry, angles, and constantly check and re-check accuracy as the design develops. Anywhere from three to nine months is required to have a finished plug ready to test.

The next step is to fasten a deck to the test plug. A deck from an existing model is literally taped in place with “Duct” tape. Gaps are filled with cardboard or plywood and also held in place with the indispensable duct tape. Steering, motor controls, motor, fuel tank and battery are added. This entire unit is then weighed. Ballast is added to approximate the anticipated normal full load operating weight of the design.

After months of work we are ready for a few minutes of fun, or maybe, not fun. The results of testing are somewhat predictable based on previous experience. Sometimes the result is a total surprise. Some surprises are good. Some are not. The plug is run initially just to see if it does the basics the way it should. If it passes muster for hole shot, acceleration, and general ease of handling, it is then pushed harder. It will be tested in the roughest of water. It will be tested running parallel with troughs from boat wakes or high wind. It will undergo any and every test Mr. Allison can think of to prove that he either has or has not achieved his goal. If the design accomplishes 75-80% of goal, further development will proceed.

Additional development means de-rigging the plug. The plug is placed bottom up on the modeling fixture. Changes are made by filling, sanding, measuring, building up, cutting down, filling and sanding more. This process involves more weeks or months in the modeling room before testing can resume. When the plug is ready for its’ next round of testing, it must be re-rigged, weighed, and the process starts all over again. Time consuming? Yes! Expensive? Yes! Successful? Yes! This same R&D process has been going on at Allison Boats since 1955. It is the only way we have found to create something that is brand new and revolutionary and better than anything that came before it. Allison is truly one of only a handful of boat companies that do their own original design. In the high performance Bass Boat and Pleasure boat business Allison is totally alone in this regard. Original, innovative, and efficient design is a huge part of what Allison boats is all about. Original, innovative, and efficient design alone does not float a boat. At Allison we devote the same untiring energy and effort finding and utilizing the best materials.

Historically, fiberglass single engine outboard Bass and pleasure boats were all built with a composite laminate of wood and fiberglass. Fiberglass layers were built up by blowing in glass and resin from a chopper gun or glass mat and resin were introduced in a mold by hand lay-up methods. In both cases wood was used for a stringer system with a plywood floorboard placed on the stringers, a plywood transom installed, and the cap deck fitted onto this assembly. Ideally, all the wood was encapsulated in fiberglass. In the case of the floorboards and deck, a heavy coat of resin was often substituted for a layer of fiberglass. The resin did a fair job of sealing water from the wood. The higher quality of these boats had a very good survival rate. The lower quality boats soon showed their weakness. Weakness was apparent in floorboards that were not properly sealed and soon became soft to the step. Transoms showed stress cracks in the corners and the motor actually moved the transom in and out. The less particular builders who built many of these boats of “questionable quality” created product that was soon relegated to the rebuild shops for replacement of transoms, stringers, decks, or floorboards.

Even the boats built by the most particular shops were subject to the ineptitude of careless riggers or owners. Holes drilled in stringers, transoms, decks, and floorboards for mounting of batteries, and other fixtures and fittings were often not properly sealed. Insidiously, water went wherever it could. Over time the invading water softened and rotted the compromised interior of the wooden part. So, here we see how materials and craftsmanship must go together. Many of the boats built with these materials by quality builders such as Allison are still around and in excellent condition. A high level of craftsmanship at the manufacturing level still could not however, solve the problem of wood rot, once water was allowed to invade.

From a desire to combine his firm’s superior design and craftsmanship with materials that would solve these problems, Mr. Allison began extensive research and testing of alternate materials in the late 70′s and early eighties. He studied industry far removed from boating. Ultra-light aircraft, military aircraft, automotive, aerospace, structural architecture, and even surf boarding were scrutinized during the search for the material he sought.

Composite lamination of various combinations of synthetic material surfaced as the most rigid and lightest weight solution. Composite lamination was nothing new. Finding the best synthetic replacement for wood was now the issue. Each new product examined had its’ own set of problems. Finally, after literally years of investigation, a combination of fiberglass, Kevlar, poly-vinyl chloride structural foam, and resin for bonding provided the best strength to weight ratio and ultimate long-term durability.

