Why A Sirens on Classic Boats? And Should They Stay?


Siren on COBRA 001 now at Katz’s Marina for restoration

I am sure some of you know this, and of course, I did not. But yesterdays story on Cobra 001 started a bit of a comment debate on the subject of the siren on 001 and should it stay? First, the siren is not on the build sheet, nor is the light. So? From a judging standpoint. Poof, gone. And considering she is the first production 18 Cobra. It’s a no brainer. OR IS IT?

Lake Tahoe, Siren on a 25 Sportsman – Steve Lapkin Photo

And here is where it kinda gets interesting. Herb Hall from Sierra Boat Co. filled me in on a bit of why a siren would be on her. To quote Herb.. Or Copy Paste Herbs email”.

Tahoe Boat Co

Cobra #1 was sold by the Tahoe Boat Company, Tahoe’s Chris Craft dealer at that time. Typical for many of the boats by them was the installation of a siren. Why? Besides being cool, the story I have heard is that in an era before cell phones and VHF radios became common, a siren was an affective means of getting someone’s attention when a boat was in distress. Lake Tahoe is a big lake and a sirens wail would carry for miles, so it was sold to customers as a safety device, but I think people wanted them because they were cool.

File photo

SO? Herb has spoken, so it is kinda part of her history. Installed at the dealership. Ya thought this would be easy? Nope. And since it was number one? Maybe? If there was a document from the dealership with an instal date at delivery? 

Is it part of her history? Or does 001 trump the Siren?

So there ya have it, a rational reason for a siren. SAFTEY. And an emotional reason. COOL. And you thought being safe wasn’t cool. 


28 replies
  1. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    If it was dealer installed is it not “as delivered “. In some states they are now illegal.
    Boat sales are up! Just watching the news and 70% of new boat dealers reported being low on stock.

    • Mike U
      Mike U says:

      I wonder how much of the boat sales increase is due to PPP loans being put to work? I saw a guy in Miami used his to buy a Lamborghini – he got arrested by guys with sirens.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    As I stated yesterday I personally like the stories of these boats better than their “as delivered” condition. I like the siren and the light. I also think there is a good argument that it may have been added by the dealer before the customer “took delivery”.

    As I understand it most Chris-Crafts had three coats of varnish “as delivered”. Is that going to be honored or is it going to get the current 20 coat standard?

    I guess all these questions are really “up to the current owner”.
    If that is Seth Katz I am sure he will do a beautiful job!

    • tom
      tom says:

      Great point on the varnish,not to mention “over restoration” in general.That boat may look better now in some ways than it did when new,never mind after a Katz restoration.If you remove the siren and lite,how are the holes handled?plugged?Or replace the king plank?Either way its no longer “as delivered.”

  3. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    From the looks of it, that Cobra has been well cared for over the years. It’s good that it is now in the hands of a new “caretaker” that will continue that tradition, siren or not.

  4. Greg W
    Greg W says:

    IMHO “as delivered” should reflect and take into consideration the state of delivery “to the customer”. Back in the day “at least in our dealership” stock boats were ordered pretty “standard and accessorized to local or customer taste upon purchase. Even special ordered boats were not generally equipped with otherwise factory installed items because these items could be provided at the dealer level at lower cost allowing for a competitive edge and greater profit margin. During times of scarcity such as during conflict all stock boats were loaded up at the dealer with Ivalites extra instrumentation and yes, sirens to enhance value and profit. Just because period correct accessories don’t appear on the hull card doesn’t mean they weren’t originally intended to be there. If we are to adhere stringently to the “as delivered per hull card” then should hulls shipped without engines be displayed as such? Should hulls shipped with back ordered instruments or stern poles or script be displayed as such less they suffer points deduction. Post “Hull Card” enhancements can provide a unique historical insight into popular boat culture and be historically significant in their own right. If I owned a Cobra enhanced with a siren and Ivalite at Sierra Boat I’d leave it be. Would you pull the 427 out of your 1968 pre-COPO Nickey camaro? I have absolutely no problem with restoring a boat to as manufactured condition but there should be no “foul” for period correct accessories regardless of where they were installed.

