1976 Rogers Bonneville Jet Boat Gets LS V8, Sounds Like a Muscle Car Now


Boats are like cars. Some are designed to take you from A to B and perform various tasks, while others are geared toward performance. Classic Rogers Bonneville jet boats weren’t designed for racing, but they’re great platforms for running fast in a straight line. All you need to do is strip off the unnecessary accessories and drop a big engine in the back.

Of course, it’s not as simple as it sounds, but putting an LS V8 into a small, fiberglass boat seems to be the best way to hit 100 mph (161 kph) on water. The folks over at Finnegan’s Garage set out to do just that with a 1976 Bonneville.

Many of these vintage boats were used as dragsters back in the day, so fitting a big-displacement V8 in the rear is far from uncommon. But it takes a bit more than that to make a boat fast and reliable. Apparently, the LS’s car oil pan isn’t suited for boat use, so the guys at the shop had to swap it out for a marine-spec pan.

They went with a pan by Dooley Enterprises, but it took some serious modding to fit under the engine. After years of sitting, the Bonneville fires up, and man, oh man, is that LS loud! And check out the big exhaust pipes popping out almost as high as the blower. I can’t help but think about gassers with pipes poking through the front fenders when looking at it.

And it’s such a wonderful thing to watch this old boat hit the lake with a big engine behind the seats. It looks like a hot rod, it definitely sounds like one, and it appears to drive like one too. It still needs a few adjustments to run at full throttle, but even so, it manages to hit 72 mph (116 kph). It might not sound like a lot compared to a road-going hot rod, but it’s fast enough on water.

But the folks at Finnegan’s Garage don’t plan on leaving it like this. Their goal is to hit 100 mph, in this boat and they’re pondering about adding a nitrous system. That’s a solid reason to follow this project for a while. Hopefully, the Bonneville will hit the water again soon with a lot more oomph at its disposal.