Of Course We Know What It Iz, It’s A Mystery Boat?

Mystery boat 1Fellow Woody Boater Warren Perry sent us in this What Iz It  request. At first I thought, Oh, it a Custom, and yada yada, But it appears Warren thought it was familiar and then… The Mystery. Here we go again with a boat, with lots of Chris Craft stuff and an odd number!

Mystery boat2

Hi Fellow Woody Boaters, I don’t know if you can help me out but I have a mystery boat. Do you know if there was anyone out there that made barrel back boats that looked so similar to a Chris Craft and used Chris Craft parts that you would think it was one? I have been in touch with Maritime Museum in Va and went to Clayton NY museum, but they have not been able to match up the boat with its serial number. maybe the 9 R9 has something to do with it (reworked/redecked) .  Attached is one more picture of the second seating area looking at the stringers.  I do not see bolt holes for where the engine would have been but something has happened to the stringers in that area. It is very roughly cut out in a small inward arc. Could this have been where the engine once sat?

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This is the information from Mariners Museum – based on the first part of the serial numbers. “Hull 18413 (Model 56) was shipped to Minaki Ontario (above the Upper Peninsula) on 5/21/34. It was originally named “Colleen of Winnipeg”. The picture shows a cockpit aft (Model 56), but your picture shows a double cockpit forward. They made the double forward version as a Model 54 in 1934 and as a Model 23 in 1935. Our records show only one Model 54. The hull numbers is 18389 and it was shipped to Detroit on 4/20/34. There are no records showing a Model 23 actually being made although we have pictures labeled as Model 23. Beginning in 1936 they were all double forward, but the hull numbers were 33000 to 33207 and I suspect the Model 23 was made in late 1935 and given the 1936 Model Number on the hull cards.

Mystery boat 3

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What I have found out so far is it is 18’, has the dash of a ’39, gauges of a ’41, 1942 engine, bow very similar to a ’41 19 footer, windshield from a 17 or 18’, 17” Banjo steering wheel, set up engine vets of a ’41 etc. The wiring is the old cloth wrapped style. It has a very dated Chris Craft flag etc., but there are no Chris Craft plates on it.

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This is the shifter, you can see the bend. I am wondering if this boat was built extra wide and the shifter bent for a more portly client, pardon the pun. Perhaps the linkage to the back is a clue?

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This last picture shows the rear of the engine with another hand operated shifter. I don’t know is this was on all these engines, but I don’t recall seeing one of these before. To the side you can see an automatic syphon.

Mystery Boat 5

It is all mahogany planked, double forward seats. The engine information I got from the museum and it was never associated with a boat. Two other things of interest are the gear shifter which has a bend to the left as well as the beam of the boat, at 78” is significantly wider than the Chris Crafts of the time. I have also posted on the Chris Craft clubs site, but although everyone is extremely nice, the boat is still a mystery. I have attached some pictures. All the SS trim has been removed. Some of the hardware is just sitting on the boat, so its placement might be a bit off.

Best regards,


Mystery boat 7

23 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Hi Warren:
    As I go back and read the thread on The Buzz I wonder if your last statement has more truth to it than we may realize.

    “I am coming to the conclusion that Johnny Cash’s dad worked for CC. “One piece at a time””

    I would not want to accuse anyone of any wrong doing, but the lack of documentation and the parts that span a number of years make me wonder if some employee was not able to acquire parts and pieces one at a time over a few years of employment.

    Good Luck!

    • Bilge Rat
      Bilge Rat says:

      The employee knock-off was done at other builders although I find it hard to believe that Chris Craft wouldn’t have caught this even during the crazy war years production. I looked at a Hutchinson at one time that was for all intents a true Hutchinson, but was assembled by an employee on his own time from off-cuts and “procured” hardware. Definitely Hutchinson lines and craftsmanship but not a factory boat and therefore no Hutchinson branding. I commended the seller for being honest in his presentation. It was too difficult to define a dollar value for this unique boat since it technically wasn’t a Hutchinson so I passed on it.

  2. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Another thought on the numbers.

    I don’t know about the runabouts, but I know in the Cruiser division parts were made and numbered for future assembly on that specific hull. If the numbers were stamped prior to assembly and someone was acquiring these parts they may add a couple of numbers or letters to cover their tracks.

    • C.Chase
      C.Chase says:

      Good thing I read your post first because I was thinking the same song and forgot who did it. Lol CC employee.

  3. greg wallace
    greg wallace says:

    It is interesting that the deck frame with hull number stamp appears to be fir and not mahogany. This could provide clues.

    If a modified Chris Craft, where does the conventional construction and material stop and other begin?

