First Production 18′ Chris-Craft Cobra To Be Auctioned At 2012 Mecum Kissimmee, FL

“GEMALU” – A Chris-Craft 18′ Cobra (Hull # BR-18-001) was shipped to the Tahoe Boat Company on February 7, 1955 with a Hercules KBL 131hp 6 cylinder engine. At the time, Tahoe Boat Company was the Chris-Craft dealer which was located on the west shore of Lake Tahoe, California. This particular boat is the first production 18′ Cobra of a total of only 52 produced by Chris-Craft in 1955, including a prototype version (Hull # BR-18-00P). The Cobras were only produced for one model year, in 1955.

Fellow Woody Boater Brian Robinson from Robinson Restoration in Fallbrook, CA shared these rare photos of “GEMALU” with us, of when it was originally delivered from the Chris-Craft plant to Tahoe Boat Company in 1955.  Fred Main from Tahoe Boat Company is shown below overseeing the delivery.

“GEMALU” is one of those family acronym names, each letter or series of letters representing (we think) members of the family who originally purchased the 18′ Cobra.

This boat was part of the Alan Furth Collection (at one time the largest vintage boat collection at around 65 boats) and was sold just prior to Furth’s passing in the early 1990s.

“GEMALU” is now consigned to be auctioned at the 2012 Mecum Kissimmee Auction in late January. These rare Chris-Craft Cobras continue to be popular classic boats and attract a great deal of attention at boat shows around the country and in past Mecum Auctions in Monterey, CA in 2010 and Kissimmee, FL in 2011.

Chris-Craft 18' Cobra Prototype BR-18-00P

Much has been written about the Chris-Craft Cobra series of boats, here is an excerpt from Craig Magnusson’s “Chris-Craft by the Numbers”…

The COBRAS, both the 18′ and the 21′, were Chris-Craft’s attempt to update the racing runabout concept with mid-50s styling, including the famous tail fins. The little 18′ was loosely based upon pre-war 16′ racing runabouts with the top engine option a 131 hp “KBL.” The 21′ was based upon the 19′ racing runabout with an extended bow and both M-series engines and V-8 options. The Cadillac powered 21′ COBRAS were Chris-Craft’s first post-war attempt at true high performance runabouts, with top speeds easily exceeding 50 mph. Unfortunately, handling problems ensued. With their labor-intensive fiber glass fins and deck lids, the COBRAS were never intended for large scale production and were only produced during the 1955 model year. A total of 51 18’s and 55 21’s were produced.

Craig Magnusson – Chris Craft by the Numbers – Post-War Runabouts

Below is a copy of an original Chris-Craft spec sheet from 1955 for both the 18′ and 21′ Cobra, you can click on the image to slightly enlarge it.

1955 Cobra Spec Sheet - Courtesy Chris-Craft Antique Boat Cub

So if you want to impress your buddies (or the girls depending on your situation) at the lake next spring by having the first ever production Cobra made, make plans to attend the Mecum Kissimmee Auction on January 24-29, 2012 at the Osceola Heritage Park in sunny Kissimmee, Florida.


10 replies
  1. Jack Schneiberg
    Jack Schneiberg says:

    That header shot is one of the most dramatic views I’ve ever seen of a Cobra. No matter how impractical the Cobra may have been – or the fact that the 21 could be a little unstable – one has to admit that from a styling standpoint this was one of the raciest looking boats ever made available by any manufacturer. Just look at the curve of the bow from the water line up to the shear in the front of that shot. Magnificent!

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      See, she looks sexy even without seeing her stuffing box. Some things just don’t need to be put out there all blatant and uncovered. And some things do.

  2. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    The Cobra attracted a lot of attention in the dealership showrooms when they were introduced, according to Chris Smith, the founder’s grandson. He said that not many customers could afford one, didn’t come in to buy one but many left with a boat of lesser value in tow. He said that Chris-Craft would have lost money on their production had it not attracted curious new customers to the dealers showrooms.

  3. Dave
    Dave says:

    This would be a great time to buy a boat from the Furth collection, as the Marque Class at Tahoe in 2012 will be “The Boats Of Allen Furth”

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