Info on the Popular Mechanics PM 38 13ft runabout

by David
(Melbourne Australia)

Hello all,

Does anyone know about the PM 38?

Its plans were posted in a 1962 Popular Mechanics.

Back then they bragged about it costing $38 dollars to build, will do 38mph with a 28hp outboard.

I remember one of these attractive boats that was used to follow and train rowers on the Yarra river in Melbourne Australia in the early 60s, but have not been able to find any reference to another.

I'd love to hear from someone who has built one or knows them.

I was considering building one with a few mods like putting a bit of V instead of a flat bottom.

Here is the link to the plans I'm considering. Free Boat Plans

Thank you in anticipation
David ( Melbourne Australia)

Comments for Info on the Popular Mechanics PM 38 13ft runabout

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Jun 16, 2015
Popular Mechanics PM-38
by: Phil Murphy

Hello David. I graduated from HS in 1964.

Having completed most of my course work early to facilitate graduating on time, I was able to take four hours of woodwork shop class my senior year.

I built the PM-38 in HS shop class.

It was a really easy boat to build, you just need some good tools and a space at least as big as a single car garage.

Yes, back in '64 the boat was supposed to cost $38, and do 38 mph with a 28 hp outboard.

I spent probably a little over $100, but then after I finished the boat, I covered it with 'white' fiberglass, sprayed the whole interior of the boat with what they used to call "multi-coat".

That was a clear polymer with little bits of 'black', 'gray' and 'white' plastic embedded in the clear polymer.

Back then they used to use it as a finish on the trunks of new cars.

I also covered the dash with a 'white' formica that had little 'gold' flecks in it.

I had an auto upholstery guy put "rolled and pleated" gold metal flake naugahyde upholstery in it.

Unfortunately, during Vietnam I ended up going off to the Navy and the boat sat in my parents backyard until I returned.

I always thought that if I built the boat my Dad would spring for a trailer and motor...but he was crippled and couldn't get into the boat so he never popped for anything else.

When I returned from the Navy I got a job and then got hit by the IRS for underpayment of my taxes.

I sold my boat to a guy I worked with to get the money to pay the IRS.

He put a 35 hp motor on it and said it really flew.

I never saw it in the water, but he said it sat in the water nicely, came up to hydroplane nicely and would do 40 mph real easy.

He could pull two skiers with it but he said the boat was so small it worked a lot better with a single skier.

BTW, it had what they called a "modified V-design".

The front was a "V" that tapered out to a flat area just ahead of the motor.

What really helped the design though was a 'stepped' hull.

I don't remember the dimensions now, but it had a piece of plywood from the front to just below the seat that overlapped the back sheet of plywood on the bottom.

That created a layer of air bubbles the boat would hydroplane least that's what the instructions said.

If you decide to build one, I'm sure you'd really enjoy it.

Sep 11, 2014
PM 38
by: Gary S

I built this as soon as I saw the plans.

It was a lot of fun to build and very educational, too.

I modified it in two ways.

I added a motor well to help keep it dry inside.

I also modified the seat by cutting out the center and making it back to back seating with a walk through.

Plywood bent across the top and down the sides gave it a nice finish.

I glassed the whole boat and used epoxy paint on it.

With a 35 hp Evinrude Lark engine it had good speed and power for skiing.

I lucked out and found a used windshield that fit perfectly.

I got good useage for several years before I sold it and got into sailing.

When I find my plans, I want to build a scale model of it.

Jun 14, 2011
Florida Memories
by: Anonymous

My father and I built that boat - dad had a regular subscription to PM as long as I can remember - and when we both saw the picture of it, dad ordered the plans.

We reinforced the seams with fiberglass and beefed up the transom to handle a 35 HP motor.

I do not recall where we got the windshield but my dad used to sell boats at one time, so he had the connections.

I raced the boat until I went into the military and dad sold it to a neighbor.

He got himself a little aluminum fishing boat that he could easily get on and off the trailer by himself.

Get the plans, build one with your son or daughter and someday when you're gone, your child will remember the good times and what a great dad you were.

RIP dad 6/24/2010

May 20, 2011
PM 38
by: David

John, that is a great story.

I'm exactly your age and cut my teath on boats, but we built in 1962 the "Minimax" hydro.

Not nearly as much fun.

Have you got any pictures of the boat in action.

Regards David

May 20, 2011
The most exciting thing in my life.
by: John Ahearn

I built my first PM-38 in 1962 shortly after the plans were published.

