Introduced In 1955 – The Century Coronado Was A Natural Choice


Coronado - 8

FOR THE LAST THREE YEARS we have had the pleasure of traveling to Bay Lake, Minnesota during the summer to spend some time with our friend and fellow Woody Boater Dane Anderson. Our annual visits to Minnesota lake country have given us the opportunity to experience some of the rich boating history in the state, the wonderful people and the amazing collection of antique and classic boats throughout the area.

During our visits to Bay Lake, Dane always mentions that we need to get together with another long-time Woody Boater viewer (and summer resident on Bay Lake) Pete Mulheran, and see his interesting 1955 Century Coronado. Fortunately for us, a few weeks ago we were finally able to meet up with Pete and snap some shots of his beautiful Coronado named “Carnelian”.

1955 Century Coronado

What makes this first-year Coronado extra special is the fact that it doesn’t have the standard white painted accents commonly found on the 1955 model. It’s 100% varnished wood, with no landau hard top – and it’s also powered by the original Chrysler Marine 331 CID Hemi V-8. When Pete is out cruising on Bay Lake in “Carnelian”, the distinctive sound of the Hemi is simply outstanding.

Coronado - 1

So what’s the story behind the all “natural” varnished, non-painted Coronado?

According to Pete – The boat was ordered by and delivered to one of the largest Century dealers at the time on Lake Okoboji, in Iowa – who special ordered it as a “natural” boat (with no white paint accents) from the Century factory.

A number of these “natural” boats were ordered by that same dealer, but the actual production of that particular unpainted style is unknown in terms of how many were shipped from the factory.

This particular Coronado was on Lake Okoboji until Pete purchased the boat 3 years ago from the second owner who had it completely restored in 1998. It was also delivered from the factory with the 331 Chrysler Marine Hemi which was recently rebuilt. This was done at the time of the Restoration. – Pete

1955 Century Coronado

1955 Century Coronado

Century 1 - Copy

Original 1955 Century Coronado brochure art courtesy of Dave Bortner at Freedom Boat Service. Dave was kind enough to share this with us for our story today, which is from his personal collection. – Texx

Century 2 - Copy

1955 Century Coronado sales brochure description courtesy of Dave Bortner at Freedom Boat Service.

So we decided to dig a bit deeper on the subject of these “natural” Coronado boats by contacting our friend, and Century historian Tommy Holmes. And as expected, we received a great and colorful response from Tommy. – Texx

Thanks for the e-mail Texx – 1955 was the first model year of the Coronado, 195 were produced. Richard Arbib was the designer (Google him for more). A book was even written about him. He was hired by Century to update the line.

I can see it now “let’s make the biggest boat ever, put one of those new powerful V8 engines in it, paint the sides white, put a landau hard top on it and price it higher than any other boat on the market! The fastest, most expensive boat, designed out to the max. What a business plan! Century couldn’t make them fast enough, they sold like ice cream on the 4th of July.

When Arbib was designing the boat one of the workers told him to make it less than 21-feet. When he asked why? The worker said, that’s how big the freight elevator is!

1955 Century Coronado

The second year of production, some 240 Coronados were built – just think that’s almost one per working day of a year. Arbib’s design plan was to change the interior design every two years to create everlasting demand for the Coronado. And Century did so throughout the wood boat era. The Coronado was the last century model to convert to fiberglass, that being 1969.

Many of the Coronado and Resorter models that have been “restored” to “natural” hullsides or wooden decks rather than vinyl have been reportedly factory specials. I can not confirm such, only the original owner or first restorer could. Nonetheless, Century would do special orders for “good” dealers like Okoboji Boats in Iowa or Sierra Boat at Lake Tahoe.

In fact they would stain a Coronado in blue for a customer in Lake of the Ozarks every two years for Mr. Fred Link of Links Landing. Who once told me, “Tommy – I can sell Coronado boats faster than your daddy can build ’em.”

I stand with “It’s Mr. Mulheran’s boat, he can tell his story any way he’d like”

I must stop rambling, as the rain has stopped and I must Ride a Thoroughbred!

Tommy Holmes
Big Bass Lake, Michigan

1955 Century Coronado

Dane & I had a fun time visiting with Pete on Bay Lake as we snapped a few photos, and finally were able to see (and hear) this wonderful Hemi powered Century Coronado up close.

