Thunderbird, America’s most recognizable yacht is celebrating its 70th birthday on Lake Tahoe. The yacht has a legendary and privileged past. But its future seems to be uncertain. Annual operation costs, such as insurance, fuel and maintenance to keep the Thunderbird afloat are over $250,000. A fund raising campaign has been initiated to preserve the yacht for generations to come.
In 1939 John Hacker had designed the Thunderbird for George Whittell. It was to be a part of his transport fleet as an express commuter yacht. The Thunderbird was constructed at a cost of $87,000 which would be approximately $3.3 million in real terms today. The boat was launched in the pre dawn hours of July 14th 1940. It is a 55 feet long boat made from Honduran Mahogany hardwood, stainless steel and crystal. Two V-12 Allison aircraft engines are mounted on the boat that give it a top speed of 70 mph.
Bill Harrah bought the famous boat from Whittel in 1962 and became famous for entertaining his high spending guests from his casinos on the boat. In 2007 the Thunderbird yacht and the Thunderbird lodge was transferred to Foundation 36 which is committed to the preservation of Nevada’s cultural, historical and natural resources. The birthday celebrations of the yacht will go on through the year details of which are available on its website.