  5. Bert
    Bert says:

    My Italian boat from the 1950’s also had a siren. Which company made them and were they specially designed and made for boats.
    I recently bought a newer model (but same base design) from left over one from ex us army stuff in Germany

  6. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    I agree with Troy, Greg & Greg. As I understand it, some smaller outboard boats of the ’50s & ’60s came from the factory without lights, cleats, etc. Buyers selected those items they wished to have installed through the dealer. At least that’s the reason I’ve heard for hulls of the same year & model ending up with different brands of lights & accessories. Steering, controls & instruments were often of whatever brand of motors that dealer carried.

  7. Tim Robinson
    Tim Robinson says:

    Greg W has a point but the current standard for judging is: as delivered from the factory not the dealership. If you have documentation their might be an argument without it it would be a hard sell to the judges. Don’t get me wrong I am not a purest, my own boat has a somewhat modern engine (440 Chrysler, mid 60s). I do believe that one must respect the owner who strives for authenticity.

  8. Jim G
    Jim G says:

    As for judging. If its in the Chris Craft Accessory Catalog. Then it should not be a points deduction. As they were approved items to enhance the boat owners boat and boating pleasure.

  9. Art
    Art says:

    What about CC Boat Kits……which were delivered to the dealer and or directly to the customer in a box. No box no judging?

  10. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Remove a light and siren because a bunch of octogenarian jackasses decided as delivered means to the dealer and not to the customer? That is pure insanity!

    The original owner bought a boat with a siren. Taking it off makes it incomplete and LESS original.

  11. Randy
    Randy says:

    … great for parades!

    I’d say you just have to decide for yourself if a judging requirement is going to overrides your use of the boat.

  12. Daisy's dad
    Daisy's dad says:

    Baldwin motion and Yenko Chevrolets are highly sought after and they were dealer prepped. I dont think anyone would restore these cars to “as delivered”. Leave it alone and recognize it history.

  13. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    One of the first things I removed from my racing runabout…..without a moment of hesitation.

  14. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    Here is 18-001 on delivery to the original family in 1955. Siren was added by Tahoe Boat Co. and was there. IVA light is not there.

  15. Ned Protexter
    Ned Protexter says:

    My feelings as to why they do it this way:
    There is a lot more documentation on how it was delivered to the dealer vs the customer. Dealerships may (or not) have written it all out on a receipt but that would mean that ACBS would have to go and get every one of those from the dealers. Good luck doing that.
    I know its some people’s deal to have the most correct whatever, we have a 98.75 point 1949 Harley motorcycle and to me, it is the least fun thing we own. Use it up and restore it again.

  16. Herb Hall
    Herb Hall says:

    I agree with Greg W. I have been arguing for years, that these boats from a judging standard should be as delivered to the “customer” not necessarily the dealer. Period correct dealer accessories are accepted in the car judging world, but at some point the antique boat world decided that if it wasn’t on the hull card, it wasn’t acceptable. This has to change, it’s a stupid rule. I might add, only Chris Crafts are subject to this rule, since they have more documentation. Spotlight on the Gar Wood, no problem, get my point.

  17. Matt
    Matt says:

    Herb puts the hammer down! So here is an interesting question.. Wait.. I need a story for tomorrow,… Stay tuned this aint over yet

  18. Ron Y.
    Ron Y. says:

    Yes Sirens. The 1950’s. The Great Lakes are even a little bigger than Tahoe.
    When heading out from a smaller waterway, there may be a visibility issue, for the boats on the larger waterway who cannot see you coming, and vice versa. You can hear that other boat coming fast, but will he see you? How close is he ?

    Sound that siren and exit slowly.

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