A few weeks ago during the Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival in Florida, we had the pleasure of spending some quality time our friend and fellow Woody Boater Jimmy Scott from Virginia. Jimmy kindly (and patiently) assisted us with our daily photo shoots on Lake Dora with his now famous Chris-Craft Cavalier “Termite Terror” – Which by the way is powered by a powerful 350 cubic-inch Chevrolet V-8. Jimmy is no stranger to classic boating, and has owned “Termite Terror” for well over 40 years.
Jimmy Scott also owns “Yannon” a beautiful 18′ Chris-Craft Riviera which was restored just a few years ago by master restorer & author Don Danenberg at Danengerg Boat Works in Stronach, Michigan.
One night during dinner Jimmy asked me a question that has been on my mind for many years too, he said “Texx – You get around to a lot of classic boat shows, why is it that we don’t see many Rivieras at boat shows?”
I don’t really know the answer to that question, but I have a few theories and thought I would throw it out to our knowledgeable viewers for their insight & comments on the subject.
In the popular book Chris-Craft Boats by Anthony Mollica Jr. and Jack Savage, they describe the transition / evolution of the Chris-Craft Riviera from the earlier 20′ Custom Runabout model best:
Mollica / Savage note -
By 1949 it became apparent that the postwar styling of the 20-foot Chris-Craft Custom Runabout was attractive to buyers – the relatively high price was less so.
The Custom had been been a stylist’s exercise, designed to capture the imaginations of potential boat owners with less consideration given to the ease of manufacturing. Given Chris-Craft’s legendary drive to produce good boats for less money than the competition, it is no surprise that the company decided to make changes that would trim the production time and cost of its lead runabout.
The result was the Riviera, a boat that is considered by many to be the quintessential 1950’s Chris-Craft Runabout. Featuring the same bleached mahogany styling cues as the 20-foot Custom, the Riviera was offered in 16-, 18-, and 20-foot lengths, with a variety of engine options.
Differences between the Riviera and its predecessor, the Custom, include elimination of the convex “bubble” transom; a single-door engine hatch; fixed windshield; vinyl upholstery rather than leather; and less expensive hardware.
The result was a boat that looked similar, but could be constructed more easily and sold for less. – Anthony Mollica Jr. and Jack Savage
Having researched and owned an 18′ Riviera for over 8 years, and attending numerous boat shows during those 8 years, I too was always curious why the once popular Riviera is rarely seen at boat shows, either at local events or at the larger high profile events like the annual ACBS International or the Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance. After all, the higher production numbers that Chris-Craft achieved by producing a less expensive, less complicated-to-build Riviera resulted in 1,672 copies of the “quintessential 1950’s Chris-Craft Runabout” being built between 1950 & 1954. Compared to only 369 – 20′ Custom Runabout models which were produced between 1946 to 1949. And the low production 20′ Custom is a common site at most boat shows around the country.
Total Riviera production between 1950 & 1954 was based on 174 – 16′ models built (discontinued in 1951 due to poor performance), a whopping 1,210 – 18′ models built and only 288 – 20′ Rivieras built during the 5 year production run.
Although the Riviera is a scaled down version of the larger, more elegant 20′ Custom, with the much higher production numbers of the Riviera, there is no question that the stylish runabout was popular with buyers back in the 1950’s. To my eye, the Riviera is an attractive looking traditional 50’s runabout, with their soft flowing lines, distictive nose and low, speedboat styled windshield.
They look great in the water, the 18′ and 20′ models performed well considering the engine options available at the time, and the reasonably priced mahogany runabout no doubt filled a specific niche in the market.
Is the fact that they are not that common today becuase the Rivieras were less expensive, high production wooden boats that were considered “disposable boats” and as a result, many Rivieras found the “burn pile” towards the end of their service life?
Or were they not as attractive to collectors because of the high production numbers, and generally the cost of restoration is similar to that of a low production runabout like a post-war 20′ Custom / Racing Runabout, or pre-war Custom Barrelback or Deluxe, etc?
As the supply of 20′ Customs / Racing Runabouts or pre-war Custom Barrelbacks or Deluxe models becomes more depleted, will the Riviera grow in popularity? There does appear to be a few more showing up at restoration shops recently.
Well, regardless of why we don’t see many Rivieras at shows or in boat restoration shops – one Chris-Craft Riviera that certainly deserves some respect today is this very original 18′ footer, which belongs to fellow Woody Boater Dan Reed from Upstate New York. And today his Riviera is celebrating her 60th birthday, a major milestone in the life of a classic wooden boat.
