The Legend Of Chris-Craft Lives On Even Today

With the recent announcement that our friends at the Antique Boat Center in Cincinnati, Ohio were named as a modern Chris-Craft boat dealer – it was interesting to see some of the feedback from our viewers following yesterday’s story. Some loved the modern fiberglass Chris-Craft models, and others were not as quick to jump on board with the new models – preferring to stay with the older versions of the iconic marque. An architect once told me “Texx – People have different tastes… Some people like Italian food and some poeple like Japanese food… You can’t please everybody.”

Here at Woody Boater we are very impressed with the styling and attention to detail of the modern Chris-Craft models and think the Antique Boat Center will do great as an official Chris-Craft dealer.

Matt commented yesterday – “Chris-Craft has perfectly tied in it’s new designs with a respect to it’s past. This is no easy task by the way, many old brands rely on sentiment and history to carry the day and fail. Time marches on, but values and great design stay true.”

Chris-Craft Corsair32-160 – Photo courtesy Chris-Craft Corp.

For anyone who follows the new car business, you can only imagine what the designers are faced with in terms of developing new and innovative car designs. Unfortunately, in todays world many domestic and import cars are beginning to look the same… In some cases automotive design is becoming a “Me Too” business, as the designers all try to incorporate the same features and styling into the car designs to remain competitive. Today it’s often difficult to tell the difference between a Kia and a Toyota, Mazda or even some domestic brands.

The designers at Chris-Craft have produced a great lineup for 2013 with designs that remain true to the iconic brand while avoiding that “Me Too” design philosophy – Not an easy task to say the least. You can see the entire line of modern Chris-Craft boats by Clicking Here.

Design change is nothing new to the Chris-Craft brand. One of the best examples of this was in 1929 when Chris-Craft decided to make some styling changes to the popular triple cockpit runabouts in the early years of the Great Depression. Many other wooden boat companies from the same period did not survive the depression. Thankfully for us, Chris-Craft did survive.

To this day, 80 years later, the unique “Upswept Deck” triple cockpit runabouts are still some of the most collectible models of the early Chris-Craft years. Today’s photos feature a beautifully preserved 1929 28′ Chris-Craft triple cockpit runabout simply named “Jack” – which is cared for by Tom Mertaugh and his crew from Classic & Antique Boats in Hessel, Michigan. “Jack” still uses most of it’s original wood from 1929 and is fantastic to see in action around Hessel, MI.

This innovative styling change is described in the book:

Chris-Craft Boats by Anthony Mollica Jr. & Jack Savage

Upswept Deck Runabouts

With sales of the standard 26-foot Chris-Craft triple flat in spite of substantial overall growth, it was time for some restyling. After all, 26-footers were – with some modifications – more or less the same boats that came off the drawing board in 1922 and may have started looking a little stale. Other makers were starting to make styling changes, so the Chris-Craft would change as well.

The result was the upswept deck style, a design thought to be Bill MacKerer’s first real design work for the company. The forward deck rose gradually as it approached to the windshield, and louvered vents replaced chrome portholes along the raised engine compartment, which was also upswept at the rear to mimic the forward deck. – Anthony Mollica Jr. & Jack Savage

Brian Robinson from Robinson Restoration commented – “All upswepts were raised decks, the first with this feature being the 1928 26′ Hydro at the 1928 New York Boat Show. Then the 28′ in 1929, the 26′ early in 1929. The 24′ and 22′ models in 1930.”


The Legend of Chris-Craft Lives On Even Today

Fellow Woody Boater and contributor Dane Anderson has a keen eye for classic boats. He sent us an e-mail last night to say “I have been chuckling to myself all day (easily amused) – Is it just me or is there something strikingly similar between the modern Chris-Craft shown in Friday’s story and the modern Hot Tub Boat in Thursday’s story?”

All we can say is – The Legend of Chris-Craft Lives On Even Today!


32 replies
  1. Ranger
    Ranger says:

    I’m fine with ABC selling the new CC line of boats, they are beautiful. And it should definitely bring a different set of potential buyers through their doors…and who knows what type of boat they will leave with…

    Some folks, don’t know what they want til they see it! I’ll be curious to learn if someone coming in for a new CC, doesn’t get caught up in an older wooden classic instead.


  2. John Kadimik
    John Kadimik says:

    In 1930 Chris-Craft went with a reverse upswept rear deck on it’s smallest, but most elegant triple cockpit, the model 100. This interesting feature is sometimes lovingly referred to as the “turtle back”.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Mike – In the photos of “Jack” above, notice how the forward deck sweeps up towards the base of the windshield… and also the rear deck sweeps up just ahead of the aft cockpit opening.

      I’m not sure if the actual deck crown changed when the “upswept” feature was incorporated in 1929, but someone here will chime in to confirm that.

      You can also click on the photos to enlarge them.


  3. Doug P.
    Doug P. says:

    Offering the new boats is really a very astute business move on the part of the ABC. By diversifying their offerings they’ll significantly increase traffic through the door. The new designs are certainly stylish without being trendy.

  4. Alex
    Alex says:

    The color scheme parallel between the hot tub boat and that contemporary CC is hilarious and surely no accident. Well spotted Dane!

