American Custom Marine Shines as Great Lakes Nor-Tech Performance Boat Dealer.
By Dina Paolella
Photos by Tyler Blankenship
Within the last seven years American Custom Marine has become the Great Lakes answer to all your high-performance boating wants and needs. You name it and the Kimball, Michigan headquarters crew of six offer their expertise and services with everything from- straightforward repairs to drive rebuilds to gel coat and paint. As a Nor-Tech Performance Boat dealer, Mercury Racing Premier dealer and Myco Trailer dealer, the buying and selling of new and used boats is another fundamental part of the business.
Michael Knoblock- the owner and St. Clair resident who spent the first 20-years of his career in the motorcycle industry working as an independent sales representative for top-brands including Oakley, Fox Motocross racing gear and Bell helmets, attributes his success to starting out small and taking things one step at a time.
Knoblock explains “Initially I was headed towards starting up my own motorcycle business but with such a saturated market, I opted for the boat trade instead since I knew a lot about the marine industry. When I was younger I competitively raced Kawasaki Jet Skis across the United States and in my early 30s took the next step forward venturing into an array of performance boat purchases including my first twin 454 MAG Powerquest, a Formula Fastech, multiple Fountains, and now my current 51’ Outerlimits and Nor-Tech speedsters.”
He continued with, “After finding the location, I started it from scratch in a single building back in September of 2011. I will never forget, I had one mechanic and American Custom Marine’s primary focus was servicing and brokering high performance V-bottoms and triple and quad packaged high performance center consoles.”
Moving forward one year to 2012, at that time there was no current Nor-Tech dealer in the area and two buddies who were both customers were inquiring about center consoles. Knoblock recommended them to check out Nor-Tech’s highly sought after and reputable center console offerings in Florida. He then approached Nor-Tech owner Trond Schou, about the possibility of representing Nor-Tech around the Great Lakes and shortly there after the deal was sealed and American Custom Marine added “Nor-Tech Performance Boat dealer” to its list of services.
Nowadays the only new boats that American Custom Marine sells are Nor-Tech V-bottoms and high-end center consoles, while its used boat inventory varies among models and manufacturers.
One year later, the boating firm took an additional pivotal step launching it to another level of professional excellence when becoming a Mercury Racing Premier dealer and service facility. At present American Custom Marine’s top technicians are Verado and Mercruiser certified and have undergone rigorous and extensive training at Mercury Racing School.
When I asked Knoblock what is the most encompassing part of running American Custom Marine and if one division takes precedence over another, he replied, “No, the sales and service departments are really split down the middle. Right now we are currently getting a 45’ Nor-Tech center console ready for production and we have lots of Nor-Techs on order. Our fiberglass shop is always backed up with a wait list and now since we are heading into the fall and winter season, this is also our busiest time for completing all the big motor projects in our heated storage facility area.”
In just seven years, American Custom Marine has metamorphosed into a 20,000 square foot facility with three separate and immaculate buildings and attracts customers from across state lines. It has been declared a one-stop shop by powerboaters, both near and far! In addition to the day to day operations, sponsoring charity events and poker runs across the Great Lakes during the summer months is another essential part of American Custom Marine’s presence in the offshore boating arena.
Four of the biggest poker run weekend getaways the company participates in include the Boyne Thunder Poker Run, the Elite Poker Run on Lake Erie in Pennsylvania where the company participates with gold level sponsorship status, the LEOPA Thunderfest in Put-in-Bay, Ohio and its newest addition, the first annual Traverse City Invitational Poker Run in Northern Michigan.
The American Custom Marine tent on-site at all events is easily spotted due to its long line of fans hoping to secure a free goodie or custom crafted t-shirt. Knoblock can also be spotted on the water during the runs in Mamba, his 51-foot GTX aquatic reptile dipped in a jaw-dropping chartreuse neon green, yellow and orange snake-skin coat of paint to resemble the fast moving and dangerous snake of the same name.
Of all four runs the biggest highlight for multiple reasons is probably Northern Michigan’s legendary Boyne Thunder Poker Run which sells out its 120 spots each July for the annual 150-mile waterway expedition through Lake Charlevoix and Lake Michigan. Why is it extra special? Because not only does American Custom Marine join forces with Nor-Tech as co-sponsors, they also host the massive opening-night welcome party.
Secondly, Knoblock who sits on the Board for the Boyne Thunder event was really speechless when he told me of the staggering $207,000 in proceeds that was donated to Camp Quality USA and Challenge Mountain, two foundations serving children with cancer and mental and physically challenged illnesses. Even more impressive is that since its 2004 inauguration more than one million dollars has been contributed to these beneficiaries.
New to American Custom Marine’s summer fun run agenda was the inaugural Traverse City Invitational Poker Run put on by the Offshore Powerboat Association and the Offshore Classic group. The charity event was to benefit Big Brothers and Big Sisters and due to the combined generosity of the 50 plus participants, more than $25,000 was raised.
Apart from Knoblock being a dedicated business owner always wiling and able to go the extra mile for his customers at American Custom Marine, first and foremost he is a committed father. He enjoys most the time spent in boats with his nine year old daughter, Alexanndra, who he tells me loves to go VERY FAST!
For anyone attending the International Fort Lauderdale Boat Show, American Custom Marine will be at the Nor-Tech tent on the always impressive high performance boat dock, as well as joining forces again with Nor-Tech at the mid-February Detroit Boat Show. PRA invites you to also check out www.americancustommarine.com or give Michael Knoblock a call at (810)-388-9495, he would love to discuss your future boating needs.
See you at the show!