The structural foam is a very unique product. First, do not confuse structural foam with flotation foam. Structural foam is available in various density and thickness. Structural foam is available in sheets like plywood. It can be sawed to pattern and even sawed partially through in strips to allow conformation to curved surfaces. Density ranges from “finger compressible” to nearly solid. Two primary characteristics make PVC structural foam the very best solution for boat building. First, it is a closed cell foam and is totally immune to water. Water does not deteriorate it. Water does not saturate it. Second and just as important, it is highly absorbent of vibration and shock. It does not fail structurally just from vibration and shock as flotation foam will. Flotation is only a by-product of construction with PVC foam. When used as the “core” of a laminate sandwich between fiberglass or Kevlar outer layers, the entire structure is a flotation device. Being closed cell and impervious to water, a careless hole drilled through the outer skin is not going to totally compromise the integrity of the structure. That being said, it should also be noted that the gel coat outer skin is the primary water barrier in fiberglass boat construction. For the best long term durability, any breach of this outermost skin should be sealed as soon as possible with appropriate repair materials and techniques.

Kevlar is now a household catch phrase when people speak of things nearly indestructible. Kevlar is also very misunderstood. High strength to weight ratio and the ability to bend an extreme amount without breaking are primary characteristics. Military headgear and “bulletproof” vests are good examples of these qualities put into practice. Kevlar can absorb a great deal of shock and still avoid total penetration. It is this characteristic that makes Kevlar both ideal and inappropriate for boat building. The inherent flexibility of Kevlar is a problem in boat building because hull rigidity is paramount. The amount of Kevlar needed to build a boat with proper rigidity would weigh as much as the same boat built from far less expensive high quality fiberglass. The cost factor would be absolutely prohibitive to the prospective boat buyer. Kevlar does have its’ place in boat building. When used as a reinforcement in high stress areas Kevlar adds a tremendous amount of durability. The transom of the boat carries all the motor weight and torque. This is one area Allison uses Kevlar to add tremendous strength with little weight gain. Since the transom is the highest stressed area of the structure, it has always been a problem area for builders.

While researching materials for composite lamination of the basic structure of the boat, Mr. Allison was also trying to eliminate the problems previously associated with transom construction and weakness. A superstructure of metal alloy was the solution he found for this most critical part of the boat. He chose to use a composite laminate of high density PVC structural foam, fiberglass, and Kevlar reinforcement for the basic transom. Added to this basic lamination is a superstructure of metal alloy. This gridwork of alloy is installed so that it is an integral part of the transom. The gridwork has alloy sleeves fixed to it for the transom studs. There is no compression of the Allison transom as the jack plate studs are tightened. Where the transoms of other boats allow some compression because of the relatively soft materials used, the Allison transom has zero give because the alloy sleeves simply do not compress. With the transom now as solid as possible and not subject to wood rot, Mr. Allison had one more problem to solve at the rear of the boat. The new, heavy, high horsepower motors in favor with consumers put so much stress on the whole transom area that the entire rear of the boat needed to be stronger to prevent the torque and power from twisting the whole rear of the boat and thereby compromising the integrity of he transom. The solution was relatively simple. Since there was already an alloy superstructure imbedded in the transom, he decided to extend arms from this superstructure forward to tie into the main bulkheads of the boat itself. All of this went into production in the early eighties. The result……………..not one failure!

All new Allison boat designs since that time have benefited from Mr. Allison’s pioneering efforts. He was the first to build a totally composite laminate boat with no wood structure to rot and cause imminent failure. The rest of the boating world is beginning to catch up slooooooooowly. There is no other boat on the market even after all these years that utilizes the no-compromise transom solution Mr. Allison invented in the eighties. There is not a single other manufacturer who cares enough about the quality of their product to use an alloy reinforced transom. Even those who are trying to build composite laminate boats today are decades behind the research and development that Allison pioneered.

Crafting techniques are researched to bring the design and materials into a completed form that will look good, perform as designed, and last a lifetime. Because many of the specific crafting techniques we employ are proprietary and either trade secret or protected by patent, we will not spend a great deal of time telling you about all the special steps we take in the crafting process. Instead, we will give you some areas you can look at and see the results of those special efforts.

