John Neate started his career in fibreglass with ‘Kit-Car’ manufacturing during the 1950’s. He worked with his father on them and to the left is a picture of the ‘Beckenham Mk1’. John is on the right. For its day it was a really nice car and had wire wheels that were associated with most sports cars of the day and a Ford engine.
John was ahead of his day in design, which moved to his boats in the 1960’s. He started with Mitcham Marine Spitfires, with a few variations before it found a version that he released.
This picture shows the first available version. The engine is a 25HP Evinrude 2 stroke. Later they came as a package with a Crescent Outboard.
This is the Mitcham Marine water-jet boat; and yes it flies.
John moved to Diss in the late 1960’s, bringing with him his Mitcham Marine Spitfire. He had also previously worked on racing cars and racing boats. He developed a water jet version using a UA jet unit. These were produced in Sheffield by Andrew Usbourne. Whilst developing the water-jet version of the Mitcham Spitfire, he sought help from Alma Components in Diss, Norfolk. A purpose built factory was built in the grounds of Alma Components for the new company and as a result Almarine was formed in 1972.
John together with Jim Price and Bob Mann owners of Alma Components were the principles. Alma Components were at the time leaders in their field of wire wound resistors and reed switches; making almost all the switches for ‘cash point machines’.
John redesigned the Spitfire, increased the length from 9′ to 10′ 6″ and 4′ 4″ wide, making them safer. There was a little help from Doug Norval and Don Shed with their racing boat experience. With John leading the production the new boats now called Almarine Seafire and its water jet version the Meteor. Buyers in Holland were their main customers at the peak. Almarine were sending a container load of 30 Seafires a month there.
Consignment of Almarines being packed for transportation to Holland. Not quite like today.
Almarine Javlin very rare
Meanwhile at Almarine John was now designing a much bigger boat called the Javelin. The Javelin had 2 Rotax engines and 2 UA water jet units and was around 16 feet long. A very rare boat now. I only know of three.
Almarine licenced an American company, Link Leisure to produce Seafires and Meteors in the USA for their market. John left Almarine and moved to the USA in 1976 to work with Link Leisure; but due to under investment the company only lasted 2 years. John stayed in the USA and worked for an oil company. He was involved in the development of a folding dingy, the Gault which was produced by the oil company.
The Gault foldable boat, I have one of these extremely rare boats and still in its bag.
John was surprised to find such interest in the Mitcham and Almarine boats. Especiually as he was to return to the UK in retirement in 2014. It was possibly because I had always enjoyed them; and when I started the Old Speed Boats web site and Forum in 2000, I featured them with Albatross and Dowty. I had owned about three previously because they were small, fast, fun and could be skied behind.
Alma Components was sold to an American company Hamlin Electronics in 1976. Hamlin had no interest in the boats in reality and sold off the moulds to Classic Moulds in Diss. They produced a few, but it is thought that they made the last boat in around 1979.
I own two of Johns very rare Mitcham Spitfires. One with a UA water jet unit and the other with a 20HP outboard. Both go like scolded cats and lift out with the outboard is phenomenal.
Mitcham Spitfire Inboard Jet
Mitcham Spitfire Outboard
See the restoration pages for both boats.