The Pre-War Chris-Craft 25′ Sportsman – Where Are They Today?
WHEN WE TALK ABOUT rare pre-war Chris-Craft boats, the focus usually turns to the iconic triple cockpit runabouts from the 1920s, ’30s and early ’40s – the timeless Barrelbacks from the late 1930s and early ’40s – or the stylish 25′ Red & White Express Cruiser.
One pre-war Chris-Craft that doesn’t seem to get the attention it deserves today is the ultra-rare 25-foot Sportsman. After all – there were only 25 copies built between 1940 & 1941.
Compare that to the much sought-after (low production) post-war 25′ Sportsman that we have all come to appreciate here at Woody Boater. Only 208 SP-25s were built between 1946 & 1950 (according to the Chris-Craft Essential Guide by Jerry Conrad).
We should note that a quick review of pre-war 25-foot Chris-Craft models in the Essential Guide indicates that the 25-foot platform was a popular length of hull back then.
25′ Custom Runabout – 1933 to 38. (76 built)
25′ Family “Streamline” Cruiser – 1935. (197 built)
25′ Utility Cruiser – 1935. (14 built)
25′ Single Cabin Cruiser – 1936. (47 built)
25′ Streamline Cruiser – 1936. (76 built)
25′ Utility Cruiser – 1936. (14 built)
25′ Clipper – 1937 to 1939. (353 built)
25′ Semi-Enclosed – 1937 to 1939. (136 built)
25′ Enclosed Cruiser/Deluxe Enclosed – 1940 to 1941 (314 built)
25′ Cruiser (Green & White) – 1940. (134 built)
25′ Express Cruiser – 1940 to 1942. (68 built)
25′ Sportsman – 1940 to 1941. (25 built)
However the pre-war 25′ Sportsman stood out as both an elegant and practical boat in the early 1940s.
The pre-war 25-foot Sportsman evolved from the earlier 1937-39 24-foot Sportsman. Below is a photo of a 1937 24-foot Sportsman with twin “K” power, that Dane Anderson shot in 2004 during the Lake Minnetonka Rendezvous in Minnesota. As you can see, the 1937-39 Sportsman looks very similar to the later 25-foot Sportsman from 1940-41.
We reached out to our friend Brian Robinson at Robinson Restoration in California for some insight into the rare pre-war 25-foot Sportsman. Here are some fast facts:
– Approximately 8 or 9 of the original 25 built exist today.
– Hull numbers 12501 to 12525.
– 14 built in 1940 / 11 built in 1941.
– Twin engine power option was available, but none built that we know.
– Of the 25 built, 8 were built as sedans.
– All but 2 were built with green leather upholstery.
– All had green seems and waterline, and green linoleum.
– Only subtle changes in design from pre-war to post-war, with the biggest change going from a pointy bow and no rails (pre-war) to a big round bow with toe rails (aka monkey-rails) with updated hardware and slightly different windshield (post war).
The upgraded 25-foot Sportsman in shown in this post-war Chris-Craft brochure.
A few weeks ago, we received an e-mail from fellow Woody Boater Jimmy (in Georgia) who thought it would be interesting to ask our viewers “The Pre-War Chris-Craft 25′ Sportsman – Where are they now?”
Jimmy noted – We all say we want a 46-50 25′ Sportsman right? Well what about the rare the prewar 1940-1941 25′ Sportsman? Why don’t we ever see one at shows like Dora or Tahoe? They also came with an optional sedan roof like the post war did. But, wait a minute what happened to them! Why are there none with a sedan roof?! It seems that no 40/41 sedans exists anymore! There has to be at least one sedan left. Something only the Woody Boater community could answer. – Jimmy
We also checked the new 2015 ACBS Directory for some clues. The Directory is a wealth of information and one of the many benefits of being a member of the Antique & Classic Boat Society. Here is what we found on the pre-war SP-25 – not sure if any are sedans.
1940 SP-25 Models
Cook, MN – Scripps 225
Dalton City, IL – Chris-Craft M 130
Tupper Lake, NY – Volvo V8 (a 1940 Kermath is un-mounted)
Annapolis, MD – Chrysler 125
Grand Rapids, MI – Chrysler 160
1941 SP-25 Models
Sarnac Lake, NY – Chrysler V8 375
Hartwell, GA – Chris-Craft M 130
Mt Dora, FL – Chris-Craft MBL 158
Versailles, KY – Chris-Craft 160 (W?)
