Last weekend we had an opportunity to see many beautiful antique & classic boats at the 36th Annual ACBS International Meeting and Show on Geneva Lake, Wisconsin. A truly fantastic event at the Abbey Resort hosted by the Blackhawk ACBS & Glacier Lakes ACBS Chapters.
On Friday afternoon we got together with Fellow Woody Boaters and restoration experts Mike Teusink & Kirk Wingard from The Wooden Runabout Company in Holland, Michigan and went for a cool boat ride with Jeff Knudsen in “Tin Can”. The conversation about old boats and the hobby was non-stop the entire time and we had a great visit out on Geneva Lake.
After we returned to Abbey Harbor, Kirk Wingard said “Hey Texx, why don’t you come over and see our trailer that we brought to the show?” I wasn’t sure why they wanted to show me their trailer, but we were having such a great time I said “Ahhh Ssssuuuure… let’s go.” We walked over to the parking lot that was set up for the event’s land exhibits, and there it was – A perfectly restored 1954 Chris-Craft Land Cruiser Kit Trailer.
I was aware that Chris-Craft made these kit trailers in the mid 1950’s and have seen photos of them on eBay, but to see an original one in person was exciting. And the best part was the fact that Mike & Kirk restored the little trailer with the same respect and attention to detail that they give to their wooden boat restoration projects.
Here’s what the Land Cruiser looked like when they originally discovered it in Northern Minnesota recently.
In the October 1953 Rudder magazine an article with the headline House Trailer Kit started out by saying – In a move designed to put Chris-Craft on the highways as well as the waterways, Wayne Pickell, General Sales Manager, today unveiled a new house trailer in kit form for home assembly.
“By applying the same principals of mass buying and volume prefabrication that have brought boating within reach of new thousands through the economy of prefabricated Chris-Craft Boat Kits, we are now able to offer, for the first time, a full-fledged mobile home that will provide year ’round housing or vacation fun at a price far below that of factory completed trailers,” Pickell stated.
Mike said – As of right now, we know the trailer was available in 1954 only. The press releases date from the fall of 1953 and we have one ad showing the closeout pricing in Life magazine in July of 1954. We have not been able to find any documentation on how many were produced. I know of three in existence right now, although there are certainly more hiding out there.
I believe all of the components that were included with the kit are still original on our trailer with the exception of the plywood floor which we replaced due to some softness at the front and rear (bow and stern??) of the trailer. The aluminum skin, trailer frame, tongue jack, birch interior, windows, screens, and door, all match the items shown in the exploded view and the factory photos of assembled trailers.
An interesting note is that the price list that I attached includes pricing for various interior furnishing components, but we have not seen any trailers (I have only seen two in person) that have evidence of any kit interior components. From the press releases and advertising literature that I have found, it appears that the interior components may not have been ready when the kit was launched. The trailer dealer press release states, “Chris-Craft will therefore market the first of their new kit trailers with…several suggested interior layouts but leave the actual selection of interior furnishings to the individual owners”. – Mike Teusink
This trailer still has all the mint-original light fixtures which are very cool… When they were restoring the trailer, Kirk was surprised to find the original door lock key that someone hid under the trailer, attached to the frame. Check out the photo of the Barrelback in the corner… Nice touch.
They made some curtains from a pattern material that they had silk screened using the Chris-Craft period logo. I think every Woody Boater should have some of these curtains in their home or RV, or even a period Chris-Craft shower curtain… Forward and aft seat cushions were made with a U-22 theme. All the original wood panels on the interior were freshly varnished and looked (and smelled) awesome.
Here’s the original factory close out price list from 1954 which shows a base price of just under 400.00 and all those expensive options which were offered at the time. (You can click on the spec sheet above to enlarge it)
So there you have it, thanks to the guys from The Wooden Runabout Company… Oh and by the way, they restore wooden boats too! You can go to their website by clicking here or see their contact information below.
The Wooden Runabout Co. LLC
4261 Blue Star Highway
Holland, MI 49423
Thanks guys for sharing your trailer with us here at Woody Boater, and the next time someone says “Come over and see our trailer” I certainly won’t hesitate…