“Rowdy Dow” – 80 Years Later, The Name’s Still Hip! (Part 2 – The Restoration Begins)


“Rowdy Dow” – 80 Years Later, The Name’s Still Hip!

Yesterday in Part 1 of the “Rowdy Dow” story, Tommy Mertaugh of Classic and Antique Boats in Hessel, Michigan and our Hessel-based reporter, Alex Watson outlined how “Rowdy Dow” made it back to Michigan after 80 years. Now that the very original 1930 Chris-Craft Model 99 is back in Michigan, it’s time to begin the intense restoration work which started just a few weeks ago. Once again, Heeeeeerrrrrre’s TOMMY…

As you can see, there’s a lot to be done.  So it’s time to move the 81 year old Chris-Craft in to the shop and get started with the restoration.

The current owner for whom we are doing the restoration is James Churilo of Ossineke, MI, a small town on the eastern coast of Michigan (on Lake Huron), about 2-1/2 hours from our shop. Mr. Churilo has ordered a total restoration.

Strip the hardware and windshield, remove the engine and steering components, etc…

And get ready to roll her over…

For a boat of this age and condition, that means extensive wood replacement, built around the original boat, per the correct ACBS protocol. While it’s regrettable none of the original wood can be retained, it’s still special to know the boat we’re starting with is original 1930.

One thing we know the owner will appreciate. With a project / pattern boat like this, we customarily extract the original hull stampings and embed them into their replacement components, retaining this charming piece of the boat’s history with the boat.

This original stamping on Rowdy Dow will be embedded in the new wood.

Mr. Churilo’s boat will receive a new 5200 bottom, including keel, frames, chines, and engine stringers. It will also receive completely new hull sides and decks. Those we will secure with West System.

Work replacing components on the original boat is progressing nicely.

Per our recommendation to Mr. Churilo, we will re-power “Rowdy Dow”, while preserving the original Gray Marine engine, to ensure it remains with the boat. There are two reasons for repowering. First, the original motor is simply inadequate to move the boat when there are a few passengers. Second, reliability is of significant importance to Mr. Churilo. We’re considering a few options at this time. One is a Chris-Craft KLC, making 120 hp. The other would be a 3.0 Litre Marine Power motor, with 146 hp.

The original motor is simply inadequate for multiple passengers.

It will be interesting to see what WoodyBoater readers might recommend as other power alternatives. The previous Model 99 Chris-Craft we recently restored “Serendipity”, which came from Red Wing MN, was in slightly better shape than “Rowdy Dow”. But, in the end, it will probably need all the same work as “Serendipity” to make it a safe, lasting boat. We saved the stringers, but that was about it. We didn’t re-power that boat, as it already came with a 92 hp Ace, which was a nice choice for the boat. No doubt a previous owner also saw the need to re-power for more speed.

The interior will be all new, of course, as will be the wiring. And the boat’s existing hardware and gauges will be restored, including the original three-hole dash panel, as will be its beautifully-styled, original 4-spoke steering wheel.

Since “Rowdy Dow” was delivered May 21, 1930, we are committed to delivering the restored boat in May 2012, on or around its 82nd birthday. I can imagine no nicer present for such a pretty boat than a second lease on life!

(Note: You can click on the above image to enlarge it)

1930 Chris-Craft Sales Brochure - Courtesy Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club

Woody Boater readers who are also Facebook members can follow the step-by-step renaissance of “Rowdy Dow”, and watch other cool winter projects take shape, by becoming a “Friend” of the Mertaugh family’s shop. Look them up in Facebook as “Classic Boats” .  You can also visit Classic and Antique Boats at their website by clicking here.

Special thanks to Tommy Mertaugh and Alex Watson for preparing this special 2 Day story for Woody Boater… Great work guys!   We will provide a project update as work moves along on this unique and rare 1930 Model 99 Chris-Craft which is scheduled be completed in time for her 82nd birthday in May 2012 – Just 6 months from now!


22 replies
  1. Alex
    Alex says:

    Matt, that image with the bow (bow with a long “o,” not bow as in bow-wow) is super! With Christmas right around the corner, it subliminally plants the idea of gifting a classic boat. (I don’t know about you, but RE-gifting a classic boat would not be possible for me.)

    The Gray ad cracked me up. Two reasons. 1) Here Tommy just wrote how the boat is slow when powered by its original Gray with multiple passengers on board. Yet the ad shows a 99 doing about… 99. But that couldn’t be so. Advertising is always a truthful depiction of reality is it not? 2) The passengers appear to be wearing furs. Looks like a Northern Michigan vintage Last Gasp photo.

  2. Texx
    Texx says:

    Alex – I thought about that when I posted the Grey Marine magazine ad, but it was just too cool not to include in the story, with the Model 99 skipping across the water.

    My theory, that little Grey Marine 4 was just “Screaming it’s Guts Out” so the Captain could impress the girls…

    or The little Grey Marine 4 was running on 90 Proof Wiskey which boosted the horsepower considerably during prohibition.

  3. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    Thanks, Texx, it will be interesting to see pictures of the various boats still out there. In looking at picture no. 3, above, it appears that there are only 4 side planks on the hull, all quite wide. I know at least by the time of the 1937 17′ runabout, there were 5 hull side planks. the top plank was quite wide, as above, but the other 4 were somewhat narrower. I am wondering when cc made the switch? perhaps one of our restorer/readers can enlighten us on this development in the smaller runabouts. Maybe there was something similar going on in the larger boats, too?

  4. Alex
    Alex says:

    Texx, could be a Gray screaming it’s guts out. More likely a larger motor at 1/2 speed. I doubt the little Gray could scream that loudly, with what looks like 5 bear on board. So, what we have in that ad appears to be both vintage Last Gasp and vintage Photo Op.

