Archive for the ‘classic Chris craft boats’ Category
Words © Chris (seabuddy) Brown and photos CBMM
Chris Craft Corporation said this quote “Chris-Craft has the name, the prestige, the public acceptance. It has consistently advanced from the beginning and maintained the continued success for its merchants. Chris –Craft has been the leader, is the leader, and will continue to lead” in the early 1930s..
By 1936-1937 Chris Craft introduced what Seabuddy labels’ the first niche Chris Craft Runabout; the 19’ Special Race Boat. It had a cut down (lower) hull profile with less freeboard fore and aft. Plus, Chris-Craft boats used thinner dimension framing as well as thinner planking in the bottom for this 19’ Special Race Boat model. These changes made a big difference compared to their other 19’ by 6’2” sized runabouts that were made by Chris Craft boats for the masses. For instance, while there are different engine choices, it is perhaps fair to say that one of these boats were 20% faster.
Funny thing… Chris Craft made 51 of these boats, the same number of 19’ Chris Craft Cobras it made in 1955. So, this first niche Chris Craft Runabout is about a rare a boat as there is in the Chris Craft line-up ,just like a 19’ Cobra is! Note, they made some 760 plus units of this 19’ 0” by 6’ 2” hull in their standard models.
The Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the ACBS clubs St. Micheals Classic Boat Show had both of these rare boats, fully restored in its annual June event. They were displayed on the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum grounds over three days in 2015. It was a signature show! Seabuddy hopes that you made it to the show or plan on putting this show on your calendar in the future years.
Now, there is a new construction wood boat available for a custom new build with a period correct engine for the made-to-order newly built hull or a buyer can direct that a modern V-8 Seabuddy has seen this boat, it is a real head tuner. Please see… http://www.vintagewatercraft.com/classic_boat_construction.htm and scroll down on the left to the “1937 Special Runabout (19’)”.
It was only in 1930, that Chris – Craft Corporation was the boat building company’s new name that Christopher Columbus Smith started business back in about 1874. The name had changed many times to allow for various partners in the years between these dates. It (the name) was the family’s idea and a way to sell 1/3 of the company to Wall Street. That partial stock sale never happened. The family ran the company and kept it private until they sold the entire corporation in early 1960.
Words © Chris Seabuddy Brown, photo by CBMM
A Chris Craft Cobra set to towed by a Carroll Shelby Cobra 427 at a Classic Boat Show. It was the winner of the Best of Show-Land Display at the Classic Boat Show. Only at a classic show would such icons of land and water, or keels and wheels, if you prefer would seabuddy see such a thing on a Saturday afternoon.
Boaters know the Cobra’s as the most collectible models of mid-fifties. Restored Cobra boats are the envy of most fans of the classic Chris Craft line-up. They were made in only one year and only in very limited quantities. These two models are rare Chris Crafts. They were style leader models, made to attract buyers to dealer boat showrooms and major boat shows of the Chris Craft models. These other roughly 150 boat models were each priced at a profit. Chris Craft was still privately owned by the descendants of Chris Smith (who had died in 1939 two weeks after being found in the Chris Craft boiler room bleeding from his nose) and many family members still worked in the business.
Chris Craft Cobras used gold finished fiberglass to fashion a big fin behind the seat that dominates the styling of both sizes of these boats. This was an early attempt by the world leader in wooden boat construction to use the new boat-building material. The fiberglass was made in one plant and the otherwise planked mahogany wood boat was made in another. Several fiberglass parts did not match up with their boat hulls when mated on the final production line, the trial and error of fitment was one of the first learning lessons.
The boats used some car parts like the steering columns and their steering wheels are said to be1949 Chrysler parts. Cars and their brand-leading styling like the Mercedes Gullwing, GM Corvette, and early Ford Thunderbirds with limited seating and more style than function are often mentioned with the Chris Craft Cobras. These models are runabouts. Get in, sit-down, and enjoy. One does not walk around in a runabout.
