There’s A New Sheriff In Town – And He’s Driving A Classic Donzi Hornet 19

Last week’s “Classic Fiberglass Shootout” between a ’71 Century Arabian and 1970 Chris-Craft XK-19 was fun, and spawned over 180 comments from the Woody Boater community. After all the official votes were counted, the Century Arabian received the most votes by a slim margin of just two votes. If you missed the story you can see it by clicking here.

On the same day the shootout story was running, we received an e-mail from fellow Woody Boater Royce who resides in Lake Okoboji, in Northwest Iowa. Royce owns a number of classic wooden boats and fiberglass boats, including a very cool, very original 1972 Donzi Hornet that began life on Lake Tahoe. He thought his classic Donzi Hornet was also a worthy candidate for the early 70’s classic fiberglass shootout, running as an “Independent”… but I just didn’t have the heart to throw Royce into that mud-slinging, bar brawl between Alex & Mike. But wait, we have another idea…

First, here’s the original e-mail that we received from Royce…

Hey Texx,

Love your website as I am a certified boat nut. I am a boat lover and enjoy both fiberglass glass and wood boats, also appreciate everyone’s own opinion. I currently own a few Centurys that I enjoy, a 1960 Ski Dart, a 1966 Coronado, and a 1968 Resorter than I am in the process of varnishing and also own few classic fiberglass boats as well. I am in the middle of a frame up restoration on a 1936 Chris-Craft 16′ Racing Runabout.

The commentary on the shootout is hilarious and very good natured, but I feel that you are missing a boat on this shootout of the Chris-Craft XK-19 vs the Century Arabian. How about a 1972 Donzi Hornet to add some fuel to the fire? LOL.

I purchased my very original 1972 Donzi Hornet in 2000 from the second owner in Scottsdale, Arizona. All original, 350 CID – 320 HP Chris-Craft Conversion engine with the Volvo 270 outdrive. Left hand steer, all original gelcoat, interior has been replaced and was replicated exactly from the original. The boat was sold new by Sierra Boat Works in Lake Tahoe in 1972.

I owned a V-drive Century Arabian and my mechanic grew up in the boat business at his aunt and uncle’s Chris Craft dealership, so he has ridden in a few XK-19 V-drives. He has told me how they all thought the XK’s vibrated and the decks were flimsy. I can attest that the build quality on the Donzi Hornet is excellent to say the least, and the ride charactheristics are in my honest opinion, far superior to the Arabian. As I have not driven an XK-19, I can’t pass judgement there. Maybe the stern drive option would not make it on the list. Let me know if you want pictures.

Thanks for all of the provocative thoughts and fun reading!
Kind Regards – Royce

Thanks for your comments and cool photos Royce.

Here are a few shots of an original Donzi Hornet brochure from 1972, courtesy of the Donzi Registry. I have to admit that what I know about Donzi boats can be written on the head of a pin… In other words – Nothing. But they sure look cool and have a reputation for performance, design and build quality. Also you can click here to learn more about Don Aronow who founded Donzi Marine in 1964 – It’s quite a story.  (You can click on the Donzi Hornet spec sheet below to enlarge it.)

So here’s our fantasy plan… We thought it would be fun to contact fellow Woody Boater and Hessel Reporter Alex Watson and see if he’s up for another challenge with his fleet of fiberglass Chris-Crafts. Then we would see if we could talk Royce into dragging his classic Donzi to a lake of their choosing, neutral ground, for a live shootout next summer organized by Woody Boater.

It’s a stretch but it would certainly be fun to see these two classics performing side by side, and how they do against each other… almost like a vintage Motor Trend shootout from the early 1970’s only on the water with two cool V-8 powered runabouts. Woody Boater would cover the big event live and supply the wieners for lunch. Then we could recruit fellow Woody Boater Mike Mayer (top vote getter at the last classic fiberglass shootout) to join us at the shootout to act as our official, unbiased test driver during the live water tests and numerous performance challenges TBA.

So stay tuned to Woody Boater for more news on this real time, live-ish shootout to determine who will be the “New Sheriff in Town”…

This would be BIG FUN if we can pull it off!


49 replies
  1. Rick
    Rick says:

    Guess I better get a pot of coffee going and settle into a comfortable chair because I sense I’m going to be reading a lot of comments again. I’ve always been sweet on the Donzi’s I never had from my youth. That and a split window Corvette. I voted for the X19 but the Donzi might surpass it in the cool factor regardless of actual shootout results. Well it looks like we’ll have more to talk about at the party Friday. Hope this does not all start a brawl if we all ever actually meet one another on the playground.

  2. Gary Visser
    Gary Visser says:

    As a close relation to Royce I can attest to several things:
    he owns waaay too many boats
    his favorite is always the one with enough gas to cruise
    he’s got a serious addiction to varnish fumes
    his close “friends” in 12 step circles are called “enablers”
    His Hornet is an absolutly perfect origional time capsule of vintage fiberglass performance boating
    The boat is a blast!

  3. Gary Visser
    Gary Visser says:

    Oh, and one last thing:
    Don’t waste time trying to buy the Hornet, Royce would rather eat beans and move back in with his aged mother rather than give up the Donzi.
    Merry Christmas all.

  4. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    Nice Royce, but how about some pictures of the restoration of your ’36 racing runabout either here or in a boat buzz thread?

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Don – Because he has so many boats, we have signed Royce to an exclusive contract for content. Ha

      Just kidding of course, but it kind of felt good to say…. Just sayin

  5. 72 hornet
    72 hornet says:

    It’s in an ugly stage awaiting plank stock. I have all new frames, stem and gripe installed. Once I have some shop space free, I will commence to that undertaking. The sixteen will test my abilities, but thankfully I have some “enablers” that are well qualified to help me through!