Here at Woody Boater we don’t normally do Birthdays, Weddings, Baby Showers or Bar Mitzvahs (yet), however this particular Riviera has managed to avoid the burn pile and has survived to live another day under the stewardship of Dan Reed. Dan was one of our very helpful go-to-guys last summer when we were in the final stages of preparing my 1952 Riviera “Cyclone” for her successful debut at the 2012 Lake Tahoe Concours. Many of the original elements of Dan’s Riviera provided us with some key details in terms of originality and correctness. So here’s Dan’s story…
Texx – Here are a few shots of my boat which turns 60 years old today. It’s an 18’ Chris-Craft Riviera built on 4/14/1953, and is Hull number R-18-927 still with the original 120 HP engine serial number Hercules KLC-60506.
The boat was shipped to Waldorf Boat Co. in Canandaigua, New York – the fourth largest of the Finger Lakes. It was sold to a Mr. Edward Davies of Stanley, NY on 4/27/1952 for the sum of $3,386.00 ($3,270.00 for the boat plus $116.00 for freight) it would appear from the bill of sale that Mr. Davies traded in a Penn Yan and got a $1,465.00 trade in value.
As a result, the 1953 Riviera has been on Canandaigua Lake all of it’s life.
I inherited the boat in 1984, and have been her caretaker ever since.
In 2008, the boat went in for a new bottom, strip and re-finish, re-wire etc. at Nichols Restoration in Branchport NY. Doug Nichols crew did a fantastic job on the new bottom and re-finish, and they have been doing the routine maintenance on the boat ever since the restoration.
Fresh off a restoration/re-finish I entered the boat in the Finger Lakes Chapter ACBS show in Skaneateles NY, and quickly found out that I didn’t know a damn thing about classic boats. No hull card, polyester flags, and a few other things that I had no clue about cost me some easy points. The boat scored well and received praise from a lot of the attendees and participants.
After the boat show I ordered the Hull card from the Mariners Museum. Shortly after that I received an e-mail from the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club urging me to join the club. At first I regarded this as Spam, and into the Spam folder it went. About a year later when getting ready to empty my Spam folder, I opened the invitation, read it and said “what the hell”, so I gave it a try and joined the club.
Ever since that, I have been studying classic boats on the Boat Buzz forum, and gaining as much knowledge as possible from the other members of the club.
Armed with my new found knowledge, last winter, I undertook another round of restorations. The Bilge received a few coats of Sanpaco CC Bilge paint, the engine received a fresh coat of correct post war CC Blue paint (courtesy of Dave Van Ness), gauges re-chromed (courtesy of Dale Kocian) and a few other minor details such as correct vintage fire extinguisher.
The upholstery in the boat is still original, and in pretty good condition for being 60 years old. I suppose someday it will need to be re-done, and thanks to the Boat Buzz forum I already know who the go-to-guy for that is.
Upon the first launch of the 2012 season, while parked at the docks, a guy decided to let his 10 year old son dock their boat behind mine. The kid came into the docks way too fast, and the father pushed their boat away from the dock and it headed straight for mine at a pretty good speed.
Luckily my daughter’s boyfriend jumped onto the back of my boat, and pushed this guy’s boat away from mine at the last minute, and it missed hitting my boat by less that a half of an inch. (my daughter’s boyfriend can do no wrong in my mind now!)
The boat has never been named, and I am reluctant to do so because ”why change it now?”. However, after much thought, I have unofficially named her “Mooring Wood”, but I won’t paint it on her.
This was the “go to” boat for restoration questions on the restoration of Texx’s “Cyclone”, which is by the way a very beautiful boat that I am hoping to get to see someday.
Well, that is the boats story. If your travels ever bring you to Upstate NY, please look me up and feel free to ask to go for a ride on her (I would even let you drive).
Fellow Woody Boater – Dan Reed
Thanks for sharing the story of your now 60 year-old Riviera with us here at Woody Boater today Dan. The fact that you and your family have cared for the boat for over 50 years says a lot about how much you appreciate what you have. And we love to hear stories about old wooden boats that have survived their entire life on the same lake – it’s just fantastic.
Your Chris-Craft Riviera deserves the respect you give her. Happy Birthday “Mooring Wood” and let’s hope you live to see many more birthdays on Canandaigua Lake.
And to all the Riviera owners out there, if your boat isn’t getting the respect you think it deserves, you always have a place to come to here at Woody Boater, becuase we love them all, big or small.