Now, for the other snake in this write-up.
The 289 Shelby Cobra had used the British AC Ace car that came to market in around 1953 which began with a 100 HP engine ant then later with up to 120 HP six cylinder engine. The first small block Shelby’s used Ford’s then new 260 cu. In. V-8 engines for 75 Cobras and then 289 cu. in. engines (about 525 cars). There were several changes in these cars over the production run including rack and pinion steering, inboard and outboard mounted disc brakes, wheel hubs, and various details like radiators.
The Shelby Cobra 427 was the big block Cobra that Carroll Shelby created. That car had a new chassis and coil springs (instead of the transverse leaf springs of the Ace and the Ford small block cars). That new frame and suspension were developed with Ford’s cooperation, (Klaus Arning and Bob Negstad at Ford and this suspension is similar to the Ford GT-40s) and it is best identified by the wide fenders and an even bigger radiator opening. The engine was both a 427 and a 428 Ford engines. The 427 was the more desirable “side-oiler” engine.
Both Cobras are show stoppers!
Seabuddy’s photos show a 1947 Red and White Racing Runabout (one of 205 painted and colored this way). Some 503 of these 18’ 11” runabouts were made between 1948 and 1954. The balance of these models was stained and varnished finished.
These post war 19’ Racing Runabouts was loosely based on the 19’ Special Race Boats of 1936 and 1937. Chris Craft had made some 51 of those. These earlier ones were 2” longer in length and an inch wider in beam. These were also paint finished according to Jerry Conrad’s Chris Craft The Essential Guide book.
This boat is being restored by Jerry LeCompte’s http://docksideboatworks.com/. He showed the boat at the St. Michaels Classic Boat Show and his research is part of my write-up. He does great work. I have seen his boat’s decks still tight and show quality several years after he did his restoration magic.
Back to post WW II Chris Craft boats. War production was over but good mahogany wood and other materials were in short supply. This boat was cedar planked and came with a plywood deck by Chris Craft according to LeCompte. Thus, she was painted, not stained and varnished, as the cedar wood did not look right bright finished.
It would be smart to point out, that by this post World War II era, the Christopher Smith family had been through several tough times. They built boats to feed their family. They had shown strong growth and good profits at the boat business up to the early 1930s. The company made $308,000 in 1929 and then $51,204 in 1930. Chris Craft then lost money making boats until it went into the black again in 1936, with a profit of $213,131. The model offerings had been cut down during this time. Now, 97 models were cataloged for model year 1937.
Then the war hit. Production went on a sort of cost plus and some profit basis. Anything over that was turned back to the government. At a high point, a record 602 boats were shipped to the military in one month. This was a record despite material shortages in armor plating, engines, and brass castings.
Chris Craft did not even mention any specific construction materials during this post war period. They never knew what they had to substitute in any boat. Lumber has been mentioned as the longest lasting shortage.
The old photo is courtesy of the Mariners Museum in Newport News, VA.
Sta Bil 360 Marine adds new protection to your boat and its engine(s) for 2014. In many parts of the country, boaters have an off-season period. This can last four to 8 months depending on your home port. All you boaters that slip their boats in Key West, well Seabuddy is not talking about your boating fuel habits in a direct way in this write-up.
For the rest of us gas engine seasonal boat owners, let me suggest a few pointers.
Warning, I am not a chemist, I am simply passing on personal experiences and some advertising messaging put out by major players within the marine trades.
Put your boat away with the gas fuel tank 95% full.
At the beginning of your last fill up, pour in 1 oz. of Sta Bil 360 Marine for every 5 gallons of gas you intend to put in your boat.
Think about buying your Sta Bil 360 either at your nearest convenient marine store or at a low price shop. Google search “Sta Bil 360” at Walmart and Amazon.com. Watch your final costs including shipping and sales tax. Use half as much at every fill-up during the season.