Story Update: There is some confusion in terms of what engine options were available for the pre-war 25-foot Sportsman – based on the information provided in the first edition Chris-Craft Essential Guide. To better understand exactly what engines were available for the 1940/41 25′ Sportsman, we decided to refer to the original 1940 Chris-Craft Price Sheet below.
In the category of 25′ Sportsman (Model 7 thru 11) the engine options are as follows:
95 S.D. – 95HP Speed Drive Chris-Craft K (1.25:1 reduction);
130 S.D. – 130HP Speed Drive Chris-Craft MS (1.25:1 reduction);
160 D.D. – 160 HP Direct Drive Chris-Craft W;
223 D.D. – 223 HP Direct Drive Scripps 208;
2-95 D.D. – Twin 95 HP Direct Drive Chris-Craft K;
Note: In 1940 two boats were built as special order “owner Chrysler Royal installed” engines, which were 145HP. – Texx
So we thought we would try something different today. If you have any info or photos related to the whereabouts of any documented or undocumented pre-war 25-foot Sportsman boats out there, we would love to hear from you. Or if you have one under a tarp in your back yard, please let us know. You can either post the photos and/or information in the comment section below, or send us the photos/information by e-mail at Texx@woodyboater.com and we will post it directly to the story today.
Oh and by the way, any post-war SP-25 owners, you are welcome to join in as well… What the heck, let’s just declare today as a 25′ Sportsman party. (Man I hope this story doesn’t bomb on me…)
Andy Chudy shared a few shots.
Here is SP 189 which I think is a ’49. It has not seen daylight since the early 70’s. The pictures are not very good and I apologize for that (the boat is wedged in a corner of a building with a bunch of other untouched Chris-Crafts). On another note, in the same building is a 50’s side steer Lyman (last picture) that was the actual mail boat of Sodus Bay NY for 20 years. – Andy Chudy
Terry Hurley from Cook, Minnesota shared a few shots of his SP-25s. First shots is his 1940 pre-war SP-25 coming out of the shed on a new trailer for the first time since the 70’s!!! (This boat is noted in the list above)
And the second shot here is Terry’s post-war 1947 SP-25 with the optional Streamlined Ventilating cabin getting put to bed last winter. This boat was restored by Robinson Restoration last year, you can Click Here to see the story we did on “Flagship”. – Texx
Art Armstrong also shared some photos of his interesting 1939 Chris-Craft Utility.
Texx – I own a 1939 24′ 9″ Chris-Craft Deluxe Utility, which has the Sportsman front seat, but was specially ordered with the bait box live well jump seat as the second seat. It originally came with an LB engine.
In 1938 the Chris-Craft family ordered 7 boats built for 7 family members, on the 24′ 9″ hull. After the materials were ordered, one of the family members decided the he didn’t want a boat. My grandfather, Milton Meyer, was a friend of Owen Smith and Owen asked my grandfather if he wanted to buy one of the boats. The answer was yes and it was early enough for my grandfather to order it like he wanted too.
Here she is… “MOLLY-O” – Art Armstrong
I checked my yard, and it seems that none of my planters are made of pre-war 25 sportsman.
Perhaps Alex has a few in Hessel, or maybe Paul has one he is waiting to restore?
Did Jim Staib use any as fire wood to stay warm this winter?
If you look past the scantily clad women in Troy’s photo collection, maybe we will find one or two lurking in the background?
M-fine – Were you finally able to put the snow blower away? Don’t forget to add some Sta-Bil….
You only need the Sta-bil if you aren’t going to use it for more than three weeks. We had 90’s and frost so far this week, but no snow accumulation. Yet. Next week I might have to blow snow.
Do you know how many came with the W and M engine?
Jimmy, 10 had the W and 13 had the M. Two were special ordered with a Chrysler Royal 8.
I noticed only 3 had the correct engines in them
M-fine I will do my best to look into that. If I find anything I will let you know (will probably have to PM you so I don’t offend anyone on the WWWBW)
Great question Jimmy!
I look forward to coming back tonight and see what the feedback is from all the Sportsman owners out there.
There is a post war 25’ in the shop at St. Lawrence Restoration Clayton, NY. Looks like all new planking.
The percentage is already very high (9 of 25) without knowing of others. That in itself is an amazing survival rate for any pre-war Chris-Craft, or any other brand. Isn’t it???
I wonder if the length of the boat may have effected the survival rate of certain boats. They only built 4 post war 29′ sportsmans and their are surprisingly at least 2 to still exist I believe the third may be on Lake Burton.
There is one on Lake Burton. A customer of mine saw it a talked to the owner.
I always wanted to see one with a gold bottom like shown in your top catalog photo. Guess from what Brian says none ever really came from the factory that way.
