The Man They Call “Mr. B” – A Snapshot Story
To say that Bob Sloan (better known as “Mr. B”) is a life-long Woody Boater would be an understatement. To say the Bob Sloan is one of the nation’s leading authorities on the Chris-Craft “Model B” Hercules engine would also be an understatement. I have never met Mr. B personally, but am very much aware of Bob Sloan and his legendary reputation in the hobby as the man who knows and loves Model B Chris-Craft engines.
Chris-Craft first began installing the Hercules Model B engines in their smaller boats in 1934.
However, our friend Jim Staib from Fine Wood Boats in Illinois knows Mr. B quite well, and offered to help us put this story together today. A unique twist to today’s story is that it is almost completely made up from vintage snap-shots that Jim received from Mr. B and then scanned and sent on to us here at Woody Boater. The quality of the images may not be up to par, but the story of Mr. B is great – and hopefully will help Bob Sloan liquidate his inventory. But first the back story…
Mr. B is now 87 years young, and first became interested in the Chris-Craft Model B engine when he restored his two 16′ Chris-Craft Rivieras back in the 1980’s. The smaller 16′ version of the Riviera originally used the 60HP 4 cylinder Model B engine, which some say was somewhat under powered for the 16′ runabout. As a result of the poor performance, after producing only 174 copies of the 16′ Riviera in 1950 & 51, Chris-Craft ceased production of the 16-footer and today they are considered to be relatively rare in the classic boating hobby. But, if you want to restore one as it was delivered from the factory in the early 1950’s, they were only produced with the Model B Hercules based engine.
When Bob Sloan began restoring his 16′ Rivieras in the 1980’s, as a mechanic he decided to rebuild the Model B engines for the boats. Bob learned more about them, how to make them run better, collected a ton of parts and fell in love with them. Over the years he has become an authority on the little 4 cylinder B Model Herc’s, which eventually grew into a small business for Bob in his early retirement – Thus the name “Mr. B.”
As you can see from this vintage photo, Mr. B was first attracted to wooden boats and marine engines at the tender age of 12 years-old, and those experiences from his childhood got him hooked.
Mr. B’s first real job was doing tune-ups at Shank-Colbey, Inc a DeSoto / Plymouth dealer in Toledo, Ohio. He worked there from 1947-1953. Mr. B must have been one heck of a mechanic because he was even featured in this cool flyer that Shank-Colbey sent to their customers.
The back of the flyer read:
“You can assure yourself of quick starting this winter no matter how cold the day.”
– Remove, inspect and calibrate distributor for correct timing
– Clean and recap spark plugs
– Inspect ignition wiring for leaks
– Re-set mechanical and vacuum spark advance
– Test coil and condenser
– Test engine compression
– Clean and tighten battery terminals
– Test fuel pump pressure
– Test generator and voltage regulator
– Re-adjust automatic choke
– Clean and re-oil carburetor filter
– Adjust fan belt tension
Plus – Disassemble carburetor, boil out complete carburetor unit in special cleaning solvent, reassemble and adjust carburetor. (Parts extra, if needed)
Price $ 8.75
Then after that, Mr. B Drove a transport truck hauling Steel, Produce and Flowers until 1973 – But never lost his desire to go classic boating.
In 1974 Mr. B moved to Florida and bought a 1956 Wheeler 42′ Cruiser which he lived aboard for 5 years from 1974-1979. He stayed in Fort Meyers in the winter and moved north to St. Petersburg in the summer, to be protected by a covered slip.
He then secured a Captain’s job on a 61′ Hatteras yacht which he did from 1976 to 1990 out of St. Petersburg, Florida. Mr. B also held a 100 ton license.
In the 1980’s, while he was the Captain of the 61′ Hatteras, Mr. B also successfully restored his pair of Model B powered 16′ Chris-Craft Rivieras and became involved in the classic boating hobby, attending boat shows around Florida. Below are a few snapshots of Mr. B at the Sanford Boat Show in 1986 which was the predecessor to original Mt. Dora Boat Show (in Mt. Dora), which eventually moved to Tavares a few years ago. Mr. B had both Rivieras at the Sanford show that year.
