Always the innovators, over 70 years ago in 1938 & 39, Chris-Craft produced just 70 copies of the now rare 19′ Sportsman – complete with the unusual aft facing rear seat… In some ways reminiscent of the rear facing seats in full size American made station wagons from the late 1950’s until the 1970’s.
But by far, the best way to describe this piece of wooden boat history is to simply refer to the original model description that the Marketing Department at Chris-Craft developed for their new 1938 Sales Brochure. We copied it word for word from the brochure, and it’s great!
“There is something new under the sun! It is a brand new 19-ft. Sportsman — a versatile boat which sets a wholly new standard for comfort, convenience, roominess and seating capacity in the speedboat field. It’s a Chris-Craft, of course, designed by Chris-Craft, created by Chris-Craft, and made possible by Chris-Craft’s advanced engineering and complete facilities.”
“It has a big, roomy forward cockpit for driver and passengers; 2 single seats amidships, on port and starboard sides, face forward and provide additional carrying capacity. A new full width seat, facing aft, adds privacy to the boat and provides a new thrill for aft cock-pit passengers.”
“Of course, we’ve thought of the man who really wants to fish and that’s another reason for this unique seating arrangement. But don’t buy this boat unless you expect to be stared at—for in addition to its newness, it is fleet of foot and more beautiful than any boat of similar size. It is available with options of 60, 95, 118, and 128 h.p. motors, with speeds up to 37 m.p.h. Appointments are those of a custom runabout. Construction and materials are those that have carried Chris-Craft to the highest peak in the marine world.” – 1938 Chris-Craft Sales Brochure
However, with a total of only 70 – 19′ Sportsman’s ever produced in 1938/39, after more than 70 years you have to wonder how many of these cool aft facing seat utilities have survived the ravages of time (and ownership). That’s the focus of our story today, and once again we are reaching out to the Woody Boater community in an attempt to learn where those survivors may be located.
Our friend and fellow Woody Boater Tommy Mertaugh from Classic and Antique Boats in Hessel, Michigan is in the final stages of restoring a 1938 19′ Sportsman which arrived at his boat shop not only in need of a full restoration, but also in less than original condition as you will see. At some point during the 19′ Sportsman’s life, a previous owner made some significant modifications to the boat, and now Tommy is making every effort to ensure the restoration work is completed as close to the original Chris-Craft design and construction as possible. But he needs some help.
The Mertaugh Family has been selling, servicing and restoring wooden boats in the beautiful Hessel / Les Cheneaux Islands area of northern Michigan since 1925. Tommy Mertaugh and his team take pride in their award winning restorations with special emphasis on the details, making sure nothing is overlooked in the process.
We received this e-mail from Tommy Mertaugh yesterday.
Hi Texx – I was wondering if you may know or somehow can ask if anyone has a 1938-39 Chris-Craft 19′ Sportsman, with the rear facing rear seat. We are trying to find out for sure how the motor box area was constructed as well as the optional drop in center hatch system. The boat came to us with out either, actually it had a center hatch that was home made and certainly not by Chris-Craft. I thought with your vast readership that possibly someone has a 1938/39 19′ Sportsman that would be willing to share some info or photos with us. It is such a rare boat and cool, that we want to do it right and ensure it’s correct. It is a total rebuild. – Thank you tons!! – Tom Mertaugh
Here’s a quick (time lapse) summary of what the 1938 Sportsman looked like when it arrived at Classic and Antique Boats last year (I think) including right up until last week.
When the boat arrived at Tommy’s shop it had the appearance of a runabout, with home-made engine hatches, eliminating the engine box and mid-ship seating on each side of the engine box.
Everything was going great, restoration work is on schedule but now it’s “Go Time” – time to address the motor box area, as well as the optional drop in center hatch system and determine exactly how Chris-Craft originally built the structural components.
Tommy notes – “What we need is the motor box “sides” that are fastened to the boat and are really part of the jump seats too. We know from lots of top side pictures what the top looks like. Also the drop in center deck, which was an option. Also where the center deck may rest on the boat, like whether or not it had permenantly attached stringers or batons… I worry about when the center deck is in place it may damage the deck finish.??? So those are the two items where detailed photos from another original Sportsman would be very helpful.”
“The photos (like the vintage Chris-Craft brochure photos in today’s story) show the top in detail, but the sides are not seen, I feel they have to be two piece, because I am certain with the original twin fuel tanks and seats, etc in there that they would be hard to remove in the event you have to service the engine. That is why I feel they must be 2 piece. So that’s another reason why original information from a 1938/39 Sportsman is so critical for us to locate if possible.” – Tom Mertaugh
Thanks Tommy – This is a very interesting and challenging project and we will do our best to reach out to the Woody Boater community here in an attempt to gather the information you are looking for to complete the Sportsman restoration properly.
You can say you consulted on a rare 1938 Chris-Craft restoration project and be the most popular guy at the lake this summer!