Tarp Find Cobra – One Word – Prototype!

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Hello in there

If you have been following the episodes of discovery on the tarp find Cobra, you may have been thinking that we sure are making a big deal out of this under bite boat. Whats with WoodyBoater?  Well, today is the day we can officially announce that the Prototype for the Chris Craft 18 Cobra has been found and home at Katz’s Marina. Yes, P.R.O.T.O.T.Y.P.E. I think I spelled that right?

See that small tag screwed into the boat. Under the red wire.

You can just imagine the excitement this boat has brought to the Marina and team, that has been looking, and discovering. Terry Fiest is beyond excited as is Seth. Katz’s marina is well known for its work on Cobras, and further more, finding the un-findable.

Flipping the Tarp Find Cobra Prototype

For those of wondering how this was found. The good guys at Antique Boat America, a series of rumors and a huge chance. This boat was bought on a chance. It could literally been a pile of wood and a fin! But the hull plate, and fuel tank are the two dead on facts. There is countless other things that are even more clear that its the prototype. This is history, and a archaeology now. Museum type stuff.


Seth went full wood cut geek on the phone. All I could understand was. Protoype. Its the dang Prototype. CONFIRMED..

The way the wood is cut on the deck is different than all the other production models. We of course will go into detail at some point on that stuff. The engine is not original of course. And trust us, Seth and VanNess will go to beyond extreams to find the original engine or one from the same casting series. Not one screw will be over looked and researched to death!

And the hull plate. The beautiful Hull plate. with the magic coveted numbers BR-18-00P, P as in Prototype.

Grey Bilge

Note it also has a grey bilge. There is zero evidence that it has been changed. This boat despite being bashed up, Beaten, left to die under a blue tarp, and loved. A LOT! Has survived enough for her history to still bring the thrill of COBRA alive

Cleaned up…ish

A little time in the intensive care unit of the Marina, maybe some new this and that. She will be perfect, in all her imperfect ways. Remember this is the team that on Mariah the US Mail boat went to the extreme of reupholstering the original red vinyl, and then painting it brown like in the film. This boat will be Restored/preserved to all the way it was produced as a prototype. This is critical. Since her history is her uniquness. After all she is literally the fist before there was a first.

Prototype Hull Card top, and the number 1 boat on bottom. Note the fuel tank is different on the two. ALL the production boats had the same tank. ONLY the prototype had the unique tank.

The original tank.

We will of course be updating to the point that Dim chimes in and yells at us about too much Katz’s stuff. But ya gotta admit, this sure is a far cry from Sausage Days. Dang, I feel alive again.

Prototype Parts of Perfection

35 replies
  1. Dan T
    Dan T says:

    AMAZING! I trust and hope it won’t be getting a 5200 bottom and the emphasis will be on preservation.

    • George Burgess
      George Burgess says:

      If the finish on the hatches and fin are original it has to be gold powder in varnish because Chris Craft did not use paint! If you read my article published in the 25th anniversary program, it outlines how to do the gold powder in varnish.

      • MK
        MK says:

        The original gold is still intact under the re-spray. The fin had very little bodywork done over the years, so I’m sure we’ll get some photos as it is uncovered.

  2. Greg Rice
    Greg Rice says:

    Wow! This must be double negative day!

    “Not one screw will be (overlooked or) researched to death.” So they won’t be researching the screws?

    “Note it also has a grey bilge. There is zero evidence that it was not changed.” So it has been changed?
    It is not totally unclear to me that never publishing unedited text without copy editing revisions never results in misconceptions about the unintended nature of the original message. BTW, I am enjoying this story. I hope you don’t have a bad day!

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Thanks Greg, I corrected those. Typos are one thing, but that just was confusing. I try and meet a 8AM deadline, so the email blast picks up the newest story. I am an hr behind in New Orleans and a bit of a food coma. HA. Writing stories at 4AM, cleaning and sorting images can get sloppy. But those two were just confusing. I will go eat some more food as my penalty. Mmmmmm, Beignets!!!!!!!

  3. Wesley Emmanuel
    Wesley Emmanuel says:

    How much of the boat will be saved? Will it be a restoration or a replication?

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Knowing the Katzs Gang, as much as possible will be saved. The cool part is the history of construction will also be preserved. I know for example on the Step Hydro, it had thinner wood and less screws. All these small details are the fun part. You literally have to get into the mind of the designers and engeneers as they battle and try things. Prototype preservation is far different than a production boat. Small pencle lines and patched stuff can be very important. THis boat, like the Blue Arabian Prototype and others will be discussed and argued over. And we love it. This is a huge energy boost. They are still out there. GO DIGGING!

  4. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    I wonder what Chris Craft’s policy was on the fate of the prototypes after management reviewed the design and the testing crew tried to break it out on the water. Were they kept for awhile as model production started to be used as a reference? Obviously this one was sold to someone and made it’s way to Canada. Being the efficient manufacturer that Chris Craft was, I’m sure nothing was wasted and if possible it would be turned into profit.