You are in luck, Wilson. Jim Murdock did one a few years ago and painted the bottom yellow/gold like the brochure photo at a customers request. I think the color artist at Chris-Craft was just taking some liberties in making the copper-bronze paint appear brighter for the catalog.
In the background is another prewar 25 that Murdock did with the correct copper-bronze w/ green boot stripe combo.
Also, there is another ’41 on Big Bear Lake here in California.
Do you have any pictures of the green deck seems?
I think you should add the pre-war 24′ in with the 25′. You really have to get close to tell them apart.
I’ve had both and the pre-war rides much nicer. Pretty much the same hull as “old Paint”.
There is one in Alabama.
One on your list “Was” a sedan.
Need more coffee so I can babble on!
Actually, twin K’s were available as well as the single big Scripps 208, but none were actually produced that way, prewar.
Possible tenth? Unrestored located in Rice, Minnesota all we know is it could just be a 24′ Sportsman
Thanks Jimmy – We have reason to believe that project boat in Rice, MN may be at Dave Watts shop. (This should be confirmed though). – Texx
It is. It was Chuck Warner’s boat from Annapolis, MD Already accounted for just moved.
I thought this was a funny looking hard top for a Sportsman, than I realized it was the boat behind it.
There was a movie from the mid 50’s featuring a post war 25′ Sportsman
I literally just bought #12502, and today it is en route from Clayton to Tahoe. Looking forward to good times …
Wow – An early 1940. Congratulations Scott. I this one currently listed in the ACBS Directory?
I’ve seen that one for sale around the Internet a while ago
Hey Jim. Where was this picture taken? Is that a 1955 wage maker next to it?
I meant to address Scott. Sorry!
Too busy boating for a good pic, but here’s a little something for now …
I’ve been the proud owner of a 1938 24′ Sportsman for the past 20 years – hull #12450 – still in unrestored condition. They are indeed rare and beautiful boats. As Jim has stated, among pre-war Sporty’s, there are very few noticeable differences. The 1937-1939 series had the six-gauge panel, while the 1940-1942 had individual gauges. Otherwise, nearly identical.
On a related note, also nearly 20 years ago, I spent two full days at the Mariners Museum – and hand-copied the hull card info from every 24’/25′ Sportsman from 1937-1942. Have to search through my archives and find that data…
Thanks Woody Boater for highlighting one of my favorite Chris Crafts ever.
Thanks for chiming in Jeff. Great information.
My favorite Chris Craft of all! I have an unrestored 1940 which still has it’s original MS engine. I do have a Scripps 208 which was an available option but have not decided whether or not to put it in the boat. I also have a restored post war Sedan which we had planned on showing at the International here in Minnesota, but will be unable to do so.
Not sure why they grabbed me but they are great big water boats ..FYI, I saw that yellow bottomed boat on an auction website with a great big hole in the bottom couple of years ago..
The Scripps 208 was not an option for the pre war 25′ Sportmans not sure but may have been on the 24′ Sportmans
According to the Essential Guide – the pre-war SP-25 was offered with either a Chris-Craft W or MS. The earlier pre-war 1937-39 SP-24 was offered with Chris-Craft H, KA, LA, LCS, M, MCS, K(2x), KB(2x), Chrysler Majestic, or Scripps. Tons of engine choices for the SP-24.
Hate to quibble with you two gentlemen but if you check the Chris Craft Club archives you will find a 1940 Chris Craft price sheet. It lists the available engine options for the 25′ Sportsman. The Model 10 boat was listed with a 223 HP Scripps 208 which was first introduced in 1938.
With the help of Don Ayres and Patti Hinson at The Mariners Museum we were able to go through all of the records and the Chris Craft boat speed test records that were available for that model in 1940-41. We were unable to find one that was tested but it was definitely an option.
You are absolutely correct Terry – thanks for chiming in.
As Brian Robinson noted earlier, the Scripps & twin K’s were an option. Brian is going to send me a digital copy of that 1940 Chris-Craft Price Sheet which does in fact list the Scripps as an option, and also lists twin k’s as an option. So we can document that info.
When I get the price list I will post it to the story for future reference. However it’s questionable if any of the pre-war SP-25 versions were ever produced with either of these two power options. Brian also noted earlier that “10 had the W and 13 had the M. Two were special ordered with a Chrysler Royal 8.”
(I think we may have uncovered a minor glitch in the original Essential Guide – which I commonly use a resource tool – Texx)
A 1940 Chris-Craft Price Sheet has now been added to the main story which confirms the pre-war SP-25 engine options.