    Re Jack, I grew up seeing that boat in Hessel when my age was still in the single digits. It mesmerized me then and still does today. Quite a few triples in our area. But Jack just stands apart. It’s sort of like how some people have a presence you can just feel when they enter a room. That’s Jack.

    And there’s something about that name too. Big elegant boat. Simple name. Simple transom graphics. It just works so well.

  5. Tom Mertaugh
    Tom Mertaugh says:

    Good Morning!!
    What a nice surprise to see Jack on WB this cold am… Makes ones juices start flowing! Jack has an interesting history here in the Les Cheneaux Islands. Jack came to being as Sewell Avery, of Montgomery Wards, told my Grandpa Gene Mertaugh, the very first Chris Craft Dealer, if you can get a boat that will beat the “NANCY” his 1929 Hacker Craft 26′ powered with a Kermath, I will buy it. (Sewell Avery was the original owner of the Honey Fitz, JFK’s personal Yacht. Lenore II as she was called, was built by Defoe in Bay City, and was 93′ long. Lenore anchored in the west side of Hessel Bay. She was commandeered at the beginning of WWII.) Grandpa Gene ordered “Jack” (Named after Sewell’s son Jack). Grandpa upon completion at the plant in Algonac, went down there and drove Jack, all the way up Lake Huron to Hessel, on its own bottom. That today would be quite a challenge, imagine that before GPS and cel phones. Upon getting Jack to Hessel, he polished it all up, and called Sewell and he brought Nancy out into Hessel Bay. The race began, and Jack ran away fron Nancy, and his orders were, put it in the boathouse. Jack has only been stripped 1 time and that was about 1950. Every piece of wood is original, with exception of a few little patches. Jack came originally with an A 120, which is now on a stand in our shop, but was re-powered with a 496 Crusader. Only to preserve the A 120, to keep it in sound shape, as Sewell’s Grandson, Andy (the boat’s current owner) likes to use the boat, and has a young family. Jack was sold to a couple of differnt owners, never leaving Hessel. Andy brought Jack back into the family about 8 years ago. Jack is such a great example of a well cared for original.

  6. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Regarding Jack, I love it. Especially the warm patina’d look. That little repair on the forward port side is like the mole on Cindy Crawfords face, looks awesome on that boat but not every boat could get away with it. I love preserved originals….

    Ok, that was a weird comment…

    Regarding ABC’s new line of CC’s, congrats! Much to BrianT’s dismay, I’ll bet some “über wealthy” folks walk out of there with two boats… brand spankin’ new and one old and I think it will be great.

      • brian t
        brian t says:

        Yea – and those “uber-folks” will be warbeling on and on about how great a president Coolidge was !

        (war·ble 1 (wôrbl)
        v. war·bled, war·bling
        To sing (a note or song, for example) with trills, runs, or other melodic embellishments.)

  7. Chris B
    Chris B says:

    Great story on Jack, nice to see. If I was to buy a new boat there is no question the CC is the only one. Not only stands out but stands out with style. one our biggest sponsors sells cobalt so I am happy to watch the new boats go by so i don’t have to walk by John with my head down. Cant bring myself to spend that much on a plastic boat anyway. Have to much liking for the wood.

  8. floyd r turbo
    floyd r turbo says:

    Yes, thanks Tommy for taking the time to provide the history. Before that, I didn’t know Jack. Ok, sorry, I had to do that b4 someone else did.

  9. Mike W
    Mike W says:

    With all the Woody Boater talk of the ABC in Cinci and the “new”  CC I could not help but speak out for the 1969 19′ Commander Super Sport (SS) styled by Dick Avery.  I wonder if they are paying any homage to Dick for his gorgeous work 45 years ago?  Someplace I have a rendering that I can’t find for an Express boat he did that never went to market. Pretty much a dead ringer for the 43 Roamer they built recently. 

    Couple quotes about design that I pulled.

    The SS has it!

    “There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.”  Milton Glazer

    For the wood boat people that can’t see the glass because of the trees. I love wood too.

    “Great design is all about details. With innovative material selection, sensible construction techniques and modern aesthetics one can craft a unique design language that sets a new standard.”  Roi James

    Nothing is new and nothing wrong with the new CC designs, but they should recognize where they came from more than they do.

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.”    Jim Jarmusch

    Photos to follow in a few minutes. See for yourself.

  10. mischevious
    mischevious says:

    The 1930 model 99 was the smallest cc raised deck turtle back made. Cute little boat cheaply made a minature of the larger cc triples . Hope to have one refinished this summer. Tom

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Steve – Earlier today, Mike K asked if the deck crown changed when the upswept feature was added.

      Did it change?

  11. steve bunda
    steve bunda says:

    Rare Find has the same rear deck treatment as in John K. picture. Some 20 footers hand a rear deck that did not sweep up vertically and basically stayed flatter and crowned out to the covering boards. Bruce C, from Northwoods boat is restoring a 20 footer with the flat rear deck. Tom from Oneida boats also was restoring one but lost it in the fire last year. RARE FIND is original and has not been in the water since 1992. We also have a 1938 25 ft Custom with a raised deck. steve

    • John Kadimik
      John Kadimik says:

      The flat rear deck was a 1931,model 101 or 200, can’t remember. Don’ t know why Chris-Craft did that.

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