Anyone Got A 454? Anyone? 454? Anyone?

Pumpkin being taken out of the lake after sinking.

Pumpkin being taken out of the lake after sinking.

It’s official, one of our favorite boats “Pumpkin” the orange Chris Craft jet boat is now an official Woody Boater boat. Woody Gal and the late ARRRRG wanted us to have some fun with her. And of course we are happy to supply some insanity. John Freeman shipped her from Oklahoma to here in Virginia over the past couple weeks. The sad part, other than ARRRG is boating in a much better place is that Pumpkin’s 454 is shot. Some sort of issue happened when she sunk because of some other issue. Thats all we really know.

No one sure what happened, Either way, she had a loose screw someplace.

No one sure what happened, Either way, she had a loose screw someplace.

The deal from Woody Gal, was, lets get her running and have some fun. So that’s the plan. Now, her 454 only had 10 hrs on her from a fresh rebuild, then sunk, then was gone through, oil changed twice, ran and then stopped running.

Pumpkin left Oklahoma to Florida for a couple weeks and now is home in Virginia.

Pumpkin left Oklahoma to Florida for a couple weeks and now is home in Virginia.

We are going to tear it down to make sure its not something easy, heads etc….. But planning on the worst. No huge rebuild, this is a fun boat. Not a money pit we hope. Can we do it on a budget of nothing? The deal was if the boat is to be sold off, all the money goes to having a party! All part of the fun of Woody Boating,…These boats are not big money boats as to value sadly. but big on fun. So, anyone got a suburban or truck that is rusted out but runs? 454? Ambulance? Some old piece of crap? We don’t want to have to rebuild, just pull and drop it in. We got all the new marine  parts, manifolds etc to make it work. We will be glad to get the motor out of your yard, maybe even throw in a tshirt. Ya thats it, A t shirt for a 454? Seems fair? Maybe a hat too? You get to drive it.

Even swap, Spit shake on it!...

Even swap, Spit shake on it!…


39 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    I hope you are successful. That shot of Pumpkin under water was a horrible way to start the day! Good Luck.

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    I would love to add that craft to my collection of Pain in the A$$ Chris Craft jet boats, but that would cost me a divorce at the moment.

    One would think that engine shouldn’t be too bad to rebuild. If you are lucky, no machining, just inspect, replace a few parts and reassemble. Without knowing the symptems, I would start with fuel and spark before even pulling the heads. If it turns over, check compression and you will know a lot more.

    BTW, if it turns into a longer term project, I can offer a place to store her until the engine is ready or we find a new one.

  3. ranger
    ranger says:

    Insane…I was just thinking of Larry & Woody Gal the other day!

    I’m looking for a picture of you two but in the meantime here is one of ARRRG & his family with us at Silver Springs…

  4. Sean
    Sean says:

    “In the town where I was born,
    lived a man, that sailed the sea,
    and he told us of his life, in the land of submarines….”


  5. Alex
    Alex says:

    Matt. As you know, I’ve got one of these wild things.

    They do not command much money, you’re right. Except from they bank account. Ugh. However, they are great fun to drive! Mine has her original 350 (with some water getting into the oil). Ugh again. But I must say, the kids absolutely LOVE this boat, for them and their friends. And thrill rides they are! I run the gas pedal (yes, it’s a pedal, just like a car, which is how true jet boats are set up), and they sit behind the wheel and steer.

    A couple thoughts re your boat. Don’t be wed to a 454. I’d consider a 350. I have read where the boats perform better with the lighter motor — quicker to plane, less tail heavy (as if that’s possible), and less tendency to porpoise, though the trim tabs you have will definitely help with that.

    My 350 puts out 300 hp. I’ll bet your 454 puts out little more, depending on its condition. In any event, even if it were 100 extra hp, it will not translate to much more mph given the inefficiency of the original Jacuzzi jet on your boat and mine. (Btw, the newer jets are about 25% more efficient than our Jacuzzi’s and not too much $. Now THAT’s where the speed can come from.)

    Mine does somewhere near 50 mph I think, but it feels like closer to 85 — you sit much lower than you do on a jet ski.

    I’ll try to attach a few pics of mine later… You might want to reference the WB story you did on it a few years ago so newer readers can see what these really look like. Hint: better when they’re not under tarp or under water or pumping out bilge juice. 🙂

    Incidentally, I have another one of these. Though the one I mentioned above is show quality and correct, I envision a restomod for the 2nd one. Jet boats are excellent candidates for that, and the Chris- hulls are uncommonly pretty to base on. Yours is already such a 1 of 1 creation. I expect WoodyGal can verify this, but I understand it was custom done for a major Fair (was it Chicago?). That’s why you have the harlequin stitched interior, custom bow rails, bow flag pole, and the very very cool color, which if my memory serves me right, could really pop again with some correct materials and elbow grease.

    Larry was such a kind-hearted man. Glad to learn Pumpkin is in your hands now. Do him proud. That includes driving it like you stole it. He sure knew how to do that.

    P.S. In one of your pics, the Jetson stern pole looks kinds limp. There’s meds for that you know.