Here is a quote from the fuel stabilizer maker “STA-BIL 360 MARINE offers comprehensive protection by releasing a microscopic corrosion preventing vapor inside the fuel system that coats ALL metals parts, including the fuel tank, fuel sending unit, valves, carburetor, fuel injectors and intake manifold. It’s like fogging oil for your entire fuel system, offering “360 degrees” of corrosion protection and is safe to use in all types of gasoline – from ethanol-free fuel to E85.
STA-BIL 360 MARINE accomplishes everything our current STA-BIL products offer, including keeping fuel fresh, removing water, cleaning the fuel system and more, but this revolutionary new product provides an exciting new level of protection for ultimate performance. For the first time, STA-BIL 360 MARINE delivers corrosion protection above and below the fuel line by releasing an innovative vapor that coats all metal parts within the fuel system to prevent corrosion.
Once poured into a tank of fuel, STA-BIL 360 MARINE will provide a vaporized corrosion inhibitor coating for up to 12 months in a stored boat or equipment.”
This product is new for 2014 and it won the International Boatbuilder’s Exhibition & Conference (IBEX) Innovation Award in the Boat Care and Maintenance category.
IBEX is organized by the National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) and judged by members of Boating Writers International (BWI), the award recognizes innovative distinction from other products currently being manufactured, benefit to the marine industry and consumers, practicality and cost-effectiveness.
Gar Wood started in his winning ways on the water with the purchase of the 1916 successful Gold Cup race boat that was “a broken, battered hulk after the race, fit only for junk” put up for sale by Chris Smith, 53, who was down to seven cents in his pockets after losing in a poker game. Gar paid for the hunk with a $1,000 down payment and a note for $800.
That racer, Miss Detroit, had been built by Chris from a design by Joseph Napoleon “Nap” Lisee, who worked for Chris Smith’s C.C. Smith Boat & Engine Company. Right after buying the boat and engine of Miss Detroit, he went to the Smith factory and brought controlling interest in it. He figured that he could keep others from racing against him via this investment as it came with the talent of Chris Smith, his sons, Jay and Bernard, and “Nap”.
Next he commissioned the building of Miss Detroit II, a new race boat, using the 250 Hp. engine from the original hunk of Miss Detroit. That new boat set a speed record of 61.724 MPH while racing the next year. The first photo shows the 20’ single step 250 Hp. Miss Detroit II with Jay .W. Smith as the riding mechanic.
Together, Chris Smith, “Nap”, and Gar Wood won 5 straight Gold Cups from 1917-1921 and 2 Harmsworth trophies in 1920 and 1921.
But by February of 1922, Smith bought out Gar Wood and started a new company, the Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company in a new location. Chris, his sons Jay, Bernard, and Owen each owned 25% of that boat building company and started fresh with a new piece of land and and they built a brand new factory on it. In the deal, Gar Wood got the old C.C. Smith &Engine Company boat building plant. He built his race boats, the 33’ “Baby Gar” runabout that had been developed by “Nap” while still at the old company, high performance cabin cruisers, and the 28’ Baby Gar runabout model.
The 33’ Baby Gar was a outstanding design. It was a good riding, safe runabout that was a triple (3) cockpit boat and it’s bottom used all of the characteristics of the his Miss Americas race boats with the step. Gar Wood sold his boats to Edward Noble, William Randolph Hearst, John Dodge, Col. Vincent and P. K. Wrigley. The Chris Smith and Sons Boat Company sold more wooden boats to a broader range of successful folks.
These boats soon outgrew the boat building production plant. Thus, Gar Wood Boats moved into a new factory in Marysville, MI in 1930. This plant was capable of making 1200 top shelf wooden boats per year. Now 22’, 40’, 28’, 33’ boats were made. Some of these lengths were offered in a variety of model configurations. Later 16’, 18’, 19’, 22.5′, 24’, 32’, and 25’ models were added. Production of boats for Gar Wood peaked just before W.W. II.
Gar Wood, himself, retired to Miami at the age of 60, and the new management of Gar Wood Industries ordered a restyle of the boat line up and engaged Norman Bel Geddes, a noted industrial designer, for a new post war feeling.
