KQED presents a new eight-part series, Ultimate Restorations, featuring the spellbinding restorations of irreplaceable masterpieces.
Antiques Roadshow meets This Old House in Ultimate Restorations, an eight-part series featuring the marvels of engineering from America’s grand history of ambition and innovation. From the 1880s through World War II, the United States advanced the science of aeronautics, propulsion, navigation and sound with inventions that were both functional and artistic: locomotives, fighter planes, yachts and the world’s largest pipe organ. Sadly, few of these icons from our past remain. Now, eight national heirlooms are rescued from the junkyard and painstakingly restored to their original glory, offering poignant glimpses of days gone by.
Learn how the last surviving American steam yacht went from the opulence of the roaring ‘20s to the bottom of Boston Harbor, and what it takes to restore 136 feet and 125 tons. New technologies like 3D mapping combine with old construction techniques and an exploration of how a steam engine works. After a difficult four-year restoration the Cangarda is triumphantly released into the water … and almost goes belly up.
In Ultimate Restorations, audiences are treated to eight similarly dramatic restorations from coast to coast: the world’s largest pipe organ in Atlantic City; a surviving 1920s fire engine from Kansas City; a Wisconsin “fish car” designed to transport live fish by train; a priceless carrousel; a World War II spy plane; one of the first U.S. yachts to round Cape Horn; and a famous steam locomotive.
The sheer scale of these restorations is daunting, especially when combined with budgets, deadlines and dangerous equipment. There are no blueprints, only clues from history, science, the jungles of Guatemala and the memories of mechanics and veterans. Host Bob McNeil calls it “a love letter to America, recalling the skills, craftsmanship and innovative spirit that made us the economic engine to the world.”
Terry Strauss, 855-318-6336, firstname.lastname@example.org
Episode 101: Cangarda: The Last American Steam Yacht
The last existing American stream yacht was nothing more than an eyesore stuck in the mud of the Boston harbor until Bob McNeil came to its rescue. His four-year restoration of the 136-foot vessel revives old construction techniques alongside new technologies with the help of the colorful crew of Rutherford’s Boat Shop in San Francisco. After 112 years and more than a few setbacks, the Cangarda finally sails again.
Episode 102: The Lysander: Canada’s Unsung Hero
Of the 3,000 Lysander airplanes built in World War II, only three have survived, even though it was the first airplane in the war to shoot down a bomber. At the Vintage Wings Museum in Ottowa, Canada, restorers reconstruct this priceless spy plane from the fabric-covered fuselage to the machine guns in its wheel spats so it can once again demonstrate the unique landing and take-off capabilities that saved hundreds of lives.
Episode 103: The Sierra #3 Locomotive: A Star Is Reborn
A group of passionate restorers resurrect one of the oldest operating steam locomotives in the United States, built in 1891 in New Jersey and made famous in movies like High Noon and Rawhide. Remaining true to the original’s complex engineering and construction requires incredible precision and patience, and the team struggles to complete the project before its scheduled Fourth of July debut.
Episode 104: Ahrens Fox: The Kansas City Treasure
Once considered the Rolls Royce of fire engines, the Ahrens Fox was a shining emblem of 1920s civic pride in Kansas City, a rolling work of art that could shoot water to the top of a 40-story building. Now just a rusty relic, a surviving Ahrens Fox challenges volunteer firefighter Doug Klink and his crew to keep their senses of humor as they piece the massive vehicle back together from the drive shaft to the gold leaf detailing.
Episode 105: The Midmer-Losh: The World’s Largest Pipe Organ
Built in Atlantic City in 1929, the Midmer-Losh still holds the title as the world’s largest musical instrument, as well as the world’s most complicated mechanical system. With over 33,000 pipes, and blowers requiring hundreds of horsepower, this Goliath requires an involved 10-million-dollar restoration and takes viewers back to an era unequaled in design and craftsmanship.
Episode 106: Badger #2: The Last Remaining Fish Car
During the Depression of 1911, bringing fingerling fish from the East Coast to stock Midwest lakes as a food source was big business. Railroad cars known as “fish cars” contained water tanks for the small fish and elegant Victorian accommodations for the crew. All of these rare cars have disappeared except the Badger #2. Join a Wisconsin team for a complex restoration and a glimpse into a rarely-seen chapter of U.S. history.
Episode 107: The Illions Supreme Carousel: A Rare Masterpiece
The Illions Supreme was once the largest and most spectacular carousel from renowned master carver Marcus Charles Illions, with individual horses valued in the millions today. Incredibly, its provenance faded away under weather and cheap paint and it languished in storage for almost 60 years. Piecing it back together requires engineers and artists alike, but the results are breathtaking.
Episode 108: The Schooner Coronet: Racing into History
Built in 1885, the Coronet sailed to fame as a trans-Atlantic race winner and one of the first U.S. yachts to round Cape Horn and circumnavigate the globe. Its design is credited with forever changing U.S. commercial ship standards. This intricate restoration will take the team from the jungles of Guatemala to the harbor at St. Tropez, but the schooner finally regains its original grace, complete with a custom Steinway piano.
About the Producer:
Documentary filmmaker Strauss has a long history of writing, directing and producing films, including public television’s A Bridge to Opportunity about California’s community college system, Disney’s The Mind’s Eye: The Experience of Learning and A Time for Grandparents, and the award-winning documentary short on San Francisco’s children-at-risk, I Wish I Were A Princess. She also served as Series Producer for First Edition, a national magazine show for public television. Strauss is co-creator, producer and director of Ultimate Restorations.
About the Executive Producers:
William Hersey and Loren Lovgren, Kailuna Enterprises
Owners and Executive Producers William Hersey and Loren Lovgren have produced the four Times of Your Life one-hour specials (barter syndicated, 97% clearance); the one-hour TV’s Funniest Sidekicks special, which they co-produced with George Paige (Lifetime); 13 half-hour episodes of the science-based Energy Matters (Ford sponsored, directly syndicated to PBS stations in the U.S. and Canada, and a recipient of the Private Sector Achievement Award from the U.S. Department of Energy); and 13 half-hours of the youth adventure reality series Envirotrek (barter syndicated, 63% clearance). Current Kailuna projects include Ultimate Restorations; the one-hour documentary Angels on a Cliff; THRIVE, a reality series in development with DLT Entertainment Ltd. and BBC; and Picture Car Warehouse, a reality series being developed internally.
About Host and Executive Producer Bob McNeil:
Bob McNeil left behind his day job as Dr. Robert McNeil, a respected businessman in the biotech industry, to become an expert restorer, woodworker and historian. A world-class sailor, Bob began by restoring the antique racing sloop “Joyant.” That was almost 18 years ago. Since then, Bob has spearheaded the restorations of the 1901 steam yacht “Cangarda” and the historic 1885 schooner “Coronet,” and now brings his expertise and passion to Ultimate Restorations and its companion web presence.
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