Looks like once you get all the boats tied up and rafted, they remain static for a while.
Mr. B and his Riviera 16′ “Bob’s Pride” was also featured in a circa 1982 Ski-Safe Insurance ad. At the time, based on what is stated here in the ad, Ski-Safe was the “Official Insurance Agency for the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club.” Also note the photo credit in the Ski-Safe ad was to fellow Woody Boater and Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club co-founder Wilson Wright, who was recently acknowledged for his years of service to the club during this years Sunnyland Wooden Boat Festival in Tavares. If I remember correctly, Wilson also owned a rare 16′ Riviera during the early years of the Chris-Craft club.
It’s great to see this historical stuff again. Mr. B’s engine business was also a major sponsor of the Chris-Craft Antique Boat Club back then.
For the next 25 years Mr. B continued to restore Chris-Craft Model B engines for his customers and collect parts for them, many of which he still has in his inventory today.
Mr. B now lives in Katy, Texas just west of Houston. It would be fun to see him make it over to the upcoming Keels & Wheels Show next weekend at the Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, Texas (near Huston) to share some stories with the folks.
At 87 Mr. B has decided it’s time to sell his huge collection of Model B engine parts which has provided him with enjoyable “side business” and kept Bob active in his retirement for many years. It has worked out nicely to supplement his retirement.
Below is a partial list of Mr. B’s huge inventory which he would prefer to sell together, lock, stock & barrel for a reasonable price, but anything is possible. If you are interested in aquiring the collection you can contact Mr. B (Bob Sloan) directly at 281.574.4537 in Texas.
Chris-Craft Model B Engine Parts / Equipment c/w Estimated Qty’s
Accessory Gears 8
Assorted Nuts, Bolts, Hardware Large Selection
B Fuel Pumps: Rebuilt 2
Bearing Caps 2
Cam Bearing Set 1
Cam Shaft & Gear: New 3
Cam Shaft & Gear: Used 3
Carburetor Flame Arrestor 7
Carburetors Kits 5
Carburetors: Rebuilt 5
Crank Shaft Caps 10
Crank Shaft Gears 6
Crank Shaft: Used 6
Distributor: Rebuilt 3
Elbow Mold 2
Engine Block & Transmission (rebuilt) 1
New rods, bearings, valve springs,
cam, cam bearings, oil pump
Engine Core 2
Engine Brackets 16
Engine Gasket Set 1
Engine Gasket: Misc
Engine Handcrank 1
Exhaust Elbow Nuts 11
Exhaust Elbow Sleeves 9
Exhaust Elbows Brass: New 5
Exhaust Elbows Brass: Used 1
Exhaust Elbows Iron: Used 4
Exhaust Manifold Gasket Sets 5
Fire Extinguishers with Bracket: Rebuilt 18
Flywheel: B 2
Flywheel: K 1
Flywheel: KBL 1
Front Supports 1
Fuel Pump Parts
Generator 12 Volt: Big 4
Generator 12 Volt: Small 4
Generator Belts: New 5
Generator Parts: Brushes
Generator Pulleys: Used 5
Head Gaskets 9
Heads: Resurfaced 2
Intake Manifold 1
Intake Manifold End Caps 12
K Fuel Pumps: Rebuilt 2
Main Bearing Set 3
Main Bearings: Used 30
Motor Mounts: New 11
Name Plate: Large 4
Name Plate: Small 4
Oil Filler Tubes 7
Oil Inlet Screens 10
Oil Pans 4
Oil Pressure Caps 2
Oil Pump: New 4
Oil Pump: Used 4
Pipe Couplings 2
Piston Rings: New 1
Piston: Used Standard 12
Piston: Used .020 4
Rear Supports 3
Rod Bearings 8
Rods: New 7
Rods: Used 4
Spark Plug Wires & Parts
Starter: Rebuilt 3
Tappets: New Style 30
Transmission (rebuilt) 2
Transmission Arms 2
Transmission Case 3
Transmission Parts #1
Transmission Parts #2
Valve Covers 7
Valve Springs: New 20
Valve Springs: Used 10
Valves: New 10
Water Pump Parts
Water Pump: New Style 2
Water Pump: Old Style 3
Water Pump: Rubber Impellar 1
Water Tubes 6
Thanks to Jim Staib from Fine Wood Boats for sharing this story with us today and hopefully Mr. B will find a new owner (custodian) to take over his collection of parts. Best of Luck Mr. B!
