“News Flash” – Iconic Cobra Discovered In The Wilds Of Muskoka



Port side view of Peter Baileys pride and joy.

Woody Boater contributor Cobourg Kid is on a roll this week, and today we join CK as he travels to the Muskoka region of Ontario, Canada to join the nice folks from the Toronto Chapter ACBS for the annual Spring Shop Tour – Where he finds a rare Chris-Craft Cobra with an interesting past that has emerged from the depths of winter. – Texx

News Flash!
Iconic Cobra Discovered In The Wilds of Muskoka
Story & Photos by Cobourg Kid

Last Saturday the Toronto ACBS Chapter held its annual Spring Shop tour. Departure for Muskoka early in the early hours of the day was followed by two hours of harmonising with Radio Margaretville tunes and one hour of listening to click and clack the tappet brothers on NPR’s “Car Talk” show. Hmmm… I thought, in the interest of equal treatment perhaps NPR (National Public Radio) should also introduce a “Boat Talk” show.

(I always wondered if Woody Boater was ever to broadcast a “Click & Clack” show with Matt & I, who would be “Click” & who would be “Clack”? – Texx)

Image-1-Barometer Soup

Barometer Soup: “Sail the main course, sail it in a simple sturdy craft, keep her well stocked with short stories and long laughs, go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see, moderation seems to be the key.” – Photo Lyrics courtesy Margaretville Records.

While all this was going on I was also multitasking trying to formulate a plan to cover the event without exhausting myself. Last year’s mad dash to as many shops as humanly possible was definitely not happening again. Then I got a brain wave – “How about we focus on hunting down really unusual and unconventional examples of the boatbuilding craft.”

Image-2-Shop Exterior

Stan Hunter’s Atelier (he calls it a workshop) was bustling when I arrived at noon.

Spending much of the morning visiting a number of shops, I found lots of cool boats but nothing completely off the wall. Then I rolled into Stan Hunter’s “atelier” at Milford Bay (I call it that because it is more like an old master’s studio than a workshop) and initially chatted with Stan’s son Crossley about some of their new projects.


I refer to Stan’s place as an “Atelier” (a French word for an old masters studio) because it captures and somehow refines natural light. The placement of windows and the materials used in its construction evoke another time and place. To me this place (along with Duke’s Boat shop in Port Carling) has the power to transport your mind way back in time, the fact that it’s chock full of antique machinery also helps.

Image-4-New Launch

Stan and Crossley have been working on a custom 23 foot displacement launch for a client. The craft was custom designed for the client by naval architect Steve Killing in the style of a W.J. “Billy” Johnston launch that was constructed in Port Carling in the late 1920’s. In my opinion, the boat seems to have inherited some of its lines from 1910-1920 H.C. Minett’ Motor Boat Co. products, such as Norwood II.

Spotting Stan in the crowd, I walked over and inquired “what’s new?” He quietly replied, almost in a whisper, “I have a Cobra in the boat shed”. A tingle of excitement shot up my spine! This is what I had been looking for.


We found the Cobra in the boat shed keeping company with “Mossana”, a triple cockpit SeaBird built in Port Carling in the mid-1940s.

Stan Hunter is a fixture in Muskoka. He has been in the boatbuilding trade for over 30 years now and he knows just about everyone that has worked-on, collected, used, repaired, rented (Stan has his own livery service) or built wooden boats in that region. So it’s not surprising that Peter Bailey, a former president of the ACBS Toronto Chapter, would select Stan to market his rare 1955 Chris-Craft 18′ Cobra.

Image-7-Starboard-Rear - Copy (2)

Starboard view of the 18′ Cobra, love that golden fin, iconic early midcentury modern.

For viewers unfamiliar with the Chris-Craft lineage, this golden serpent is a very scarce and beautiful creature. According to Cobra experts Terry Fiest & Brian Robinson, the 18′ Cobra that Stan has on display (Hull No. BR18-020) is one of a limited run of 52 – 18 footers (Hull numbers BR18-001 through BR18-051). All of them, with the exception of the prototype (BR18-00P), rolled out the doors of the (now demolished) Cadillac, Michigan plant in one year, 1955.

Also during the same model year (1955), a total of 56 – 21′ Cobra models were produced at the Cadillac plant (Hull No. BR21-001 through BR21-055, and one prototype BR21-00P *not built in Cadillac).


A side view of the Cobra shows that topsides are in good shape, but the new owner will clearly need to do a little fettling as well as removal and reapplication of bottom paint.

The 18 foot Cobra was optionally available with four different straight six-cylinder engines. Two options, the 95 HP & 105 HP Chris-Craft Hercules, proved to be unpopular. Neither model was ever ordered. The third option, the Chris-Craft KLC was eventually installed in six boats. It was rated at 120 HP and factory rated for 38 MPH. Peter Bailey’s boat sports a tri-carb KBL. This engine was the most powerful of the inline six K series, cranking out 131 brake horsepower. Factory rated for 39 MPH it proved a popular choice, finding its way into a total of 46 Cobras.

In 1955 the dealer cost for a 18′ Cobra powered by a 131HP KBL engine was $2,962.50, with a suggested retail (MSRP) of $3,950.00. Only 40 – 18′ Cobra models are known to exist today.

According to Peter, BR18-020 is still equipped with her factory upholstery and original Chris-Craft shipping cradle. In addition, she has an interesting provenance being one of the very few (possibly only) Cobras that were shipped into Canada, having landed up on the North Shore of the Island of Montreal, Quebec as a gift.

Image-9-Cobra Specs

A 1955 factory spec sheet provides the details of both the big and the little Cobra. Courtesy Chris Craft Owners Association.


