Harry Nordberg can only stand and admire his handiwork, a classic speedboat that's been more than 18 months in the making and that's about to make its first official public voyage.

Mr Nordberg, who owns Calibro Marine in Whanganui, has finally finished building the 9m long speedboat, a 1924 replica popular with gangsters running illicit booze during the Prohibition era in the US.

But this new vessel - affectionately called a Baby Bootlegger - has been built for a Wellington businessman and will be used for much law-abiding pastimes.

It will make its first public appearance at the NZ Antique and Classic Boat Show being held at Lake Rotoiti near Nelson on the weekend of March 5-6.


Mr Nordberg cannot say exactly how much the hand-built, all-wooden boat cost but admits it runs into six figures.

The power comes from a 7.4-litre 400kW V8 MerCruiser marine engine that sits amidships. It's capable of shifting the boat across the water at more than 100kph. Wanganui Engine Reconditioners were involved in getting the engine ready.

"We gave it its first run on the Whanganui River on the weekend and the power was just phenomenal. I had no idea just how quick it can be," he said.

Mr Nordberg settled in Whanganui about three years ago, putting his skills as a joiner to good use creating classic boats.

Apart from a handful of bolts and the metals used in the engine, drive shaft, propeller and rudder, the rest of the boat is multiple layers of African mahogany. There are three layers of 3mm thick, glued in a cross hatched pattern, followed by a single layer of 4mm thick mahogany veneer.

Once the outside shell was glued and sanded down, he applied 12 layers of varnish and a final layer of fibreglass to protect the underside of the craft.

Whanganui MP Chester Borrows said the boat was another example of the skillset often hidden away in Whanganui.

"We have our glass artists and fine artists and then we have people like Harry Nordberg who possess outstanding skills that will soon be showcased around the country," he said.

Mr Nordberg's next project is restoration of locally-owned Mason Clipper, a popular Kiwi-designed motorboat built in the 1960s.