  5. Bilge Rat
    Bilge Rat says:

    Interesting that the prototype’s hull card date was 1/10/55 and it’s destination was Bronx, NY while 001’s date was over a month later. 001 shows it as a show boat.

  6. MK
    MK says:

    Rumor is that the 00P was on the boat show circuit very early in 1955 and was purchased out of the Montreal Boat Show.

  7. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P )
    Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P ) says:

    Damn! This just keeps getting better. The Cobra is in a good place. The Katz team will bring her back to perfection.

  8. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    What was the significance of the Robertson screw other than the fact that Canadians used them in their boats and one could tell if the boat had been modified up there by the use of them? Inquiring minds want to know.

    • tom
      tom says:

      Ditto on the screw question. what does BR stand for? Back Room?Is there a way to know how many owners this boat had,perhaps none of which knew what they had?

      • G Wallace
        G Wallace says:

        Double ditto on screw question. I would not expect to see an aluminum ID plate factory installed. Super cool find, nonetheless. Looking forward to forensics.

        • Matt
          Matt says:

          Sorry for the delay, I have been in a food coma here in New Orleans. The screw was holding the plate. Thats all. We had taken the tease to the outer limits of reality. The plate was found and we knew, but it was late in the day to waste a good punch.

  9. Briant
    Briant says:

    Uh, not to rain on the parade but….

    I am not so sure that I would want to be the owner of #001 having paid a ton of money for the earliest Cobra in existence….and now I would have technically the number two boat on the planet.

    What exactly would that do to the hyper value of #001?

  10. Niel
    Niel says:

    Such a cool find!
    This is a huge find and so amazing from an “archeological” perspective.
    Thanks to the crew at Antique boats . Com and Katz’s for all their research and photo documentation.

  11. Cameron
    Cameron says:

    Matt, thank goodness you didn’t lose your mojo awhile back! This has been the reward! Captivating stuff. I think it’s your excitement that shows through in the sentence construction and spelling errors.

  12. Dino - KX6D
    Dino - KX6D says:

    Bryant, I don’t see it affecting the $$ of 001 in the slightest as they are two completely different boats.

  13. Dave
    Dave says:

    What can or will be preserved except the history as a prototype.
    It is in deplorable shape! It won’t be a restoration it will be a rebuild to an “original”configuration. What can be saved? Perhaps a few pieces of wood. Would you dare put it in the water again? Leave it alone and put it in a museum as a testament to neglect and carelessness.

    • Frank@Falmouth
      Frank@Falmouth says:

      A little FamoWood putty and a lot of Smiths Penetrating Epoxy and itll be good as new! LOL What is important to preserve is the “soul” and Spirit of the original… I hope they document and share the restoration and rebuild of this “survivor”. And will will never know the true cost for such an undertaking,(better not to know ) but I applaud whoever foots the bill for this, you are doing our passion a great service.

  14. Randy
    Randy says:

    … so the prototype used outboard motor controls and that ugly steering wheel (only to be changed on production hulls)????

  15. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    The gray bilge is interesting because 21-00P, also built in Algonac, had a normal red bilge.

  16. Bob Miklos
    Bob Miklos says:

    The gray bilge doesn’t look original to me. Looking at the port side, in the cockpit area it looks to have had work done to the hall. In my opinion most likely that’s when the whole bilge was painted gray. I can see red under the gray. If it has red under those replacement parts most likely it was red.

  17. Briant
    Briant says:

    Maybe we can put some Flex Seal on the bow bits and call it good? That stuff is supposed to work wonders…

  18. Denis D
    Denis D says:

    There has to be a lot of history to uncover on this boat. For instance, why are the engine serial number and the BSO number (factory work order?) earlier on the 001 boat than the 00P boat? Also, the ship date for 001 is less than a month after 00P? Does the fact that it shipped without a fire extinguisher indicate that it was only meant to attend shows and not for in water use?
    It shows the ship to dealer as Wilson Marine which was a dealer in Fort Lee NJ near the George Washington bridge but the ship to location was Kingsbridge Armory in The Bronx which would obviously have been for a show.
    BTW: there is a plan in place to develop the Kingsbridge Armory into the largest indoor Ice Skating venue in the world.

    • Troy in ANE
      Troy in ANE says:

      Denis D:

      They were also in different plants. 00P was in Algona, 001 was in Cadillac. I don’t know if each plant had it’s own BSO #’s or not, but that might explain why 001’s number is lower. I suspect engines were also shipped to the plants in batches so that might explain the engine number differences.

      • Denis D
        Denis D says:

        Good point Troy. It would be interesting to know if the plants did have different numbering systems. However, the numbers do appear to be very close together? All part of the intrigue that requires historical research.
        Also, because they shipped so close together, they would almost have to have been built simultaneously so what was the point of a prototype? Maybe 00P was built and stored for some time until they were ready to release them?

        Denis D

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