  6. Mike D
    Mike D says:

    Matt, in the shot where the boat is underwater, is that a shark strapped to the port side of the boat? “The Old Man in the Sea” comes to mind.

  7. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    I am with Mfine….that engine can’t be really shot? If you tell that story to some sympathetic machine shop…maybe they would do some inspections and give sound advice for free.
    If that boat is here in Va….I could suggest a place.

    John in Va.

  8. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    A stroker small block would be just right! 🙂 That said, 454’s are a dime a dozen, so you should be able to have “Pumpkin” up and running in no time. If there were only 10 hours on the motor, the reason it quit is likely something pretty minor unless there was a loud noise associated with the stoppage…

  9. Dick Dow
    Dick Dow says:

    Matt – note the location of Alex’s exhaust compared to that on “Pumpkin”. I would probably make that change as it may have something to do with the inadvertent deep clean the boat recieved…

  10. matt
    matt says:

    mmmm I think its about the same, Alex has the smaller engine so it may be different. The white bottom on Pumpkin is a bit distracting. I think. The good news is that we have officialy secured an engine and the boat is going to be completly redone. Stay tuned tomorrow for the update!Hows that for a teaser.

  11. Rick
    Rick says:

    I thought only wood boats sank. That’s why my other boat is plastic. Darn another thing to worry about. What a bummer that picture is, my sympathies. Lucky it wasn’t salt, unless you like pickles enough to pickle an engine.

  12. David
    David says:


    I think you are on to something. If you look at the transom on the blue boat, the bottom of the exhaust outlet is on a line with the top of the jet drive. In contrast, the top of the exhaust outlets on Pumpkin are in line with the top of the jet drive.

    Now you look at the waterline on the blue boat, it seems to be at the widest point in the tumblehome. That would correspond to the orange paint line (waterline?) on Pumpkin. That would suggest that the entire exhaust outlet is well underwater.

    If you spring a leak in the exhaust between the transom and the exhaust manifold, you sink. It is that simple. Nothing will save you from a broken exhaust hose clamp. Depending upon the riser height you may also need to be very careful when launching the boat as water could backflow right into the engine.

    Just a word (or 50) of caution. I don’t want to see you ever need to take another picture of the boat in that sad sub-surface predicament.

    Good Luck Matt!!!

  13. Sean
    Sean says:

    I’m surprised that you only get 50 mph out of one of those…. My ol’ Greavette gets 50mph on the GPS (and it has a V6).

    Does that big block have risers or logs? Is it a proper marine cam? Reversion is a problem with high performance cams that are not designed for marine use. If you don’t have a proper one you can drown your engine without having a leak.
    Although pumpkin seems to have had another isseue….

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Sean, Tommy Mertaugh told me early jets were just plain inefficient. Much less that a properly configured prop. However, advances in bell and impeller design among other things have significantly improved this. Were I to change either or both those on my boat, I’m pretty sure I’d be looking at 60. You’ll note most jet boats aren’t factory stock. They’re modded up the wazoo with superchargers, headers, and big blocks, to pump out 700 or more hp. Those babies hit serious speed!

  14. Troy
    Troy says:

    I think Dick and Dave have nailed it.

    Would love to see a stern shot of Pumpkin sitting stagnant to see where her exhaust really is.

  15. Troy
    Troy says:

    Not a stern shot, but those pipes are under water for sure. Any slight malfunction with those flappers and she is going down.

    • Alex
      Alex says:

      Nice pic. Such a cool boat. Pumpkin owns that color and wears it so well.

      Matt, you are fortunate to own her. An original custom. Cool.

  16. Alex
    Alex says:

    This’ll add spice to the sauce. Note the location of the exhaust ports on my other XK-18 (in this photo).

    The previous owner actually had them moved higher up the transom (the marks are visible where the originals were).

    Must have had a reason, right?

    Re why Larry’s boat sank, I know he emailed me the news. I might have that email still. I believe a clamp failed. If I find his message, I’ll cut and paste it in the Comments.

  17. Alex
    Alex says:

    No dice. I checked my old emails. But I’m pretty certain he said a clamp failed, and I seem to recall a discussion whether insurance would cover it, seeing it was a maintenance-related failure.

    But I did find a clue re the motor. Back in 7/12, Larry sent me this…

    ” a clanking sound when we tried to
    restart her after she died while idling t start a cruise”

    Clanking’s not good.

  18. Sean
    Sean says:

    A failed clamp could sink it if left for a time. Bilge pump dies with the battery and then its a game of time.

    The exhaust placement in and of itself is not the culprit. Many boats have an exhaust at/under the waterline. Flappers help but, are by no means watertight.

    Water entering the exhaust may help to cause hydrolock on the engine especially at low rpm with an agressive camshaft (causing reversion). But this does not “clank” and at does not sink the boat. Of course that’s not to say that a drier location for the exhaust exit isn’t a good idea…

    If there are “log” exhaust manifolds be sure there are risers of sufficient size to protect the motor. Possibly consider moving to regular manifolds and risers.

    If there are low hours on a fresh rebuild I would estimate a part failure or a mistake in assembly. You will have to do an exploritory to discover this.

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