    I would find it hard to believe anyone would pay for a good boat and modify so heavily unless was damaged heavily and the remains salvaged and built upon. Otherwise My guess would be a custom build (amateur or professional) using Chris Craft methods and parts whether salvaged, bought from Chris Craft or from original source if other than Chris.

    • floyd r turbo
      floyd r turbo says:

      I’ve worked on several CC’s with fir cockpit framing and fir hatch cover frames as well. Not sure if that’s production or lack of mahogany or other reasoning. Seems like Fir splinters a lot more than mahogany when crosscut maybe why fir wasn’t used for deck frames which have battens let into the frame with several crosscut notches. My $.02.

  4. Matt
    Matt says:

    Is it possible that Chris Craft built the hull and thats all that was sent? I know that Hacker and Whirlwind as example would send out hulls to be cutomized by other companies. maybe thats what “R” stands for?

  5. Tom F.
    Tom F. says:

    18′ Mac-Craft…manufactured in Wallaceburg ONT between 1938 and 1941. Chris Craft workers made the trip across the St. Clair River to Wallaceburg to work in the Mac-Craft factory. Nap Lisee (Chris Craft) was the designer for Mac-Craft. Many parts were purchased from Chris Craft and used in production. Purists insist that Mac-Crafts were a direct copy of Chris Craft. Check out Speltz Real Runabouts Volume V..page 36.

    • Warren Perry
      Warren Perry says:

      Well, that is definitely a lead I will follow up on. As you can imagine, I have been standing out in the garage looking at the picture, then back at the boat and so on. This picture is labeled 1940, so I am guessing the Mac Craft could have changed slightly for the -41 year which could explain the difference in my boat – bow, cutwater (looks like a ’41 CC 19′) and the windshield. Perhaps the ser.# 184139 means 18′ year 41 boat #39. Thanks for your help.

  6. tommyholm
    tommyholm says:

    good catch on the Mac Craft. Here is an image courtesy of the ACBS Speltz’s Scrapbook of another Wallaceburg, Ontario boat. Ontario Boat & Engines “Wild Cat”. Those crazy Canadians!

  7. Matt
    Matt says:

    Today is pure magic and why I love doing this site! The only thing better would be finding the original owners family!

  8. Tom F.
    Tom F. says:

    I should have started my comment with “it may be a…Mac-Craft.” The only thing that throws me somewhat is the rake of the stem and Mac-Craft’s had that straight windshield…which could have easily been switch out for a 17′ barrel back 3 piece windshield. It’s a hunch so don’t anoint me the “Mac-Daddy” just yet. Were did Warren Perry find the boat? Is that a Canadian flag on the stern…can’t tell because it is wrapped around, looks like it might be. Love the hunt!

    • Warren Perry
      Warren Perry says:

      The boat was bought close to Chalk River Ontario. The engine was rebuilt in 1963 by Parry Automotive in Orillia Ont, so I am guessing it has been in Ontario for a while. I have been looking at the windshield on the Mac Craft and cannot find holes where it would have been mounted. Hopefully more info will surface. Wallaceburg has a museum which will hopefully something in the archives Thanks Tom!

  9. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    I was wondering about the windshield but decided, in my mind, that if they were buying parts from CC, the parts may have varied over the years so a different windshield than is shown in RR V would not rule out Mac Craft.

  10. Cobourg Kid
    Cobourg Kid says:

    Well folks after a lot of sleuthing we were able to track down a clear photo of the same Mac Craft ( an 18 foot model JJJ) that is shown above in Tom F’s posting.

    In this wonderful high motion shot the new owner, Alex McIntyre, zooms past Camera with Lillian McKibbin and Ellen Boulton bracing themselves in the in the rear cockpit. Meanwhile Marnie and Eleanor MacDonald (daughters of Mac Craft’s founder Eric MacDonald) mug for the photographer aside the captivated captain.

    Hopefully the details in the photo will help rule in, or rule out, the MacCraft pedigree of Warren’s mystery boat.

    Photo courtesy of the Wallaceburg & District Museum” and its ” Alan Mann Historical Files”

  11. Warren Perry
    Warren Perry says:

    Well, I was able to contact Blake A Mann out of Wallaceburg Ontario who is the expert on Mac Craft Boats. He was able to dig out some old photographs from the 80’s where he and his father were looking at a Mac Craft. The boat had the same bow as mine and the same outer planking, slightly different than the picture offered up in the forum. but the same as my boat, even the same windshield. Thank you to all the readers who helped identify my mystery boat!

    Best regards,

    P.S. For sale, one mischievious flag!

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