Mike’s Mess – 1960 Chris Craft Cavalier Custom Cruiser, Father & Son Restoratio​n Project

1 - Port View

Second Hand Rose (now known as “Mike’s Mess”) a 1960 Chris Craft Cavalier Custom Cruiser that was saved from the dump at the last minute.

A few weeks ago we ran a story here on Woody Boater designed to reach out to our viewers asking the question – “What are we doing to attract younger folks to the hobby of classic boating?” And we were thrilled to receive 69 comments from the Woody Boater Community with some great insight and suggestions on the subject. If for some reason you missed that story on January 22nd or you need to refresh your memory, it was titled – Is 30 The New 15 When It Comes To Classic Boating? (click on the title to go to the story)

Of all the great comments, one viewer comment caught our attention, it was from fellow Woody Boater Michael Vannier in Colorado. Here’s the original commet from the that story…

January 24, 2013 at 1:07 AM

Michael Vannier says:

Matt, I purchased my first boat at 50, a 20′ 1949 Century Sea Maid beautifully restored by Wayne Spaulding here in sunny Colorado. Nearly every winter since, my son and I revarnished her to keep her looking her best. Five years after catching the bug, my 17 year old son Jack and I spent nearly every weekend being tutored by Wayne in his shop outside Breckenridge, restoring our first venture, a 1960 Chris Craft Cavalier Custom Cruiser. While Wayne and another Rocky Mountain Classics club member, Rom Nellis, did most of the restoration craftsmanship, Jack and I meticulously worked on dissasembly, documenting parts and measurements, and stripping and sanding. The restoration continues in our garage outside Denver.

The exterior is nearly ready for final sanding and prep for those first colorful coats, and Jack and I are creating memories each time we tackle the next job. The video games and texting come to an end and we focus on the art we are trying to learn, together. Jack is a member of the next generation you speak of here. There’s really nothing like the Woody Boater experience. Much to learn and do, but wonderful times together doing it. – Michael Vannier

After reading Michael’s comment, we just had to learn more about the Chris-Craft Cavalier project that Michael and his son Jack were doing together as a “Father & Son team” so we sent them an e-mail. And a few days later we received this great story from Michael & Jack, about the boat they now affectionately refer to as “Mike’s Mess”.

Mike’s Mess – 1960 Chris Craft Cavalier Custom Cruiser Restoration
By Michael Vannier

Texx – Early in 2012, I had an opportunity to acquire a Second Hand Rose, a 1960 Chris Craft Cavalier Custom Cruiser. As the story was told to me, a friend and member of our Rocky Mountain Classics Chapter of ACBS purchased her, intercepting her on her way to the dump. Circumstances enabled me to purchase her from him, and begin our journey of restoration.

Mikes Mess

2 - Original Deck Condition

Second Hand Rose (“Mike’s Mess”) was in fact – A Mess!

When I contacted the Chris-Craft Cavalier section on the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club’s Boat Buzz Forum, I received mixed messages of encouragement to move forward with the restoration. Right or wrong, while I had no link to her, and didn’t know her story, I saw this as a project for my son and I to tackle. He very much enjoys working with me on our ’49 Century Sea Maid, and often asked for opportunities to go up to Frisco, Colorado, and work with Wayne Spaulding in his shop just outside Breckenridge.

3 - Starboard Hull
Well, we purchased her in the state you see in the first two picks. Jack and I spent the summer commuting up to Frisco/Breckenridge from our home in Mead nearly every weekend this summer. Wayne Spaulding tutored us on the critical steps of disassembly, and we developed what I hope to be a good way to catalog and mark all the pieces and parts as we tore her down to what could be saved.

4 - New Transom

A big step completed, the Chris Craft Cavalier Custom Cruiser now has a new transom.

With the tear-down complete, Jack and I spent most weekends stripping and sanding, bringing supplies and materials up to the shop from Denver, and learning some very basics of what it takes to craft the new deck and transom you see in the pictures. No, we are not restoring her to original plywood construction, so we’re not about to win any awards or anything. Let’s just say we are taking the word “Custom” in her model name to another level of beauty.

5 - Mahogany Plank Deck

The mahogany plank deck on “Mike’s Mess” is a big improvement from when we first picked her up.

As you can see, we have much work ahead of us. We know a little more about what we are currently calling her, “Mike’s Mess”, having received a packet from the Mariner’s Museum. She was originally shipped to a Chris-Craft dealer in Sterling, Colorado. We haven’t taken the research much further than that.

