Sailing Home: The Refurbished Return of the PT Boat Model

One of our military history exhibits has returned to us after a tune-up.

In addition to our classic cars, the PPG’s Tank Building houses artifacts related to Packard’s military history. Recently, one of our items left the Tank Building for a much-needed remodel. Nothing major, just some sprucing up to keep things ship-shape.

Apologies for the bad pun, but it was necessary. The item in question is our scale model of a military PT boat!

Color image of a scale model Patrol Torpedo boat, which is on display in the Tank Building at the Packard Proving Grounds.
Looking good, captain! (photo credit: Rene Moon)

PT (“patrol and torpedo”) boats served to monitor the waters near friendly shores and make the war effort harder for enemy vessels. Small and speedy, PT boats primarily performed short-range scouting missions, equipped with machine guns and torpedoes for close-combat situations. It was dangerous to man a PT boat, however, as these vessels weren’t known for their size or strength. As a result, causalities during the wartime years were high when it came to these boats.

Most PT boats had an average length of between 78 to 82 feet from bow to stern. Our scale model is a perfect replica, boasting a length of eight feet, two inches (one-twelfth as long as the “biggest” PT boats). To intensify this perspective, the model is presented next to the PT boat engine that’s on display in the Tank Building.

Why a boat engine? Why, indeed. During WWII, Packard assisted the production of wartime vehicles and equipment – notably, aircraft and marine engines. “PT Boats were powered by three V-12 supercharged engines,” remarks Roger Luksik, member of the Packard Motor Car Foundation’s Board of Trustees. “They were designed and built by Packard and played an integral part of Detroit being known as the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’.”

A kind donor donated this replica to our site in memory of her longtime partner.

Our model was once part of a personal collection owned by Gary Kohs, president and owner of Fine Art Models, an institution which builds stunningly realistic scale models of transportation vessels of all kinds: planes, trains, automobiles, you name it. Our team was anxious to procure one of these exceptional PT boat models from Fine Art Models; sadly, Kohs passed away in 2018.

However, another option presented itself. To honor his memory, Kohs’ partner Laura Scaccia donated this incredible scale model of the 81-foot Higgins PT Boat – a model that Kohs owned and built himself. A plaque next to the model notes that it was donated in memory of its original builder and owner.

“When we received the donation, the boat required some TLC,” Luksik notes, concerning the PPG’s acquisition of the model. “We were able to find Bob Hickl, a former employee of Fine Art Models to conduct the restoration work.  The boat now wears the correct green paint job for hiding among the brush-lined shores of distant Pacific islands and atolls during daylight hours. Most battle action occurred at night, as darkness provided the best cover during patrol.” After that design update, the model is even more beautiful and historically accurate. And you can’t do better than that!

Restorations were performed by Bob Hickl, former employee of Fine Art Models. (photo credit: Rene Moon)

Our sincere thanks are due to Laura Scaccia for her generous donation in memory of Gary Kohs; and also to Bob Hickl for his efforts and expertise in restoring the incredible piece for our collection.

To read more about Packard’s military efforts and the history of the PT boat, check out the articles below.

Benoit, Emily. (2021, February 4). LIFE and Times: Rolls-Royce Merlin Aircraft Engine Production. https://packardprovinggrounds.org/2021/02/04/life-and-times-rolls-royce-merlin-aircraft-engine-production/.

Benoit, Emily. (2021, September 8). Flying High: PPG’s Remarkable Flags and Military History. https://packardprovinggrounds.org/2021/09/08/flying-high-ppgs-remarkable-flags-and-military-history/.

Davis, Hilary. (2020, October 9). M4 Sherman Tank at the Packard Proving Grounds in 1943. https://packardprovinggrounds.org/2020/10/09/m4-sherman-tank-at-the-packard-proving-grounds-in-1943/.

Davis, Hilary. (2021, March 22). The Packard Rosies of World War II. https://packardprovinggrounds.org/2021/03/22/the-packard-rosies-of-world-war-ii/.

National Park Service (NPS). (2015, November 18). PT Boats of World War II: From Home Front to Battle. https://www.nps.gov/articles/ptboats.htm.

Wikipedia. (2021, September 11). PT Boat. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PT_boat.

Do you have original Packard documents, photographs, publications, or memorabilia that might be of value to the Packard Proving Grounds Library and Archives? Contact the site for information about our collection focus and donation policies.

Author

  • Emily Benoit

    Lover of research and writing, libraries and archives. Graduate of Oakland University's MA of English Literature program; and Wayne State University's MLIS program with an additional certification in archival administration.