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Doug Clark: Spokane’s ‘LaBoata’ gets makeover after five years

Spokane’s famed boat car couldn’t get any cooler.

That’s what I figured, anyway.

Little did I know what goes on inside the cranium of my zany friend, Tim Lorentz.

“I rebooted LaBoata,” he told me on Friday.

A serious upgrade was only proper, said Lorentz, considering that 2014 is the fifth anniversary of the most hilarious and joy-evoking vessel to ever navigate our Lilac highways and byways.

Chances are you’ve seen LaBoata cruising the streets of Spokane.

Or maybe you read about it years ago, when I introduced the world to this high school teacher and his comic craft.

If not, picture the body of a 1976 Apollo speedboat encompassing a 20-year-old Chrysler LeBaron as snug as a coffin covers a corpse.

Really. The fit is so remarkable that you barely notice the tires.

Reactions are near universal after seeing such a nautical oddity rolling down a city street or idling in the lane next to your car.

Thumbs go up. Laughter ensues. Smartphone cameras whip out for documentation a la Facebook or Instagram.

Then comes that inevitable question.

“Does it float?”

To which the impish 58-year-old might respond, “Well, everything floats – for a while.”

Everybody loves LaBoata.

Take the Oregon state trooper who once followed LaBoata for miles. Not to write him a ticket, noted Lorentz, but to snap a photograph to share with pals.

But five years of road trips and constant cruising took its toll.

The water pump sprung a leak. Lorentz began to fear his head gasket was not long for this world. Other deterioration set in.

Lorentz decided he had two choices:

1. Pay a mechanic enough to send his kids to Whitworth.

2. Mothball the tired LeBaron and find a fresher replacement.

I know what you’re wondering. You’re wondering why this man is so fixated on aged LeBarons.

It’s all due to dimensions, he explained. The convertible and Apollo tri-hull fit extraordinarily well.

And so the search was launched.

Craigslist finally coughed up a LeBaron north of Seattle. Though two years older than Lorentz’s ’94, the car was a total creampuff with only 72,000 original miles.

Lorentz called the seller. He took a chance and told him about his mad scientist intentions.

“All the time I’m talking he’s going ‘Mmm? Really? Mmm?’ ’’

Skepticism, however, took a back seat to cash.

A deal was struck. Lorentz rode the train to Everett, where the seller met him with the white convertible.

After an additional round of haggling, the two settled on $1,400.

Not bad, considering the seller had filled the gas tank and fitted the LeBaron with new tires.

The happy captain slid behind the wheel and aimed his ride for Spokaloo.

And that was just the beginning of the overhaul.

Lorentz painted the speedboat’s stripe blue to match the Chrysler’s dark interior.

An audio shop installed a killer sound system with enough blast to wake the City Council.

“Gotta have tunes,” said Lorentz.

True. But must the thumping subwoofer rearrange my internal organs?

Yes, hearing about LaBoata II wasn’t enough for me. I needed to join him on another see cruise.

Ooh-ee. Ooh-ee, baby.

Ooh-ee …

Lorentz picked me up at my house Friday afternoon.

What a thrill to see the cream-colored LaBoata moored in my driveway, a retro wooden water ski jutting out of the back seat.

“I brought a wet suit, too,” said Lorentz, grinning wildly.

Off we went, chattering and whooping it up.

Last Fourth of July, Lorentz said he drove LaBoata in the Manzanita, Oregon, parade. His father-in-law sat in back dressed up in a crab costume.

Good to know insanity runs on both sides of my friend’s family.

Heading north on Division, we pulled next to a white Dodge Durango.

“Is it amphibious?” hollered the driver.

That’s rather personal, I told Lorentz.

“I love giving people rides,” confessed the captain, who got the idea for building LaBoata after turning an old station wagon into a convertible he called LaBomba.

“I didn’t build a boat car to get attention,” he added. “It just happened.”

What fun. We drove through downtown Spokane, going slowly past Riverfront Park.

We stopped at a DQ drive-thru and then giggled like hyenas a few minutes later, when our dip cones began drooling all over our hands and shirts.

By far our best move of all was to stop by the new legal weed store in north Spokane. The LaBoata sighting offered some welcome entertainment to the long line of pot patrons who waited outside to get in.

I could imagine the conversations later.

“Duuude. Like was that a boat that just drove up in the parking lot?

After stepping out to pose for a few photos, Lorentz got back into LaBoata and we motored away from the weed store.

Which was perfectly fine with me.

When you’re in LaBoata, I told Lorentz, you’re already high on life!

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at