Power options for the 1955/56 Century Coronado were:

1955 Coronado:
Gray 6-135, 6-175
Chrysler V8 200
Cadillac V8 230
Nordberg 6-155

1956 Coronado:
Gray 6-135, 6-175
Chrysler 6-135
Chrysler V8 200
Cadillac V8 250, V8 285
Nordberg 6-155

1955 Century Coronado

We asked Pete about where the name “Carnelion” came from. He said –

Carnelian Bay on Lake Tahoe is where we purchased our first boat in 1994. A 1990 Sea Ray BR-210 It was our foray into our passion for boating. We enjoyed many years of boating on Lake Berryessa in Napa County, California. We still have that first boat and it still looks and runs great.

My wife Mary named the boat Carnelian because of the fond memories of Lake Tahoe and the meaning of the Color Carnelian and how it represents Joy and how we feel when we are in the boat.

1955 Century Coronado

Carnelian, in shades of scarlet, combines the energy of the pure red ray, and the exuberance and joy of the orange. It is the color of strength and vitality, both physical and spiritual. Scarlet crystals help overcome fear and improve self-reliance, and are the crystals of victory, success, and skill. Lighter shades of scarlet, the lightly tinted red-oranges, are excellent talismans of dedication in young relationships. They combine the pink energy of romantic love with the light orange energy of contentment with family and friends. Deep scarlet crystals are the key to the physical pleasures of maturity – in love, in life, and in relationships. Muted with brown, deep scarlet Carnelian gives us the natural sources of energy to enjoy life’s pleasures that extend past the joyfulness of youth.

Red Carnelian brings a self-confidence built on fearlessness. It reflects the color of passion, energy, and life. It motivates. It is a very strong color – the color of fire and blood. Dark Red crystals embody strong, deep feelings, durable energy and quiet passion. It is a masculine color, particularly useful for increasing devotion and seeing the seriousness of life. – Pete & Mary Mulheran.

1955 Century Coronado

Special thanks to Pete Mulheran for taking the time to share their wonderful 60 year-old boat with us on Bay Lake recently, and having the patience to let us shoot a few hundred photos as we chased the sunset and slightly overcast sky. What a “treat” that was to see and experience.

Also to Dane Anderson for providing the shoot boat, and his (and his families) endless hospitality every time we visit Minnesota. And to Tommy Holmes, President of the Century Boat Club for his insight into this iconic Century model.


16 replies
  1. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    That is one beautiful Century, but what is a Nordberg 6-155 engine, as one of the options?

  2. m-fine
    m-fine says:

    Nordberg was a big diesel engine manufacturer. I would presume that it was a 6 cyl, 155 hp diesel engine option. Possibly desirable for those using the boat as a yacht tender to a larger diesel powered craft.

  3. TommyHolm
    TommyHolm says:

    Nordberg gas engines were a Century option for dealers more proficient in Hercules , i.e. that other brand. Thanks for the story, Pete’s boat is a Joy. Ride a Thoroughbred.

  4. Rabbit
    Rabbit says:

    It’s not just the jaw-dropping boats from Minnesota collectors like Lee Anderson and John Allen that will make Woods & Water in September such a great experience. Boats like Carnelian, and so many other unique but more modest craft, will make it an event not to miss. Plus you’ll have a chance to meet Dane and his trusty Canon!

  5. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    great story. had no idea there were “natural” coronados. Not sure that i prefer them, being so acccustomed to the painted version which i think is more consistent with the effort to integrate auto styling into the series. but to each his own. In any even a neat boat. we have a friend who finished ;his 55 arabian natural. there is no question it really changes one’s perception of the boat.

  6. rob
    rob says:

    Every 55 and 56 Coronado to my eye looks like they are sinking at rest due to the low location of the water line. I have always wondered if that was a purposeful design cue from Century or did they just screw up in establishing they waterline height on that particular model. Any thoughts?


    • Dane
      Dane says:

      Pete was crouched on the floor behind the front seat for those shots, so the boat was a little uneven due to his position. Carnelian normally sits level.

  7. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    GREAT story today thanks Texx and Matt and Dane and Pete.
    Carnelian is a pretty boat with an interesting look.
    I’m a stickler for ‘original’ with my toys so I would still prefer the mighty Coronado the way Arbib designed it but I also totally get how cool it looks without the paint. I’d feel like I was always having one of those odd dreams where I’m walking into a meeting naked if I owned Carnelian. I like the sound of that Blue Stained one Tommy mentioned. Blue stain, hmmmmmmmm.

  8. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    And cool to see the same steering wheel as I have on my own 58 Resorter. I always wondered where Century sourced their wheels and found the answer at a classic car day here in Wellington a couple of weeks ago. 1955 Lincoln.

  9. Mollie Raih
    Mollie Raih says:

    Just amazing photos of Peter & Mary’s beloved Carnelian, and moving prose by Peter…only thing missing is beautiful Mary in her boating hat.

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