Woody Boater contributor Cobourg Kid is on a roll this week, and today we join CK as he travels to the Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada to join the nice folks from the Toronto Chapter ACBS for the annual Spring Shop Tour – Where he finds a rare Chris-Craft Cobra with an interesting past that has emerged from the depths of winter. – Texx
Iconic Cobra Discovered In The Wilds of Muskoka
Story & Photos by Cobourg Kid
Last Saturday the Toronto ACBS Chapter held its annual Spring Shop tour. Departure for Muskoka early in the early hours of the day was followed by two hours of harmonising with Radio Margaretville tunes and one hour of listening to click and clack the tappet brothers on NPR’s “Car Talk” show. Hmmm… I thought, in the interest of equal treatment perhaps NPR (National Public Radio) should also introduce a “Boat Talk” show.
(I always wondered if Woody Boater was ever to broadcast a “Click & Clack” show with Matt & I, who would be “Click” & who would be “Clack”? – Texx)
While all this was going on I was also multitasking trying to formulate a plan to cover the event without exhausting myself. Last year’s mad dash to as many shops as humanly possible was definitely not happening again. Then I got a brain wave – “How about we focus on hunting down really unusual and unconventional examples of the boatbuilding craft.”
Spending much of the morning visiting a number of shops, I found lots of cool boats but nothing completely off the wall. Then I rolled into Stan Hunter’s “atelier” at Milford Bay (I call it that because it is more like an old master’s studio than a workshop) and initially chatted with Stan’s son Crossley about some of their new projects.
Spotting Stan in the crowd, I walked over and inquired “what’s new?” He quietly replied, almost in a whisper, “I have a Cobra in the boat shed”. A tingle of excitement shot up my spine! This is what I had been looking for.
Stan Hunter is a fixture in Muskoka. He has been in the boatbuilding trade for over 30 years now and he knows just about everyone that has worked-on, collected, used, repaired, rented (Stan has his own livery service) or built wooden boats in that region. So it’s not surprising that Peter Bailey, a former president of the ACBS Toronto Chapter, would select Stan to market his rare 1955 Chris-Craft 18′ Cobra.
For viewers unfamiliar with the Chris-Craft lineage, this golden serpent is a very scarce and beautiful creature. According to Cobra experts Terry Fiest & Brian Robinson, the 18′ Cobra that Stan has on display (Hull No. BR18-020) is one of a limited run of 52 – 18 footers (Hull numbers BR18-001 through BR18-051). All of them, with the exception of the prototype (BR18-00P), rolled out the doors of the (now demolished) Cadillac, Michigan plant in one year, 1955.
Also during the same model year (1955), a total of 56 – 21′ Cobra models were produced at the Cadillac plant (Hull No. BR21-001 through BR21-055, and one prototype BR21-00P *not built in Cadillac).
The 18 foot Cobra was optionally available with four different straight six-cylinder engines. Two options, the 95 HP & 105 HP Chris-Craft Hercules, proved to be unpopular. Neither model was ever ordered. The third option, the Chris-Craft KLC was eventually installed in six boats. It was rated at 120 HP and factory rated for 38 MPH. Peter Bailey’s boat sports a tri-carb KBL. This engine was the most powerful of the inline six K series, cranking out 131 brake horsepower. Factory rated for 39 MPH it proved a popular choice, finding its way into a total of 46 Cobras.
In 1955 the dealer cost for a 18′ Cobra powered by a 131HP KBL engine was $2,962.50, with a suggested retail (MSRP) of $3,950.00. Only 40 – 18′ Cobra models are known to exist today.
According to Peter, BR18-020 is still equipped with her factory upholstery and original Chris-Craft shipping cradle. In addition, she has an interesting provenance being one of the very few (possibly only) Cobras that were shipped into Canada, having landed up on the North Shore of the Island of Montreal, Quebec as a gift.
Stan currently does not have the hull card in his possession, however, Mr. Bailey has put together a heartfelt letter that recounts, in some detail, the life and times of his 59 year old serpent.
Asked about the Cobra’s current condition, Stan advised that Peter ran her regularly in Muskoka up until the fall of 2011. He also added that she had floated just fine when she was delivered to him. Stan is of the opinion that the little serpent may have had a new bottom installed at some point but he is still trying to confirm where and when. He allows that she is not perfect, her bottom paint is scaling off and will need to be stripped and recoated, the lower cut water strip will need mending or replacement and the lens of the aft light is not factory correct, but that he says could be easily sorted.
While pondering what it would be like to go on a little test spin my eyes caught sight of Stan’s dippy and her reverse image reflecting in the glassy cold water. She too looked pretty cool just resting there.
Stan tells me that the current asking price for the 18′ Cobra, trailer and original factory cradle is $70,000 “little” Canadian dollars. He notes that Mr. Bailey wants to see his little Cobra go to a good home, one where she will be loved, protected and exercised on a regular basis, just as he has done all through the 36 years he has been her keeper. Interested viewers can reach Stan via his website at stanhunter.ca