6- Jack hard at Work

My son Jack hard at work on the interior of “Mike’s Mess” – Starting to look “Less Messy…”

A local auto-repair and engine shop specializing in the restoration of early era automobiles is restoring her original Chris-Craft 283. Dale Kocian at Kocian Instruments has her instrument panel, and Jack and I have many months of work ahead of us.

Stay tuned. We’ll keep you abreast of the journey.

Michael Vannier

7 - Jack during the summer of 2012

Here’s Jack stripping the bottom last summer.

Thanks Michael for sharing your story of “Mike’s Mess” with us here at Woody Boater. It’s fantastic to see that you and your son Jack are spending your spare time together saving this classic Chris-Craft cruiser from the bone yard. I’m sure you will both have some fond memories of the days working on her together and when she is re-launched in Colorado. Memories that will last a lifetime…

It’s also great to hear from a member of the Rocky Mountain Classics ACBS Chapter out in Colorado, this is one area of the country we haven’t had a chance to report on yet. Checking on line I learned that the folks in Colorado spend time classic boating on Lake Dillon, at an elevation of 9,017 feet above sea level.

Lake Dillon is located about 75 miles west of Denver on I-70 and is surrounded by the snowcapped mountains of the Colorado Rockies. The lake is considered to be a boat lover’s paradise with its crystal clear, blue water, mountain vistas and fresh air and is just short drive from the the towns of Breckenridge and Vail, Colorado.

The Rocky Mountain Classics website is currently under construction, but you can get a taste of their classic boats by visiting the Rocky Mountain Classics Facebook page  and checking out their photo gallery.

Michael and Jack are also in the process of learning more about what the 1960 Chris-Craft Cavaliers had for interior / upholstery colors which will soon be on their To Do list for the project. If you can help, let us know.

Chris-Craft Cavalier - 2

New 1960 Chris-Craft Cavalier 25′ Custom Cruiser – “The Fun Fleet”

Chris-Craft Cavalier - 1
Good luck guys and please keep us posted on your fun restoration project.


28 replies
  1. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    Nice job. Love the custom upgrades. You are going to be so proud and happy when you get her back on the water!

  2. Alex
    Alex says:

    Mike and Jack, you used the phrase “right or wrong” re deciding to proceed with a restoration.

    As one on the other side of that decision, I can tell you the answer is “wrong.”

    Too much time. And an almost certain, and potentially deep, losing financial proposition.

    And you two are so right to opt for it all. Warmest congratulations on making that call.

    Please do the entire classic boat community a service and develop a final photo album of your experience, from procurement to completion. WoodyBoater can link to that — or more — to inspire others, including parent and kid teams, to go through the experience.

    What a moving father and son story. You made my day with it.

  3. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    I went thru the same father, son experience back in the early 80’s when my oldest son was 12. While on a MUCH SMALLER SCALE than your project, the little 14 Glasspar G3 was also a mess, found in a field, with a small tree growing in the front seat. But all that summer my son learned how to use tools. repect the fine art of taking care of his toys (boats and cars) to this day.
    Dave is now in his 40’s, and now his son is 13 and together THEY just restored a 1970’s Land Rover to its old glory. He also has a wood shop to die for and has made kyaks, paddle boards, and all kind out fine furniture.
    Mike and Jack, thanks for your story, cause it just brought back so many memories of my story, to relive and share with my Woodyboater friends. I have pictures, but not in digital form, so sorry I can not share does with you today.
    As ewe posted yesterday, why Woodyboater is so important to all of us, THIS type of story, and the emotions it can bring to someone, is why this site is SO DARN POPULAR…

  4. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    another morning check in with Woodyboater…start the day happy and inspired! Never fails. Many thanks, and thanks for saving that boat….keep us in the loop with pics.

    John in Va.

  5. Guy
    Guy says:

    Now that is a project! I have saved a few,but nothing that far gone. One thing to mention is Jack stripping lead based bottom paint without a respirator.Lead poisoning is not to be taken lightly.

  6. Kelly Wittenauer
    Kelly Wittenauer says:

    What a wonderful adventure! Brings back great memories of my introduction to boating. When I was 8, my father bought a 23′ Chris Craft Cavalier cruiser. I believe it was a 1959. I fetched coffee & tools and swept up while he put on fresh paint & varnish. Ours needed a whole lot less work than yours – if not, Dad would never have bought it! We had that boat just 4 summers, but it left the desire for one of my own. I believe the pale cream colored vinyl on the rear seat & V berth was original upholstery, but have no photos of it.