  5. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    I had a Gray 4 (75hp) in a 15″ 1946 Century Deluxe Utility. With just me in the boat it would clock 38 mph. With 4 people in the boat – it was a job just to get it up on plane. The motor was freshly rebuilt, too.

  6. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I think I would lean to the modern 3.0 liter over the KLC, not for the extra power (120 should be enough) but for the lower weight, and more shops/mechanics willing to work on them.

  7. Tom Mertaugh
    Tom Mertaugh says:

    Hi Guys,
    On the plank issue, I know the 1937 17′ has quite a bit more freeboard than this 17. I am sure that is why the 5 planks. We have a 1935 15′ Runabout and it is 4 planks per side. The ’30 17′ has a freeboard of 24″ compared to the 37′ 17′ has freeboard of 28″. It seems that the lower freeboard boats have wider and fewer planks then the higher ones. Looking in the Essentials Guide, there is freeboards posted of 24″ thru 28″ for the 15′ thru the 17′ boats. I don’t know about all of the models in the book, but the ones that seem to have the lower freeboard seem to have the 4 planks. When you get to 26″ freeboard and up it seems to go to 5. Not looking at all the models, it is hard to say if that is totally true, but judging fron the ones we have on site and the book it seems correct.
    I also agree with using the 3.0 L for reliability and weight. Thanks for your input.

  8. Alex
    Alex says:

    Woah there. Matt switched the header on us, mid-day. Heavens, yesterday’s 99 was heading due East. Today’s is heading due West. The present is on a collision course with the past. Someone consult H. G. Wells!

  9. brian
    brian says:

    A quick question perhaps from a novice here.

    With Rowdy, is 100% of the wood indeed going to be replaced with the original used nothing but for a pattern?

    No doubt the metal bits will be cleaned up, plated or whatever and then reinstalled (as with a new engine) but my question lies with the wood.

    Any info appreciated.

  10. Tom Mertaugh
    Tom Mertaugh says:

    Hi Brian,
    I plan to have some of the original deck beams used over again, especially on the rear deck and possible on the center deck. The fore deck has some issues that may need 100% replacement. SO to answer your question, no some of the wood will be used over, but not very much. We will be taking the hull number out of any place we find it and install it using a chisel and epoxy to get it in its own location. ALl the hardware will be replated as you said, the only part we had to replace was the bow light. Our goal “wood” be to use as much as possible of the original to say it is a rebuilt original, not a total rebuild. It is always fun to save if possible. Hope this helps. Thank you Tom

  11. DonD
    DonD says:

    Be careful with what power you put in that little boat.
    I completely rebuilt a model 99 in 1993 for MBBW. It was in much worse shape than the one shown above, the stringers had been chopped to insert a flat-head V8 and I think even the deckbeams had iron-sickness from steel screws. It was all new wood.

    Anyway, designed for a 41 HP Gray-4, MBBW installed a new power 4-cyl at 155hp (nearly 4-times the HP).
    We nearly flipped it on the first water test. It scared the @#!) out of me even at half throttle. There was just too little of that tiny planing surface to retain stability.
    They had to get a ‘de-tune’ chip so the owner could drive it.

    You can’t just keep adding horsepower to a bottom designed in the ’20’s, with a pen-knife and a block of wood.

    • Bruce Middleton
      Bruce Middleton says:

      DonD and DonV – as mentioned yesterday I believe we may happen to have that boat (#14032) in our shop right now for a fresh varnish and detailing. If that sounds right – it was nicely restored Don!! FYI the engine inn iti is a Marine Power 4 cyl. Has obviously been well cared for since the restoration!! Would be happy to fire off pictures of it assuming the owner is good with that. Thanks…Bruce

  12. Don vogt
    Don vogt says:

    DonD, can you get pix of that boat to texx for his future article on that model? Great pt. About scaling up the hp.
    Thx. Don

  13. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    You can always go “high tech” like NASCAR and put a restrictor plate on it. A rev limiter and a shallow pitch prop might be a good combo to give you the torque to get up on plane loaded, but keep the top speed under control even when light. I would have to imagine few owners really care about getting more top end speed, they just want it to be able to get on plane and go 25-30 mph with their fat american friends onboard.

  14. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hey Matt, all this power talk is interesting. But is that a weasel I see in the water next to your image with the bow on it? Please identify.

  15. Tom Mertaugh
    Tom Mertaugh says:

    Thanks Don D.

    We will definatly take your advice into consideration when we power this boat. Maybe a throttle limiter or something will be needed to keep the little boat stable. I know they get scarry at times when overpowered, but imagine it is magnified when you power up a small boat. Thanks for the heads up!! Tom

  16. Texx
    Texx says:

    Hey Matt – Funny… No one even noticed Tony Curtis and the “Some Like It Hot” crew in the Model 99 header shot today.

    And here we thought that would ad some Patina to the story today…

  17. Tom Bradley
    Tom Bradley says:

    Tex Just found your site. Great forum on the model 99. I acquired one about 20 years ago #14013 shipped 4/12/30. The fellow i bought it from said it had not ben in the water since the early 50’s he used to water ski behind it in the 30’s and 40’s. I started to refinish it in the early 90’s I got discouraged and haven’t touched it since. This forum has got me going when I get back from Fl in April it’s on my list Tom B

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Great news Tom, thanks for chiming in. If you have any photos, regardless of what the boat looks like, send them to us if you like and I’ll add them to the story.

      If you are near Lake Dora / Tavares in late March (23-25) stop by and see us at the big Sunnyland boat show.

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