Burn Pile or Restore?

I saw this boat advertised on http://www.tradingdock.org/ with no photos attached but at a price that got my attention. I contacted the seller and soon received photos of her. For some reason my wife couldn’t get too excited about it. But I saw an opportunity to undertake a worthy project of restoring this bit of boating history to her original beauty. After the deal was final, I drove 24 of 36 straight hours to drag her home. My wife’s first comment when I arrived was “What were you thinking?”

For most folks, this boat is beyond hope of ever looking new again. It’s no more than an organized pile of kindling wood on a trailer or needs a ceremonial burial at the nearest land-fill. Even for some folks in the restoration business, she’s probably beyond hope as the cost could easily overcome her restored value.

The truth is, they would have a pretty good argument. However, to me it represents a part of the history that needs to be saved. It’s one more of these classics that can be saved, that may otherwise have been lost. She represents a romantic past, a gloomy present state, but an exciting , fun and adventuresome future. It represents one more of these old boats that may survive another 60 years, preserving the history of that era for another generation to enjoy.

So, Burn Pile or Restore? Definitely, RESTORE! Will her restoration cost more than her restored value? Probably. Will it be worth the effort? Absolutely! Here’s a photo from a 1948 Sales brochure found in the Chris Craft Antique Boat Club Archive. It’s quite an incentive.

9 replies
  1. woody boater
    woody boater says:

    Thats great, from my expeience that is the way to buy them Your going to replace everything anyway. You are restoring history, not wood. These 40’s postwar runabouts are the best in the fleet. They are more refined, handle well, and are the last of the timeless design period. After this we have fins and rocket ships.Way to go Al.

  2. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    My wife and others say I’m in over my head with this project. She’s basically a pattern but some frame members can be saved. I’m working with a local restoration shop so I’m not in this alone with just a book and a good idea. I have almost all of the original hardware and a freshly rebuilt K engine that runs like a top (on the stand).

    The original instruments will be restored and installed in a new dash. The original dash has too many openings (someone made swiss cheese of it).

    I have copies of any documents that the Mariners Museum could find for her. BTW, that would be another good subject for the Bolg, The Chris Craft Archival Collection at The Mariners Museum.


  3. woody boater
    woody boater says:

    Your not over your head. Your out of your head. But with out nuts like us, nothing cool would ever get done. There is a great article in the Hagarty news letter regarding a small group in FLA that works on each other boats for free. Thats the ticket. The work is very fun. Its the knowledge thats hard to come by. And the only way to gain the knowledge is to do it yourself. And that boat is a great one to do it on.

  4. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    I guess we are “out of our heads”, my wife would totally agree with that. But it’s a great hobby (expensive but fun). If this one goes well, I may choose to find another one that’s a little more rare, maybe a pre-war model, and do it again. CC made 1,880 of these so they’re a lot easier to find. That does affect the restored value but, hey, it’s a hobby. It’ll be worth the time and effort, and if we do a decent job it will continue to increase in value.

  5. Riva Chris Craft
    Riva Chris Craft says:

    Al, Matt et al;

    Well this is my first “Blog” post. Al I loved your story and I agree that all the boats regardless of model or value should be saved. Good luck with your project.

  6. Eric
    Eric says:

    Al – if you can get away with it (with the wife), then by all means…you obviously have experience with these, and if you’ve seen the transformation of one of these boats and had the pleasure of using one that you’ve restored it is hard to get away from, despite all of the challenges, time, resources, anticipation…perhaps because of these things it is such a unique and rewarding experience. Best of luck and enjoy!

  7. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    Thanks, Eric and Riva/Chris Craft for the comments. Actually, this will be my first CC Runabout to restore. I’ve done a lot of restoration on the 27′ Connie and brought the Club Lido back to life but this is a new and exciting experience for me. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. 46Custom
    46Custom says:

    She seems to still be holding here shape. That is a fairly big deal. Obviously, if you can't save the wood…and that at least seems likely-you do have the hardware. Another big deal. This will be a fun boat to do. Not too big and a good looker. Sort of a mini Custom.
    Compaired to what mine looked like when I received her she's a queen.

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