How to make homemade airboats

Written by jan benschop
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How to make homemade airboats
An airboat can go places no other boat can go. (airboat canal in grass flats image by Stacey Lynn Payne from

Airboats are well known for their shallow-water capabilities in places like the Everglades and the bayous of several Southern states of America. Some people make their own from scratch, spending weeks to months building a plywood boat and custom-welding a variety of automotive, aviation and lawn tractor engines and small plane props to steel or aluminium superstructures. There is a much simpler way though: start with a stable flat-bottom aluminium jon boat and add a prefabricated, bolt-on superstructure fully equipped with motor and caged propeller.

Things you need

  • Wide-beam, shallow-draft aluminium jon boat
  • Transom-mount, swivel-fan and motor assembly or Clamp-on Kohler or Vanguard Powerpack

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  1. 1

    Find an aluminium 4.2 to 4.8 m (14 to 16 foot) long flat-bottom jon boat with as wide a beam (sidewall-to-sidewall measurement) as possible. The transom should be at least 5 cm (2 inches) thick.

  2. 2

    Hand-tighten a transom-mount airboat fan assembly to the transom with a dual swivel-head bolt clamp as found on outboard motors. Use this arrangement if you want the option of switching out to a standard outboard motor. This type of conversion is the most lightweight and compact option.

  3. 3

    Clamp a powerpack-style option to the sides of the jon boat with adjustable, extensile legs. Bolts tighten a two-piece clamp bracket to the rolled or square bead at the top of the boat's sides at four points of a cage assembly that holds the motor and caged propeller.

  4. 4

    Run a protected gas line to the front of the boat to a large plastic gas tank. This helps keep the boat level as it planes, thus reducing the draft depth at the rear of the boat.

  5. 5

    Sit on the benches provided in the standard jon boat design or install seats with backs directly to the benches. Jon boats have a more slender design than most airboats, so the centre of gravity has to be kept low for safety.

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