The first sign of special craftsmanship is immediately apparent when first setting foot on the property at the Allison plant. The property is neat, orderly, and well kept. This impression grows as you see the office, the parts room, the finishing shop, and the showroom. Like all great craft shops, the work pace is unhurried, but relentless.

The high level of hand craftsmanship is evident in the lay-up shop where layers of fiberglass and Kevlar cloth, previously cut to pattern, are fitted and laminated in place. Resin is carefully applied by hand and all excess is rolled and squeezed out of the fabric. This process assures uniform saturation of the cloth while eliminating the weight of unnecessary resin. Every ounce of resin and cloth that is placed in a Allison mold is fabricated by hand. There are no “chopper guns” on the premises. Many mass production boat companies go to the extreme deception of placing a decal on the side of the boat that reads “hand laid hull”. In nearly 100% of these boats, there is a lightweight “skin coat” of woven cloth hand laid next to the gel coat. The rest of the glass and resin is applied with a chopper gun. Quality control of the “chopped boat” is totally in the hands of the gun operator and the settings of the gun. Did the operator hold the gun in one place too long and not long enough at a critical location? Was the gun set “dry” with not enough resin or “wet” with too much resin? The next time you consider a boat with one of these little “hand laid hull” decals on it, dig a little deeper and get all the facts. It would be interesting to find out why their hull is “hand laid” and their deck is not.

Not only is every Allison hull totally hand laid. Every deck, every console, every stringer system, and every molded part is hand laid by experienced and skilled American tradesmen.

Craftsmanship extends to each step of the building process. Work is checked and re-checked by each employee. Each holds the other accountable for the quality of work completed. Our staff takes the same pride in building Allison boats that our customers do in owning them.

As the boat progresses to the finishing shop, we see one of the best examples of the synthesis of Design, Materials, and Craftsmanship. Joining the hull, stringer system, deck, and other parts is second only to the lay-up process in deciding the quality of the finished product. (Actually, one is as important as the other) Since the finished Allison boat is a total unibody unit, the parts all must fit together properly. This is part of the design element. Mr. Allison’s parts are so well designed that they have to be fit together with care. He leaves no room for error. The staff is trained to work within these close tolerances. Close fitting individual pieces are part of the overall plan because when the boat is complete, it is a solid unit of monocoque construction. The stringer system is laminated to the hull. The molded cockpit and floor is laminated to the stringer system and the deck. The deck is laminated to the hull. This total unibody design and construction technique utilizes each part to strengthen and reinforce each other part.

Two aspects of the finished product best demonstrate the result of close tolerance unibody construction. First, the storage lids. Open and shut the lids on a Allison. It sounds like a high end car door being shut. It is SOLID. Next, walk around the boat and examine the seam under the rub rail where hull and deck are joined. You will see no mess of silicone seal where an attempt was made to waterproof the gap between hull and deck. There is no gap between hull and deck on a Allison. The fit of deck to hull is a tight “shoe box lid” fit. Not only that, the juncture is glassed together inside and out. The exterior seam is totally filled with a compound of gel coat and micro-spheres so that the hull and deck are one piece. The rub rail can be removed and the boat is still in one piece. Look at the underside of the inside of the boat at the unfinished surfaces. There are no dangerous shards of sharp fiberglass hanging down anywhere to cut unsuspecting fingers.

Many of the component parts you see on a Allison are another example of the synthesis of design, materials, and craftsmanship. Many parts are totally OEM specific to only Allison boats. Special seat bases to accomplish design goals where the needed base was simply not available from normal sources. The solution? Design what is needed and have it manufactured just for us! The same goes for bow handles, shifting levers, foot throttles, even some hinges and latches. The list goes on and on. Never is a compromise of design or quality accepted just because a particular product is not good enough. When a component is not good enough, Mr. Allison makes it better!

That is pretty much the short version of why Allison boats are so special. Mr. Allison makes it better! We challenge you to make us prove that our words are not just advertising hype. Take the time to find out for yourself. Take a test ride. The ride, handling, efficiency, and performance of every Allison boat are the best proof of just how special Allison Boats really are.

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