With high new design and jig costs, quality wood shortages, hardware out-of-stocks, and a somewhat distant management running the company, the company closed down in 1947. My Seabuddy photos show a restored 1947 Gar Wood 22.5’ wood boat in the brackish waters of the Chesapeake Bay. She is an ACBS award winner down from CT.
Got a wooden boat owner in the family and stuck on finding a different but memorable Christmas gift?
Fine boat varnish work demands good brushes. And several of those brushes to work all corners and parts of a boat efficiently. Get your wooden boat lover a gift that lasts for a lifetime.
A six brush Epifanes Brush Keeper metal box is the correct way and professional way to store valuable varnish brushes. This box holds up to six assorted varnish brushes. I know several friends that would die to get this item as a gift.
A good brush lasts for years with proper care. How do you care for a good brush? Clean each brush with mineral spirits, clip their handles into the holding plate and lower the brushes into a bath of diesel or kerosene for long term storage.
Ready to varnish again? Slip the brushes out of the box and thoroughly rinse them with mineral spirits. The brushes are ready for superior varnish work again.
This Brushkeeper box is made from heavy rustproof enamel coated steel. It is welded together for strength. And it lasts. Looks serious and it is.
No one who gets one of these Brush Boxes for their fine varnish work will ever forget this thoughtful gift. It is a special gift. And it is under $100.
There are four stories here.
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.
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.
This is a Chris Craft – kit boat version. About 345 lbs. of speedboat in fewer than 14 feet. She is powered by a period correct Mark 55 Mercury Outboard of 40 Horsepower. She is just been restored in April of 2013 but this model was offered by Chris Craft back in the 1950s.
She is a great ride for the Captain and his passenger. Sporty, stable, and quick to maneuverer, this is a boat one launches for a fun time on the water. It is compact luxury craft that draws friendly smiles for her classic bright-finished good looks.
Her period correct Mercury Marine 4 cylinder outboard has been rebuilt by a pro and starts easily. It is the top power for the 13 1/2’ long boat. She is an opportunity to experience the classic wood boat life in a beautiful product of Chris Craft engineering.
In the restoration, this boat’s owner took advantage of all of today’s boat building materials. All the wood was sealed with Smith’s CPES and the joints of bronze and Stainless Steel bolts and screws were further strengthened with West System products. First class, top-of-the-line parts combined with a critical design eye and excellent skill towards making her a real beauty either on her trailer or out on the water is reflected the first time anyone sees her.
Boats like this Chris Craft were sold by them as complete kits in a box and this one was located already assembled, but in need of a complete restoration. That restoration took several years, not months. One just needs to see her now to enjoy classic boating at its best. She is the winner of the Best Outboard Boat at this year’s big Annual Antique and Classic Boat Society Show and Festival in St. Michaels, MD.
Magnum Marine started life on 188th street with the “Maltese Magnum”, a 27’ race boat.
Magnum had replaced Donzi Marine in Don’s daily life and in 1966 he went racing in that boat. He won, so naturally, folks wanted one for themselves and a building was built and a powerboat racing legend was born.
Don also built a bigger and wider boat, his 35 footer, in 1967. That new boat was intended to be kept in a slip in the water. Up till now, all of Don’s boats were for trailered boats. Initially, these production 35’ cabin cruiser boats came with two gas inboard engines. However, a few were raced without their cabin and fly bridge and with up to four outboards or two inboards.
He also made two smaller outboard engine powered boat designs. One was a ski boat, the 16’ Marauder. He made about 20 copies of this deep vee, 50 MPH boat design. Another boat was the Maltese Magnum Missile 16’, which was a tunnel hull boat. This boat was said to go 60 MPH with the same size outboard power as the Marauder. A production run of about 30 of these were made.