It took about a year to build with the help of my younger brother.

I was 14 at the time.

The cost at that time was about $50.00.

I folowed the plans allmost exactly as published.

The bigest problem I encountered was bending and fiting tke two bow plywood pannels to the frame and bending the chines.

The boat was powered by a Sears Elgin 28 Manufactured by Scott Atwater.

The boat never got to 38 MPH, 33 was the best it would do, but it would pull a single skier at 25 MPH.

My brother, my best friend and I used the boat allmost every day on the Pamlico River in eastern North Carolina for the next three summers before a leak developed at the transom.

The leak was cured with reinforcment at the transom and fiber glass on the botom and sides.

This cure reduced the performance of the boat significantly.

We replaced the 28 HP Elgin with a 35 HP Evenrude with a slight increase in speed.

We used the boat for six wonderful summers before my brother and I headed off to join the Army and Airforce for The Class of 69&70.

I built the same boat while living in Lincoln Nebraska in 1977.

The second PM-38 was constructed much better than the first but it fell way short on pleasure and excitement.

May 10, 2011
I've been researching to build a PM38
by: Jerry

I've been staring at these plans for about two years, researching the cost of materials and also considering a vee bottom modification as well to accomodate the use of a jet pump possibly from a larger jet ski doner vehicle.

I've been anxious to find photos of completed boats as I am concerned about the height ot the sides of the vessel mainly for the purposes of jet pump assembly and modification to a shallow vee at the transom.

I have drawn out full size plans from those offered on the internet and also opted to make all the bulkheads one piece cut from ply versus the original build specs.

I think the one piece option will build a little more sturdy and still retain the lightweight.

Comments are appreciated and photos of ocmpleted project are welcomed.

May 05, 2011
Last ZIP link was broken try this
by: David

Apr 06, 2011
ZIP symilar to PM 38
by: David

Here is another design not too different from the PM 38.

It's called a ZIP. Here is the link

Sep 20, 2010
PM-38 information
by: Anonymous

I posted some pictures of the boat this evening that should show up on this website eventually if I did it properly.

The steering wheel is on the right side.

I have never been in the boat without a passenger.

I don't know about the cavitation plate.

This is all new to me.



Sep 20, 2010
Boat lifts on right side
by: David

Hello Mark, need a bit more info.

Is your steering wheel rigged on the left or right side?

The propeller rotation will cause the boat to dip to the left, that is why most boats are rigged with a steering wheel on the right side to counter balance when the boat has the driver alone.

Is the cavitation plate level with the bottom of the boat?

Strange that you are experiencing this with a flat bottom boat, generally it is a problem with unbalanced veed hulls.

Also it would help to maybe put the fuel tank on the right side.


Sep 20, 2010
More information on PM-38 boat...
by: Mark Reynolds

I am running a 25 Horsepower Evinrude that was made in about 1987.

The boat cruises along pretty good but likes to lift the right side up when at full speed.

I don't know if this is from something I did wrong building it, ( I don't see anything so I don't think so ) or if it is just from the engine torque.

It is a fairly light weight boat. I think the boat could handle a 30 hp or maybe a 35 if you could find a light weight motor.

I will post pictures in a few days.

Sep 08, 2010
Then there was two
by: Anonymous

Good to hear Mark, that makes two.

What size motor are you running?

I'm looking forward to the pics.


Sep 08, 2010
by: Mike

Hi Mark,

Great to hear about your "PM-3800";).

We would all love to see some pics of her and hear more about building her.

Why don't you add something to the Projects page.


Sep 08, 2010
I have just built this boat winter 2010.
by: Mark Reynolds

I spent the past winter from November 2009 until May 2010 building one of those PM-38s.

It is a good boat to build.

I suppose it took around 4-5 months and cost a lot more than 38 dollars.

It should be renamed the PM-3800.

I fiberglassed the bottom of mine and added a few extra frames and so forth to tighten everything up.

It runs good in the Potomac River.

The hardest part for me was getting everything to fit at the curved bow.

I broke a chine and a few sheer rails putting them on as well.

I also had to design and build a front windshield for it that was modeled after the old Cris Craft type windshields.

It is a great boat that seems to attract a lot of attention due to its old style looks.

People are amazed when you tell them you built it yourself.

Aug 16, 2010
I have the same boat
by: dave cusson

I have the same boat!

It was made by my dad and uncle in the early 60s my email is I can send you pics.

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