  7. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Those decks are going to look great when stained, varnished and striped, big improvement over the vinyl. Hull looks pretty good, keep it up, you’ll be burning ethyl on water in no time. To me the fun is in the woodworking as much as boating itself.

  8. Randy Rush Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush Captain Grumpy says:

    Inspiring. I have been on the fence about buying this 62 sears kit boat. Pretty much a worthless boat , no name brand, dont need it, just want it. Any thoughts?

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      We don’t NEED any of our boats, we just REALLY REALLY want them. Why not go for it, plus at shows who will have another? Hell the judges won’t even know whats correct!

  9. Jay Wagner
    Jay Wagner says:

    Great story, I’m happy for you guys. Please wear a mask when sanding that old crap off. You’ll be amazed what you will stop getting into your lungs.

  10. 72hornet
    72hornet says:

    For those of us in this hobby and for those of us that stand on the sidelines and watch, the question of financial sense always comes to the attention. Can we ever recover the costs of restoration with the project? Maybe we should pose the question of a father and son learning many new skills, saving a piece of history, working together and spending that precious time we all lament about. How can you put a value on that? Jack will forever have these memories to last his lifetime, instilled upon him by a very giving father. Wow, that is what this world needs alot more of. I would take that investment anyday!

  11. Jeff p
    Jeff p says:

    Mike keep up the work on that old boat it looks like you guys are doing a really nice job. Like someone said previously MOST of us restore an old boat and NEVER will recoup the time or money investment. But you do it because its what you enjoy doing. You chose to repair this boat as a father and son project and thats great , really, i wish my dad was still alive to help me with my boat. and in your reply you said jack wants to always drive up to the shop to help the restorer. If he enjoys it that much maybe he has found a lifetime occupation good luck to both of you

  12. Steve Bemister
    Steve Bemister says:

    Teaching Jack the lost art of true craftsmanship is invaluable. He will learn many things from this project and it will be an experience that neither of you will ever forget. I’m looking forward to seeing the finished project. The first day on the water will be so exciting…and rewarding!

  13. Sona Genzlinger
    Sona Genzlinger says:

    my Gosh! My husband came across this site a few months “Thats the ROSE!” “our boat!” Almost cried when you said you ‘saved her from the dump’! We sold her to a guy in Ft Collins, a few yrs ago,cant remember now the yr. To excited. I was shocked to see her in such dismay! We bought her from a fellow in ’92 or ’93. Duane, and I refinished her. Mostly Duane. The Second Hand Rose, as we named her, was on Horsetooth Res. We understood from previous owner since new. We put her back on the res. she was docked there for 1 season. Had a lot of great days and nights with her. Times change,we moved and were unable to boat. Dry docked for 10 yrs with the hope of getting her back on the lake. Time took her toll. she was in a hell of a lot better condition when we sold her. So HAPPY u have her. Please contact Duane Genzlinger. Face Book. He would love to talk. Pic there Of her on the lake when we had her. Excited to hear from u!

  14. Trevor Beaman
    Trevor Beaman says:

    I too was once an owner of the rose, I had picked her up from the guy in Ft. Collins in 2011. I only had The Rose for about 6 Months when I had to move her. I made a trade to a guy from Arizona, and I was sad to see her go. but she was in BAD shape, so at the time it was also a relief. Look for me on Facebook. I would love to see the finshed product.

  15. Michael Vannier
    Michael Vannier says:

    Ta-Da… After a 2-year restoration, we launched her on July 2nd. My son is two years older, a foot + taller, and a young addition to our hobby. Thanks to fellow Rocky Mountain Classics members who mentored us throughout the journey, and who had significant hand in the saving of a piece of history. Anybody know anybody in Northern Colorado willing to rent a space in their shop or barn for some additional restoration over the winter? Now that she is back together, she won’t fit in my garage.

  16. Michael Vannier
    Michael Vannier says:

    Whoops. File size too big. Here is her Port Side to compare to the images in the original story. We took liberties with her model name and further “Customized” this Cavalier Custom Cruiser.

  17. Texx
    Texx says:

    Congratulations Michael & Jack on your successful restoration project! The Cavalier Custom Cruiser looks fantastic. Nice work.


  18. Tim
    Tim says:

    you and your son have done a wonderful job, these classic need to be restored. I just purchased the same boat but it is a 23 footer that needs a complete restoration which I will get to as soon as I finish my 220 scorpion. the detail that the 50s and 60s boats have you just don’t find on a new boat unless you wish to spend a fortune

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