Magnum also introduced variations on the 27’ hull now. However, this was done under new company ownership. Don had sold his operating company to Apeco, keeping the building as a rental property. One of these variations was the sport deck model in 1968. The other, a cabin boat named the Sedan, came out the next year. A cabin style boat was needed for some racing classes in Europe. The 27’ Magnum Marine Sedan fit the bill for the best racing class there.
Another boat model was the Magnum 28’. This performance boat had a higher, rounded deck line primarily for more room in the cabin. It is a model without side cabin windows nor any deckhouse sides. It should have been a good seller but it was discontinued in 1979 after a six year production run.
It was in 1976 that Apeco sold Magnum Marine to Filippo Theodoli and his wife, Katrin.
They brought out the infamous Magnum 53′ in 1977. She was a two staterooms, wide-beamed, high performance yacht. This model re-directed Magnum Marine into a different kind of a boat company. New boat models were now powered by diesel engines. These new models were to be very high-style yachts that were eminently seaworthy in moderate seas with each having a good turn of speed.
Seabuddy thanks Magnum Marine for their photos and the last one shown here is his favorite shot of this brand.
Thunderboat Row, Don Aronow, 188th Street, North Miami Beach, Aventura, FL, Thunderboat Row, 188th Street, North Miami Beach, Aventura, South Florida, Don Aronow, Jim Wynne, Walt Walters, Dave Stirrat, Buddy Smith, Jake Trotter, Alan “Brownie” Brown, Donzi Marine
Sometimes it is the second boat design that makes a boat building company. Don Aronow had a craving for a new design for an offshore racer. He had sold his prior design and company (Formula and its 233 boat model) on 188th Street. He was ready for step two of his plan. Don now made a new company and a new fiberglass boat. The company became Donzi Marine and the boat was a 28 foot deep vee offshore race boat. Don had Walt Walters design that boat, make its running surface a winner, and draw up the plans that caused it to be built.
He and his buddies made and raced several of these fiberglass boats. The most powerful had over 1,100 horsepower in its two Ford engines. That high level of power had to use vee drives at that time. No stern drive (I/O) could stay together, either for pleasure use or racing boat use.
Boat racers were larger-than-life heroes to worship, and they all seemed to come from two addresses: NE 188th Street in North Miami, FL. and Bertram’s Miami address near the airport. Don Aronow’s “Thunderboat Row” started to grow in stature and began to pull ahead of Dick Bertram’s efforts in time. But, not yet. The 28’ while successful, did not strike gold with pleasure boat buyers. Those “Damned Donzis” were heard on the race course, but not in the boat showrooms. It took a lake and bay boat that was nimble and easy to jump in and take off in for a fast ride to make Donzi. Now it was 1964 and that nimble boat really made Donzi Marine.
The Ski Sporter, or Donzi Sweet 16, made Donzi Boats into a company. That model boat was based on a shorten version of Jim Wynne’s winning race boat, the Wyn-Mill II. Wyn Mill II was Jim’s racer as designed by Walt Walters with input from Jim and perhaps others. Walt drew up the plans and it is his name that is on them. A friend recently shared a sheet of those boat building plans with seabuddy. In the past, seabuddy incorrectly said that Jim Wynne designed this racer. These facts, as it was helpfully explained to seabuddy, were incorrect. Jim had input, he was there, but Walt’s name is on the drawings that the boat was built from. He is the designer of record.
(As an aside, the free exchange of facts and the making of boating friends that today’s internet gives seabuddy continues to amaze him.)
That boat’s hull was shortened into a 16’ 71/2” long fiberglass boat. She had the same 7’ beam and 24 degree deep vee hull bottom. These Donzi boats were designed to be small, light, and a fun ride. This boat was originally called the Ski Sporter Donzi and later it was named the Donzi Sweet 16. With its first Volvo engine and out drive set-up its top speed was in the 41 to 43 MPH range. Now one can find Sweet 16s with V-6 and V-8 power. With souped up engines, a strong sterndrive I/O and a special prop, she can deliver more speed than a sane person would enjoy.