I love picture stories, that is why I try to add so many pictures to my coments.
I am looking at a “Driveway Find”. Think it has a B. Was not real impressed, but this may change my mind.
I have known Bob for 25 years. We always helped each other out. He would send 6 cylinder parts calls to me and I would send the “B” calls to him. I also post his contact info on my website. He was a talented mechanic but stayed with the B engine because he could handle them easily. A complete engine weighs about 450lbs.
During the last of the shows in Mt. Dora he quit making the drive from Houston to the show At 87 he has slowed considerably and it is time to pass the baton. Included in the purchase of the business will be a list of sources and any help I can give. It’s not enough for a full time job but would make a great addition to an existing business, a part time business or to supplement a retirement like Bob has done. A website would do the business wonders.
I can field basic questions but you have to contact Bob to make an offer.
I am looking to get a hold of Mr B. I believe he purchased a 1941 Cadillac from my grandmother in the 1990’s. It was the last remaining car in our family from my grandfathers Cadillac in Orlando, FL. Any contact information would be more than greatly appreciated. I have been trying to track down this car for many years. Thanks!
Mac – Sorry to say that MR. B passed away a year or so ago. – Texx
I have known Bob since the 1980’s when he would bring one of his 16′ Rivieras to the Austin, Texas show. The quality of his work was an inspiration to those of us who were just starting out. I even convinced him to work on a few “K”‘s over the years. When I was having trouble with the “M” in my Red and White, I was threatening to install “modern power”. He convinced me how important it was to keep that boat original and went ahead and rebuilt the “M” even as heavy as it was. A great man and a better friend.
What a nice story, texx!
Really enjoyed this profile on Mr. B. I have never had a “B” powered boat so I have not had the need to do business with him, but it looks as though he has provided a very important service to many people for a lot of years. I love profiles on people like this, who have been in the hobby for years, and the pictures of this man’s career make the story particularly compelling. Thanks for featuring this story!
another great story!
John in Va.
Great story about a great guy…I remember those days at Sanford. Bob Speltz had written about the Rivieras in his Volumne one saying that the 16′ footer was the rarest of all. I was thrilled because I had one but when I took it to Sanford which was a small show then there were one of many model Chris Crafts but three, yes three, 16′ Rivieras, mine, Bob’s and a fellow from Illinois. If they were so rare, how come there were three of these an only one of most of the others ? Probably because they were small enough to get tucked in a standard 20′ garage and not get burned or trashed like others.
I recall Norm Wangard had recently started Antique and Classic Boating magazine and scheduled Bob and I out for and early morning photo shoot in conjunction with a story he wanted to do on the Rivieras. There were three other Chris Crafts out there that wouldn’t leave us alone so Norm ended up with a centerfold shot with Bob and I in the foreground and the other three boats lined up with ius. I have it framed here at our place at the coast as a constant reminder of when Bob and I had our 16′ Riveras.
I wondered why he wasn’t at Tavares this year..now I know…Tell him he was missed by ole friends.
Ya gotta love that header photo – no mask or protective gear whatsoever and most likely no or little ventilation. And I am certain that the paint was water based and contained no lead too. (ha) Folks complain but this is exactly why we have the EPA, SAIF, and the host of other regulatory agencies forcing the employers to take safeguards to protect their employees and the environment.
As far as Mr B goes, somebody SHOULD be sitting down with this man and recording all of the information that he could give about these engines so it can be properly documented. He has decades of experience and is a treasure trove of info which would no doubt be of assistance in the future.
