Howard Pipkorn started HydroStream in Minnesota in 1968. Initially only producing race boats, by the early '70s the company started introducing boats into the recreational market. The initial model lineup included the Hustler (12'), Vixen (14'), Viper (15'), Ventura (16'), Panther (16'), and Vector (17').
Mr. Pipkorn was a true innovator. Many of his ideas and designs were unheard of before this time and he continually pushed the performance envelope conducting extensive testing in these early years. He was the first in the industry with many of his concepts and construction techniques. Many of the designs followed a concavo-convex form, and that concavity/convexity theme was prevalent throughout the HydroStream line.
The designs not only made for a very unique looking boat, but they also provided added strength. The concave deck used on many of the models allowed him to build lighter boats. Eventually he eliminated the use of balsa in the deck and was one of the first to use core-mat which was strong and prevented print-through in the final product.
Everything Mr. Pipkorn did was very well thought out and there was usually a reason behind it. For example, the Viper construction was somewhat difficult because of the strakes and laying out the balsa core (as those who have had to recore one have found out!). When he designed the Vector, he came up with the idea of filling the strakes in with a Pearl-lite material which not only helped in resisting flexing, but also made it easier to just lay the balsa core on flat.
Mr. Pipkorn also owned a wire factory which made parts such as vinyl-coated baskets for kitchens and rolls of wire mesh for concrete reinforcement. Many family members of the HydroStream factory workers were employed there and this business helped carry them through the down years of the boat industry,
In the late '70's, in response to the new V6 outboard engines, the Vulture and Viking were offered. 1977 to 1979 were HydroStream's strongest years and weekly output was 25 boats a week at their peak, but it all came crashing down as a result of the '79 energy crisis and in 1981 the company filed for bankruptcy. However, the company was able to continue production and finally came out of it in 1984.
Despite the financial hardship, in 1983, the new Voyager was released and grew in popularity as the public welcomed this 20' family oriented high performance boat. Subsequent new hull designs also emerged in these years with the XT hull released in 1985 and the YT in 1986. The AT hull debuted on the all new HST model in 1987 where it was designed to compete in mod-VP racing though it did not fair well.
US Plant Closing
The HydroStream plant finally closed in March 1991 due in part to the Luxury Tax and construction delays on a new plant.
The Canadian Edition (C.E.)
Jim Tucker was licensed in 1983 to start building the Valero, Viking, Vegas, and Voyager V hulls in Canada. In 1987 C.E. broke the agreement and started building tunnel hulls. Tucker put forth great effort, but in 1994 their doors closed too. John Spaeth made the boats towards the end of C.E. and after the doors were closed he teamed up with Jim Contzen to continue building boats under the name X-Stream which was essentially a continuation of the C.E. boats.
A load of HydroStreams ready to ship...circa 1986. Pipkorn actually made his own trucks for delivering the hulls and installed a specially molded base to conform to the back of the hulls. A couple of early shipments actually had the noses of the boats clipped off by bridges because they extended too high in the air. After that, they checked every load before it went out to make sure they would clear the bridge overpasses.