There is plenty of useful information in this very cool original scaled profile factory drawing of the 18 foot Cobra. – Courtesy Chris-Craft Owners Association.

Stan currently does not have the hull card in his possession, however, Mr. Bailey has put together a heartfelt letter that recounts, in some detail, the life and times of his 59 year old serpent.


Peter Bailey Letter. (Click on the letter to enlarge it)

Asked about the Cobra’s current condition, Stan advised that Peter ran her regularly in Muskoka up until the fall of 2011. He also added that she had floated just fine when she was delivered to him. Stan is of the opinion that the little serpent may have had a new bottom installed at some point but he is still trying to confirm where and when. He allows that she is not perfect, her bottom paint is scaling off and will need to be stripped and recoated, the lower cut water strip will need mending or replacement and the lens of the aft light is not factory correct, but that he says could be easily sorted.


While contemplating the Cobra I couldn’t help notice that the winter’s ice had finally vanished from the bay behind the boat shed.

While pondering what it would be like to go on a little test spin my eyes caught sight of Stan’s dippy and her reverse image reflecting in the glassy cold water. She too looked pretty cool just resting there.

Image-14- A Dippy Idea

Dippy Dreamland…

Stan tells me that the current asking price for the 18′ Cobra, trailer and original factory cradle is $70,000 “little” Canadian dollars. He notes that Mr. Bailey wants to see his little Cobra go to a good home, one where she will be loved, protected and exercised on a regular basis, just as he has done all through the 36 years he has been her keeper. Interested viewers can reach Stan via his website at stanhunter.ca

Cobourg Kid

22 replies
  1. Troy
    Troy says:

    Having grown up on a lake with two or sometimes three Cobras they never seem to be such a surprise to me.

    I guess you only know what your own experience in life is.

    They are a fun boat and should sell fairly quickly at 70K, but I doubt I will ever own one.

    • m-fine
      m-fine says:

      I see cobras all over, all the time. It makes me wonder if the production numbers are correct or did they make thousands of them?

  2. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    It is so great to have the entire history of any boat, much less a Cobra. I applaud Mr. Bailey for providing that in his fine letter. I wish I had that knowledge of my classic boats. I only know their hsitory back a few years from the previous owner.

  3. David Aldous
    David Aldous says:

    oe Champlin, of Champlin Oil, had a Cobra Chris-Craft back in the 50’s into the 60’s on Lake Le Homme Dieu, at his lake home in Alexandria, Minnesota. He and Jack Allison of the Triple “R” Marina and Rollar Rink, can’t remember what kind of boat Jack had,think it was a Trojan, close to the same year. but they used to race each other for bragging rights, maybe for more. This picture is the first one of a Cobra I have seen since then. Might mention that Elvis had a 1956 Chris-Craft Caviler with a Ford engine. Elvis’s boat has since been destroyed except for the transom which is on display at a Museum in Pigeon Forge, Tn

    • Hiram Champlin
      Hiram Champlin says:

      Hi David,
      Papa Joe was my grandfather. My father, Bud, while cruising the lake with his friends in the cobra met my mother, who was sunbathing, on the dock of her family’s lake Carlos cottage. I learned to ski behind it. The boat was ours until the mid 70’s. I now own the cottages on Le Homme Diue which have been in our family since 1916. You mentioned a picture, but I couldn’t see it. Would you please send me any pics of my family that you have?

  4. Alex
    Alex says:

    Am I the only one who thought the expression “I have a cobra in the boat shed” was kinda funny (in a sophomoric sense)? Grow up Alex!

  5. matt
    matt says:

    I love that Alex is comenting to himself. Like a comment Selfie. And no you are no alone.. Grow up matt!

  6. Wilson
    Wilson says:

    Wonder if Peter’s boat was at the 40th ( and only that I know of) Cobra reunion in 1995 at Cadillac ? As I recall there were 30 ( Terry wil have the exact number ) Cobra’s gathered there that year. Wonder what ever happened to Scott Callier (Sp?) who organized that event ?

  7. Art
    Art says:

    Wow am I glad to see the Cobra factory Drawings. I have been trying for years to tell Cobra owner and restores that the lifting rings should be should be orientated side to side…..NOT fore to aft. They all have looked at me like I’m crazy, but now I have proof.

  8. Rich Marschner
    Rich Marschner says:

    Now, Texx, to the important issue of which of you and Matt is Tommy and which is Ray, the tappet brothers of Car Talk.

    The answer is all in the quality of the laugh. Whichever of you two has the most maniacal laugh is Tommy. Then, by a rather simple process of elimination, the other of you must be Ray.

    NPR isn’t recording any new Car Talk shows; everything on-air these days is a rerun. So maybe there is room for Boat Talk after all….

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Rich – I have been a loyal listener of Car Talk for many years, and learned a lot from those crazy guys. My favorite part was when the callers tried to replicate the sounds their ailing car made.

      I think we could have fun doing a “Boat Talk” series on Woody Boater where folks could submit questions about their “ailing” classic boats and then try to help them as a group.


  9. Rich Marschner
    Rich Marschner says:

    Nice bit of artwork, there, Texx…and not a bad idea about a “print” version of Boat Talk. Altho the folks at the Boat Buzz do a pretty good job of that already, you guys would doubtless take a more, shall we say, informal approach to your offers of assistance.
    At least it might help you fill some of those slow winter days with something a bit different.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Rich – It would be fun. I think the Woody Boater version of “Boat Talk” would be less technical and more of a satirical approach to solving our viewers more simple problems.

      Like: “My wife complains when water splashes in the rear seat, what can I do?’

  10. Sean
    Sean says:

    Ugh-you still have snow patches there ? What’s up with that?
    Seems like you don’t have a very long warm weather season.

    From a citizen of a North Carolina.

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