Arena Craft and the Chris Craft Cobra

There are four stories here.

classic 1950s restored fiberglass inboard ski boat Arena Craft Barracuda

seabuddy photo of restored classic fiberglass Arena Craft

 

custom tandem boat trailer wide white walls

Look for ripples in the boat's finish, there are none

First, the boat in seabuddy’s Photos.

This particular restored example has as a level of superior finish and detailing as seabuddy has ever seen on a new or restored boat. Please study the photos and look for waves or wallows in the finish or any reflections. There are none.

This ArenaCraft is a 19’ 6” Speedboat that was 5 MPH faster at top speed than the 20’ 10” Chris Craft Cobra of the same era with the same horsepower Both boat builders made their racy designs with a 6’ 9” beam. Most say that the Arena Craft handles better, also.

Both models were built with a full-width, single seat cockpit design. C-C mad their boats from wood with fiberglass touches in the deck design and ArenaCraft made theirs out of a fiberglass hull and deck molding with some wood and Hexcel stiffeners. Both were made to fit into a proposed racing class for Family Racing Runabouts.

Chris Craft was the largest boat company in the world with lots of dealers and sold far more boats of its model than ArenaCraft.

It is possible that this is one of only two of this boat model ArenaCraft that have been restored.

bow photo image restored fiberglass classic arena craft 1950s boat

close-up of the bow

 

arena craft runabout classic restored fiberglass runabout chris craft

close-up of amidships and the beginning of the fin aft tail

 

classic restored dan arena craft fiberglass 1950s boat inboard boat runabout

Lighted Tail Fins make a 1950s statement

 

transom classic restored fiberglass 1950s era ski boat v drive marine

transom, note the racing chines

 

cast name plate dan arena craft inboard runabout boat image photo marine

close-up of classic model name plate and exhaust pipes

Second, who is Dan Arena?

A boat designer and boat racing driver who competed head to head within the Gold Cup and Unlimited boat racing classes against Harold Wilson, Guy Lombardo, George Reis, Bill Horn, and Bill Cantrell, to name a few.

He is credited with designing the first Unlimited race boat to win with a modern power source.

He added to what Ventnor did with the three-point hydroplane boats by flattening his boat’s profile and packing more air between the sponsons, which reduced wetted surface.

His prop and sponson innovations led the way from the tail-dragging Ventnor’s that always had their prop submerged while racing to his boats that sporadically rode on their prop as one of their three points, to Ted Jones’ race boats that always were a prop rider after Ted’s Slo-Mo-Shun IV.

His 1953 Hydroplane design was built later line-by-line by Les Staudacher, which resulted in the boat that set the fastest straightaway Unlimited Piston Engine Hydroplane record speed of 200.419 MPH.

Dan Arena had a stroke in the 1980s and died in 1995.

Third, what is ArenaCraft, et al, as a boat builder?

Dan Arena was a racer first and a pleasure boat builder second. Dan built one-off race boats back as far as the 1930s. He started building pleasure boats in around 1953. He formed the ArenaCraft Corporation in 1955. It seems that he made the transition from wood to fiberglass boats around then. He sold that business to Reinell Industries.in 1969 or so. All ArenaCraft after that date were made by Reinell, not Dan Arena.

Mr. Arena could not stay out of the boat business, so about a year later, the Dan Arena Company was born and started making boats. This was a low-production boat builder that primarily catered to Lake Tahoe water demands. Due to the high altitude of the lake a fast boat was simply not that fast on the lake and some capable in rough water ability was valued. Thus, many of Dan Arena’s boats were capable of speeds to 75 MPH at sea level when powered up. Such a boat usually had a v-drive 425 Horsepower Chevy engine. Howard Arneson threw a turbine in his and went over 100 MPH.

This was a family business, with his son involved in the business. Chris “Kit” Arena eventually ran the production floor at the Dan Arena Company after he started right out of high school with his Dad. There were a few exceptions as the woodwork was done by Lief Lund and the fiberglass Lamination was handed by Earnest Jackson after Kit had sprayed the gel coat. Chris also did the hand lettered “Dan Arena” logo. There were no cast name plates on Dan Arena Company boats, unlike ArenaCraft boats.

Fourth, what is a Barracuda?

Almost all pleasure boat models that Dan Arena had a hand in were named “Barracuda”. He liked that name. Both ArenaCraft and Dan Arena Company boats have Barracuda named boat models.

Barracudas came in 18’ this 20’, a 21’, and 23-24 foot sizes, at least. He made single, twin, and open cockpit runabouts. Boats with and without opening windshields. Some sported Corvette car windshields.

He also made cuddy cabin boats. His cuddies were deeper (higher hull sided) than his runabouts. Since the decks were molded and he often used the same hull mold for both models, it was his son’s job to scribe, cut down, and hand fit a cuddy hull molding to a runabout deck, among many other jobs in the manufacturing the boats.

 

internet photo of running dan arena craft 1950s era boat

internet photo of the boat running on the lake

 

 

4 Responses to “Arena Craft and the Chris Craft Cobra”

  • Thanks Chris. Nice work.

  • It was your efforts that made for an interesting boating subject. Care to say what the brands and steps you took in the finish?

  • Gerald C. Hill:

    Fantastic boat in every way. One of the greatest designs ever. From one artist to another, truly in a class in itself.
    Would like to know how the finish was accomplished. I have several boats but your finish is perfect.
    Also an outstanding use of simplicity and color. This boat was the highlight of the Tavares show next to my ride in the 1924 woodie. Hope to see you in 2015 show, Tavares.
    Old Boat, Jer

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