Note 2 25′ sp had been special ordered with Chrysler royal 8, 10 had W’s 13 had MS’s. I believe the 2 special ordered boats were one off custom built boats I guess they were the ones without green leather too.
Great story, texx. I hope some of the other owners come forward with pictures so we can see what their boats look like. this was a fabulous cc series, particularly for me in the pre-war years.
Great Story, Can Woodyboater spotlight a specific Chris Craft model every week? Very interesting and a great resource for all .
I always noticed at a quick glance that the pre-war models had the banjo steering wheels. That’s classy, man!
Good to see a topic that lights the fuse of conversation. Kinda slow around here lately. I’ll never be in a position to own a 24′ sportsman…but learning about the history and culture of these rare and impressive works of art is almost as much fun.
Thanks for updating the story with the price sheet. Great stuff!
It is interesting when a story becomes dynamic. I often come back the next day to see what new comments there might be, but I seldom check the story itself for updated information.
The prewar 25 Sportsman is a wonderful boat. All the glitz and glamor of a runabout with the user friendliness of a utility. Of course I want one, but the wallet won’t allow it. I think that’s a big part of the reason such a high percentage have survived. These were never an “every-man’s boat”. Those who could afford them back in the day could afford the proper care and storage so they rarely ended up rotting out behind the barn. No different than today. I think the 23 Holiday is today’s poor man’s 25 Sportsman. Plenty of style and luxury with a more affordable price tag. Just my $.02
I agree with Mike, the 24 or 25 sportsman is a pricey boat , and requires larger facilities, bigger lakes , trailer , and tow vehicle . But there are many other available slightly small Chris Craft utilities that are an excellent option for those of us with a smaller budget. Holiday, and Continentals in 22 and 23 foot come to mind .
As a person with experience restoring a post-war Scripps powered 25′, I can attest to both the elegance and the costs of these boats. They had the best materials available in them and costs today are proportionate to those of that bygone era.
Using price and accessory lists, I priced my 1948 25′ with the ventilating top, the Scripps option and the other stuff the owner ordered to trick it out and it priced out at about $9000 in May, 1948 when it was shipped. I imagine that this cost almost twice as much as the best Cadillac or Lincoln automobile of the day – that might be a good perspective. The same is not far from true now, either. Interesting note – the original owner of my boat went to prison for tax fraud in the 1950’s….go figure.
The Scripps was low production in the 25’s after the war and certainly before it. The reason had to be price – I have a price list from 1949 or so and the Scripps option in the late ’40’s was something like $1500 MORE than ANY CC twin option.
I have a 22’6″ 1946 Gar Sedan with a Chrysler Royal and while it is a wonderful, smooth engine with 143HP; it is very well matched with the Gar but would likely be scarcely adequate in the larger 25′. The performance with the Scripps is phenomenal – there is no substitute for torque, simple as that.
These boats, either pre or post war, are really the best that CC could put out in the smaller recreational class at the time. They were not for the financially timid at the time and it is no different today and they were accorded respect and high levels of care. They have a great presence when you see them on the water – and they are much appreciated by almost all who see them.
Great story today, WB. Nice to see the real rare pre-war featured. Survival rate is pretty good on those as well, I think. The knowledge of your readers is fantastic.
The scripps in the early postwar 25 were left over prewars engines. I think it was the first 10 or so.
Here is the ever elusive pre war 25′ sportsman with its original sedan roof. As far as I know its the only one left. The only time I’ve displayed it was at the Hilton Head show. There’s a lot of interest in barn find boats just like there are in cars. Almost everything is original except for a few piece of hardware I’ve gotten from Bud Brackett at Maine Classics. I bought the boat when Chuck Grewe put his collection up for sale in 1997. I also bought the postwar 25′ he had. The prewar is hull number 24 second to last built and the postwar is hull number 35. Both were delivered to Mercier boats in Clayton NY. I also have a prewar 22 utlity that was also delivered to Mercier.
Displayed at hilton head show next to a postwar 22 sedan
One interesting thing on the 24 and 25 sportsman’s is the hull is the same. The dash change in 1940 from a 6 gauge panel to the 6 separate gauges. Both models measure 24′ 6 inches. The M series came out in full swing for the 1940 model year. So I think what Chris Craft did was change the dash add the M series dropped the L series called it a 25 footer and added it to the new model list for 1940. Simple marketing.
