Our Company Founder

Jim Whittley: Company Co-Founder

The man behind the boats; a true gentlemen and the craftsmen of other peoples dreams: Jim Whittley, Whittley Company Co-Founder.

Over the years Australia has been blessed by many characters who have had the guts to get up and have a go. The Aussie boat building industry represents these ideals, and none better than Jim Whittley, who began making wooden cruisers in 1953.

You have to take your hat off to the early pioneers of production trailer boats – the courageous and inventive people who first introduced fiberglass technology to boats and the new techniques associated with it over 50 years ago. In a short time, the age old traditions of boat building where turned upside down, as moulds, jigs and chopper guns replaced block panels, dollies and chisels.

After WWII the emerging space age ushered in a pace of life that demanded speed and excitement.  Displacement hulls and sedate speeds gave way to planning hulls and horsepower. Outboard and Inboard engines evolved from marinized law mower and truck engines to highly specialized performance powerplants.

This was the world of enterprising young businessmen, Jim Whittley. Who took along with his brother, Ossie, their love of boating into the workshop in 1953, when Jim was only 21 years of age. Jim produced his timber boat from a small shop in the Melbourne suburb of Bulleen, and then set about building models of all shapes and sizes.

“A true craftsman, the builder of other peoples dreams, a gentlemen who loved the Australian Marine Industry and whose commitment to building quality family cruisers, lives on in every Whittley Boat” Alan Whittley, Third Generation Whittley and Director Of Sales And Marketing At The Whittley Marine Group.

However, Ossie’s love for yachting saw him depart to follow that particular passion, leaving Jim to push on with the cruisers. Jim soon met his lifelong sweet heart, Aileen, and the two formed a bond that would spark a family powerboat dynasty – a dynasty that, three generations on, is showing no signs of losing momentum. To all that knew him, Jim Whittley was a true gentlemen – for proof you need look no further than the outpouring of public tributes paid to Jim after his death, on March 12, 2010.  His contribution to the Australian boating industry will never be forgotten, and is shown every time you pull up to a boat ramp and see a young family out enjoying their time out on a Whittley.

Jim Whittley was also a pioneer when it came to new boating design and technology. He walked hand in hand with other great boating names such as John Haines (Haines Hunter & Haines Signature), Jack Savage (Savage Boats), Roy Nicholes (Cruise Craft) and the Archy Spooner (Carribean). However through Jim, the Whittley’s have always had a style all to their own, with the guiding light of an unswerving commitment to quality.

When previously asked about his company’s origins, Jim was typically modest. “ I think we were about the first in Australia, to put a production wooden boat on a trailer,” He said. “ Then it became popular with the public, and the demand automatically came from that. There was never any great intention; I suppose it just grew, rather like a tree.”


Some 30 years after building his first boat, Jim handed the reins to sons Steve and Neville, and the success continued. Who could forget some of the early Whittley clinker skiboats, the sleek lines of the Cherokee, and the versatility of the cruising Fleetmaster, Cruisemaster, Monteray, Voyager or Impala?

The following tribute from Alan Whittley says it all: "My grandfather was a quality master craftsman, and a loving family man who always wanted to make his customers, friends, suppliers and family happy. We will remember Pa as a true gentleman; down to earth, honest and a hard working man who was the builder of other people’s dreams. Pa was the ultimate mentor and role model. We’d regularly talk about life and business; his input and thoughts helped us all grow. He would often talk about the boating industry and the people in it – even his competitors – and he didn’t have a bad word to say about anyone. He was the best, most loving grandfather we could have wished for."

Gentleman Jim lives through his children and grandchildren as well as through his Whittley Boats. Jim was instrumental in shaping the modern face of the Aussie boat industry, and he’s commonly regarded as the father of Aussie trailerable cruising.

The founding father of Whittley Boats, Jim Whittley, was a pioneer, an innovator and a true gentleman….

Words taken from John Willis write up ”Shaping the Whittley Wheel” in Trailer Boat publication issue 270.