That photo needs to be shown to every judge so proper detailing can be documented
I was thinking the same thing, Jim! I just had the engine detailed during the repair/restoration of my barrel back and we made sure there was some overspray and imperfections, just like new. I will be interested in what the judges say. I have read in several first person accounts about how the engines were actually painted after they were mostly equipped with hoses and ancillaries. This obsession with perfection is over done in my view and not representative of what the factories were producing. Same with cars back then – the guys trying to be most authentic in that hobby have been intentionally overspraying for4 years.
Better check that hue of photo shop blue in the header for that time period, looks a little light, ha ha.
Factory CC photos in “Building Chris-Craft” pg 121, show power sanding the hull wearing a dust mask while a vacuum system is employed. Reviewing their factory photos, it appeared CC provided a fairly safe and comfortable working environment maybe even better than auto factories. Every workstation picture shows employees working at a comfortable level which I don’t see in restoration shops even today. Not sure if any business was aware of the volatility of paint fumes back then, but I’d be surprised if CC didn’t have a power vent in that alcove as the paint fumes would be highly flammable/explosive in that space.
Back to “Mr B”, I treasure the work Bob did on my water pump he rebuilt, wish I had an engine he had done as well. They were like works of art, polished and detailed to the “9’s”. As for all those 16′ Rivs, there was another one owned by Larry Snyder (Cinnamon) who also showed his with Bob’s when the show was moved to Mt Dora. That had to be the 4 finest 16 footers in the country. Larry actually polished the head of every washer head screw in the bilge fastening down the edge of the inner planks to the bottom planks on original bottoms as well as all the rest of the bronze and brass. His boat had original upholstery and stain as well. Bob was employed quite frequently as Larry had a ghost in his “B” that I’m not sure was figured out to this day.
I thought it would be beneficial to add the original Chris-Craft factory spray booth photo (that we used in the header today) to the main story. So tomorrow (when the header is changed) the viewers will know what the heck we are talking about here.
We are not sure when this particular factory photo was taken at Algonac, so it may have even been pre-war if they started to produce the Model B Hercules engines in 1934.
And of course the laws regarding worker health & safety have certainly changed over the last 80 years or so.
But in the height of Chris-Crafts production, you can only imagine how quickly these old engines were being mass produced in order to keep the production lines moving at the time. Here’s a vintage photo from the Holland, Michigan plant back in the day.
I love my Model ‘A’ marine engine- very close relation to the ‘B’. Here she is- where she’s always been- powering SK-18-074 ‘BETSY’, a 1955 Chris-Craft 18′ Sea Skiff. Small motor=more deck space!
I recently purchased a 1956 Sea Skiff with a Model A engine. I am new to the wooden boat world so hope my question is not a stupid one. Anyway, when I had the seller/broker do a test of the motor out of the water he advised me that the drain plug for the raw water intake pump was missing and he could not find it. Said it was an easy fix. I went and purchased a 1/8″ brass NPT plug but it does not seem to fit. Close, but threads will not catch. If the hole is cross threaded I can fix that easy enough. Just want to make sure that I have the correct size plug before I start re-tapping the hole. Would you know if that is the correct size plug? Thanks, Bob
Bob – Call Jim Staib at Fine Wood Boats in Illinois at 815.344.WOOD. He will be able to answer your question.
While he may be known as “Mr. B” to most, he’s known as “Grandpa” to me. I always knew that these old boats and parts he worked on was a hobby, but I never realized the affect he had on so many people and to the industry. This is definitely a passion for him and a hard decision to sell what remains of that passion. I think the idea of a documentary is great and should be done by someone who understands the boating world and will ask the proper questions. “Mr. B” is a fascinating man who led a fascinating life. He’s loved by his family and obviously loved by all of you.
which belt does the model b use for the generator? Having some trouble finding one locally. Mine is worn on the sides from a wrong sized replacement pulley on the old generator.
Bill – I let Jim Staib at http://www.fineeoodboats.com know about this. He has all the old inventory from Mr. B. – Texx
Bill – Here is the response from Jim Staib at Fine Wood Boats. Hope it helps.
Try a hardware store. The belts are used on appliances, lawn mowers, snow blowers, ETC. The model B used four different generator pulleys. Thus using four different belts. Try to match your old one. It is in the 5L340 range.