One other thing to note there was a 24′ utility built from 1937 to 1939. It is the same hull as the 24′ sportsman. But it had a flat folding windshield 4 gauge panel like the 17 and 19 foot runabouts. It also had toe rails like the 22 utility’s and a 2/3 front seat and no mid seat. I’ve seen the utilities listed as sportsman’s when there not. The 24′ prewar sedan that MBBW restored and has had listed for sale as a sportsman is really the utility. Compare them with the sportsman and you will see the difference.
This is the one listed as a 1939 Sportsman/Sedan it’s not a Sportman its a Utility with the sedan option note 3/4 seat no crash padding either 4 gauge not 6 gauge panel. Click my name for link to it.
Jim the 1939 Utility, as you call it, was actually a Deluxe Utility. Mine has a Sportsman front seat and a special order live well second seat.
One last thing to note. You can tell a scripps powered 25 sportsman whether it has the scripps or not is by which side the walkway is on. Scripps had the 2nd seat walkway on the right. The rest were on the right with twins being the exception. This went for both pre and postwar.
You meant to say the rest were on the left. With the exception of the twin engines.
No Scripps engine
Prewar or postwar? Back in 1977 I tried to buy a softop from the original owner on Torch Lake in northern Michigan. The owner (Hartley Comfort from St Louis, MO) explained the family had ordered the boat in 1942 but delivery was delayed due to a shortage of engines with the onset of WWII. In 1945 or early 1946 Chris Craft contacted him advising engines were available and they could complete the boat. He visited the factory and chose a 225 hp Scripps for the power. Hartley said their boat went over 40 MPH and was the fastest on Torch Lake for many years.
I made an unsolicited offer to buy the boat which was unrestored and in storage for many years at the time. Unfortunately, we never got together on a price and I have regretted it ever since.
So, would you call this a Prewar or Postwar boat?
Hi Loren – Good to hear from you. Reading your story today makes me wonder where that boat is today…
I will let the experts answer the pre-war vs post-war question. It would be interesting to see the hull card for that boat and how Chris-Craft described it on the paperwork when it finally left the factory in 1946. – Texx
I would say if it’s a 25′ it would a post war because the first 29 Sportsmans had scripps that were left over from before the war. I believe he may have ordered it after Chris Craft went into war production they should’ve still have engines since the landing crafts used V12’s.
Wow. I get sick for a couple days and miss Sportsman Day. Dangit.
Only a few things to add.
1. There’s a beautifully restored 24 or 25 SP called Crescendo. It was for sale in Hessel for $199,000 originally. Then the price came down to $165,000-ish. That was a couple years ago and the last I saw of it. Beautiful boat. If my medicated brain serves me right, this boat had twin power.
2. I own 2 post-war 25 SPs. One came with an M, the other with a Scripps 208. The M boat has been repowered, though I have retained the original engine. The Scripps boat retains original power. The Scripps is a monster of an inline engine and is not asymmetrical when “dressed.” The late Tommy Mertaugh and I surmised the passage to the stern (utility area) is different with the Scripps because of this asymmetry. Having the passageway to starboard with a Scripps engine moves the bridge deck to port and helps to balance the boat. We could think of no other reason for this.
3. I have not ridden in a pre-war big Sportsman, but I grew up with a post-war one. The ride is vastly superior to a 22-U (which I also own), thanks in part to much more weight. I can’t comment on the ride difference between a pre-and post-war big Sportsman as Jim Staib did, but I do recall Tommy telling me the post-war is a much dryer boat (especially with a spray rail). That makes sense looking at the bow design.
Twin power would be a 24′ Sportsman
As for engines in the 1937-1939 24′ Sportsmans, my ’38 has a fairly unusual MCS model. It was only offered in the large utilities (perhaps runabouts as well?) during those three years. It’s rated at 140hp – and includes twin Zenith updraft carburetors, along with a Paragon 1.5:1 reduction drive (called “Speedrive” in the CC catalog).
Thanks for the info Jeff.
I’m helping a friend look into their 1941 25′, but looking for any information from someone more knowledgeable. She has the title which clearly has it as a 1941 25′ Chris Craft, but not sure which specific model. Here are a few pictures, any information anyone has about this vessel would be wonderful : )
The title says HIN (Hull Identification Number) 4002, Series/Body “WIGPC” and Vessel Type is “Cabin”
Hi Bryan – I this boat for sale or is the current owner just trying to identify the make and model? – Texx
Both. She is looking to possibly sell, but has no idea where to even start with it.
Can you send me the original photos (posted here) and any other information you have? Texx@woodyboater.com
Will Do, Ive got a handful of other photos I will send with. The more I look into it the more I think it may have been retitled wrong as a 25′ and is actually a 26′ deluxe model, but I still am unsure.
And one more : )