Whittley History

Our Founder

In the wake of WWII, the pace of life changed as a war-ravaged world now craved speed and excitement. Boating innovation flourished as displacement hulls and sedate speeds gave way to planing hulls with greater horsepower. Inboard and outboard engines evolved from marinised lawn mower and truck engines to highly specialised performance power plants.

This was the world of enterprising young businessman Jim Whittley who, along with his brother Ossie, indulged a love of boating. In 1953, at the age of 21, Jim produced his first timber boat out of a small shop in the Melbourne suburb of Bulleen. As word got out, the enquiries grew. Jim’s passion quickly became his career. 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 to become a commercial boat builder. I suppose the business just grew, rather like a tree.” As time marched on, new materials and techniques were adopted and eventually fibreglass replaced timber as Whittley’s material of choice. Age old boat building traditions were turned upside down – literally – as moulds, jigs and chopper guns replaced block panels, dollies and chisels. Jim soon met his life-long sweetheart Aileen and the two formed a bond that would spark a family powerboat dynasty that, three generations on, shows no signs of slowing down.

To all that knew him, Jim Whittley was a true gentleman – the outpouring of public tributes after his death on March 12, 2010 is evidence of this. His pioneering contribution to the Australian boating industry will never be forgotten, and Jim’s legacy is evident every time you pull up to a boat ramp and see families out on the water, enjoying quality time out on boats that carry his name. Jim’s grandsons Jake and Alan have fond memories of their grandfather. “Pa loved the Australian marine industry and was committed to building quality and innovative family cruisers, a commitment that lives on in every Whittley boat we build,” Alan said.


Our Story

Half a century of boat building has brought many changes to Whittley – new materials, purpose-built premises and new technologies. Whittley Marine has succeeded in balancing traditional core values with constant improvement and delivers on that original promise of quality and innovation.

The adoption of fibreglass in the late 1960s changed Whittley forever, and produced two landmark models: the Voyager, a genuine live-aboard family cruiser; and the Puma, a rakish, high-sided runabout that later morphed into the Cherokee. Together, they permanently put Whittley on the boating map.

More recently, Whittley introduced the latest computer aided design and manufacturing (CAD-CAM) systems. While craftsmanship and attention to detail are still at the heart of every Whittley, innovations in technology enable the company to improve its quality, efficiency and design. This is further enhanced by in-house timber and glazing departments, plus Whittley’s own trim and canopy shops, allowing the company to guarantee supply and consistency. In addition to our Cruiser and Sea Legend ranges, Whittley Marine has now firmly established the value-oriented Whittley CW range of affordable fibreglass boats to give every boating family the opportunity to own the Whittley experience.


Trailerboat Magazine: Video Interview with Alan Whittley

Alan Whittley tells the Whittley boating story, why he’s not quite as into fishing as you thought, a...


Trailerboat Magazine: Video Interview with Neville Whittley

Neville Whittley tells us why boating has always been so special to the Whittley clan, why Whittley ...


Trailerboat Magazine: Video Interview with Steve Whittley

Steve Whittley (who started in the industry as toolmaker) explains the intricacies of boat design, w...