When Engelbert Frauscher founded a boat building company in Vienna in 1927, he probably never would have dreamed that Frauscher would be setting standards for international boat building 90 years later.
Engelbert Frauscher was born in 1903 in Aspach, in Upper Austria’s Innviertel district. After a carpentry apprenticeship with his uncle, and his first experience in boat building at the Ratz company in St. Gilgen, he discovered his love of boats. He knew this was his calling, so from 1923 to 1926, he trained at various companies, never losing sight of his dream. In a time of political turbulence, Engelbert Frauscher took over a “boat building shop” in 1927 in the Old Danube area of Vienna. In 1933, he tried his luck in South America, where there was a high demand for European workers. After a few months of hard work, followed by a serious illness, he escaped onto a cargo ship that took him back to Austria.
Back on the Old Danube, Engelbert Frauscher attempted a new beginning. With his manual skills he built rowing boats and sailing boats, including 2 vessels of the Olympia-Jolle class for the Austrian Sailing Team that were used in the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
But the turmoil of World War II also cast a shadow on the life of the Frauscher family. In 1944 the Old Danube shop in Vienna was heavily damaged in an air raid, together with the flat next door. His son Kurt, who was only 17 years old, was conscripted into military service and was listed as missing after the war. Fanny Frauscher, Engelbert’s wife, had moved with the two other sons, Ernst and Hans, to live with relatives in Geinberg in Upper Austria. After the war, Engelbert Frauscher left the shipyard on the Old Danube to his long-time apprentice, and joined his family in Geinberg.
In the post-war years Gmunden was the location of the American command headquarters, and the American occupying forces took over the yacht club. A position opened for a boat builder who could service the boats, and Engelbert Frauscher was the man for the job. His workplace and accommodation were at the shipyard in the Weyer district of Gmunden, where the company now has its seaside shipyard. Engelbert Frauscher worked in an old shop of the Wicke company, which had gone bankrupt. After the withdrawal of the American troops from Gmunden, the boats were returned to their owners and the shipyard was shut down. Mr. Schmid, a member of the yacht club, became the new owner and subsequently sold the shipyard to Engelbert Frauscher for a very reasonable price. He wanted to have a boat builder near the yacht club. During that time there were only wooden boats and an expert like Frauscher was hard to find. He did the repairs, built small rowing boats and started building the O-Jolle boats again. His wife Fanny managed the finances.
The upturn began when Mr. Jany, owner of an ironmonger’s shop, sold his rowing boat rental business to Engelbert Frauscher. Jany was on the bank committee of the industrial bank in Gmunden and helped Frauscher to get a start-up loan. The children, Ernst and Hans, worked in the company and ran the boat rental in the summer. The first wooden electric boats were built during that time. Additionally, two boats of the Kiel-Zugvogel class from in-house production, and a water-skiing school was also established. Hans Frauscher, the youngest son, was a water-skiing enthusiast, won numerous titles and was famous in Gmunden for his pyramid and barefoot acts.
The Norwegian Yngling was meanwhile being sold through the agency of the shipyard. More than one hundred of these boats were sold, and they won many races.
The elder son Ernst Frauscher started working as an apprentice in his father’s company after he completed school. In 1954, the younger brother, Hans, also joined the company. The shipyard was already a flourishing operation. Rowing boats and wooden electric boats were launched and the first motor boats – “Fish” and “Starfish” – were added to the product line.
The founding of a successful sailing school by Hans and Dorothea Frauscher, and the construction of a second boathouse in 1964, gave the company fresh impetus. Later, a shop for sailing and motor boat accessories and sailing apparel was added.
In 1968 Ernst Frauscher erected a large building, right at the lake, with a workshop where polyester boats were manufactured. The building contained the private living quarters of the family, the shipyard office, and a yachtsman lodge set up on the upper floor. His wife, Elisabeth, was in charge of the office and the lodge.
In 1971, Hans Frauscher had the idea to build polyester boats. This decision brought a change to the company. With the help of an employee, Mr. Gaber, who already had experience in the building of such boats, a new era began at Frauscher. In 1972, the two brothers merged their companies and undertook business in the boat market as Ernst und Hans Frauscher OHG. Ernst was responsible for production and finances, while Hans was the sales specialist.
The legal prohibition of motor boats on Lake Traunsee, in the late seventies, was a heavy blow to the enterprise, and also the beginning of a new era. The motor boat trade was discontinued, and the electric boat began its triumphal progress. A key factor in the success of the Frauscher electric boat was the Gmunden based Preinerstorfer company, which had developed a very robust motor. In the years that followed, several hundred electric boats left the new shipyard that was built in 1976, in Moosham in the Gmunden municipality. Many of them are still in service today.
The acquisition of the H-boat license from the Finnish Sailing Association in 1979 was a milestone in the company’s history. More than 600 of the popular boats were sold, and they were quite successful in sporting events. Hans Frauscher became world champion in 1982 with that boat, and his son Stefan Frauscher followed in his footsteps in 2002. Altogether, 4 world champion titles were won with the H-boat.
The third generation of the Frauscher family joined the company in 1982. Michael Frauscher, another certified boat builder and the eldest son of Hans Frauscher, reinforced the team.
The Weyer sailing boat harbour in Gmunden was rebuilt in the early eighties, and in 1988 construction began on the building at Traunsteinstraße 10, the long-time location of the office, as well as the exhibition hall and sales centre. Right next door, at Traunsteinstraße 14, is now the location of a showroom and the harbour office, where Andrea Frauscher-Oberfrank manages the company. The daughter of Ernst Frauscher has been with the company since 1996, and is the first point of contact for both existing and potential Frauscher customers on lake Traunsee.
Frauscher Bootswerft GmbH & Co KG was established in 1993 after a reorganisation of the company. In 1996, Stefan Frauscher, the youngest son of Hans Frauscher, came on board.
After a fire in 2001 destroyed the entire boathouse and 60 boats, the new boathouse built in 2002 dominates the overall view of the Frauscher Harbour, where the last extension was completed in 2015.
At the beginning of the new millennium, the company launched important electric and motor yachts – the St. Tropez, Valencia, Lido, Riviera, and Benaco models – which set new design trends. Finally, the Frauscher 717 GT was distinguished as Powerboat of the Year in 2010.
The construction of a modern shipyard in Ohlsdorf in 2012 is the expression of a new organisational structure. In a period that was considered a time of economic crisis it was decided to expand. The optimisation of the processes and the decision to enter the luxury sector in boat building resulted in a decisive breakthrough. In the same year the sales location opened at Port Adriano in Mallorca. In 2016, the 1414 Demon luxury yacht was another milestone that marked the beginning of a new chapter in the company’s history.
Engelbert Frauscher was very proud of his sons and of his company, with which he identified closely until the end. The passion for boat building still infuses the company today, and has been passed on to his sons and grandchildren. He died on 22 January 1989.