  6. Allen
    Allen says:

    Wow….next thing we will see is someones Sea Ray…..great story but its not a Woodie or coming from woodie origin… least the Chris Craft and Century came from woodie beginnings….The is a “plastic” website they can use though…. Don’t want to through water on this even on a rainy day in the midwest…but we woodie guys need to smell the varnish……I too have a fiberglassic 1975 one owner 18′ Rally Cruiser I/O…..purchased from an 88 year old man that ony used the boat ocasionally to cruise in the evening. But hey….this is a woodie site right….lol…..lets try to keep to the subject…….how about an update on Thayer IV or something more to the subject guys…..just my 2 cents.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Hi Allen –

      Speaking for myself no one else, I think the site has evolved into a “classic” boating page, and the subject boats in this feature and the shoot out certainly qualify. Time moves on – early ’80’s cars are considered classics – as heretical to some as that may seem – so there is no reason not to consider these glass boats as such. Would you object to an early ’60’s Roamer, or aluminum Feathercraft from the ’50’s? or heaven forbid a galvanized Mullins from the ’20’s being shown on WB? I for one like to see all of these boats featured here. The numbers of posts seem to show others feel the same way. Keep it coming!

    • Philip Andrew
      Philip Andrew says:

      I dont mind what the boats are made from Allen as long as they are cool. I like that we get to check out a plastic boat or a tin boat every now and then. Being plastic never disqualified the Corvette from being cool. That said there are millions of wooden boats I really dont want to see. is where Im at.

  7. Alex
    Alex says:

    The name Donzi caries plenty of sex appeal. And the boats are very fast.

    However, I understand many of the smaller ones were built for calm water speed, so ride and handling were poor to say the least in any kind of chop.

    I have talked to two people who have XKs and have Donzi’s. They vastly prefer the ride of the XK. That said, their Donzi’s are totally different animals than yours (ie, of the Sweet Sixteen variety).

    I can attest to the inadequate deck structure on the 19′ Commander SS / XK-19. Good restorers pretty much automatically reinforce the decks in specific areas. The decks on my all-original, unrestored 19′ Commander SS flex when I stand on certain areas, and I’d never dream of standing on the motor hatches. By comparison, the decks of my restored XK-19 are reinforced, and so are solid as rock. I don’t notice excess vibration with either boat, though the restored XK is a considerably quieter boat, owing to the reinforced deck glass and installed carpeting.

    Royce, I really like the look of your boat. To my eye, it’s not as sporty as my 19′ Commander SS or XK, and not as, er, conservative as the Arabian. It’s somewhere between the two. I spent a little time this a.m. looking up photos of the Hornet’s hull, and I can say it looks vastly superior to those of the sleeker, racier Donzi’s I am used to seeing. In fact, with the deep V extending right to the transom, it looks remarkably 19′ Commander SS / XK-like

    (So, dammit, another boat model I find cool!)

    I’m up to a contest / comparison with your boat sometime next year. I vote for Hessel, of course, because I’m trying to get these roaming WoodyBoater people to see what makes it so special for classic boats and classic boating. If we could agree on that area, then it might serve as added magnetic strength to pull them up here. What say you?

    One comment to add here.

    At last, a worthy opponent! (Sorry Mike.)

    • Richard
      Richard says:

      Alex – I knew you would take the challenge. And Yes, it must be in Hessel. I vote for a trip around Marquette Is. to test performance in all types of seas.

      And if you need help with any prep, like waxing the bottom let me know, I am available for your pit crew.

  8. Alex
    Alex says:

    Another classic boat worth reporting on in these pages is the Bertram Baron. To my eye, not as sleek as the 19′ Commander SS / XK-19 or as the Hornet. And not as, er, utilitarian as the Arabian. (Also, it’s a foot longer at 20′.) Baron’s are elegant boats — absolute keepers.

    Anyone in these pages own one?

  9. brian
    brian says:

    In the British classic car arena, there are great cars like Astons, MGs, Lotus, and Jaguar and then there are the Triumph cars and guys. Not bad, just “different”.

    I see the same with our classic boats here – great boats like Chris Crafts and Centurys and Lymans and then there are the Donzis – “different”.

    Triumphs handle well and are fast and all but they never really shook off their tractor roots. Thus, they are the weird uncle at get-togethers.

    For me, the Donzi is in the same boat (ha ha) not to say that they came from a tractor, but they do look much like weird ol Uncle Frank.

  10. The Central Scrutinizer
    The Central Scrutinizer says:

    Based on the post by Brian, I have owned four Lotuses: two Esprits, a Europa and an ultra rare Type 47. They are all extremely light, (especially the Europa and 47) made of fiberglass, a blast to drive and very fragile or even flimsy.

    I still love the CC XK and think it is a bit more elegant and sexy. But damn, I hate rattles and flimsy fiberglass. Closing the doors on a Lotus is a very precise and delicate thing if you dont’ want something to fall off 🙂 The sale of my 47 financed a new boat, a Rolex for my wife a Breitling for me and I still had quite a bit of money left. I’d like to have that car back.

  11. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Reg…Matt….I strongly advise AGAINST adding the Donzi to the shootout. I don’t think Alex could handle THIRD place!!!

    I love that Donzi. I even like just saying “Donzi”.

    Donzi, donzi, donzi, donzi…..see you guys Friday, Donzi, donzi…..

    • brian
      brian says:

      HA HA !

      Insert knife and then twist !

      I agree with Mike, I do not think Alex could handle turd place.

      Sorry, I mean third.

  12. Bob
    Bob says:

    How about we add a V-drive Hornet to the shootout? Donzi made both I/O and V-dive Hornets.

    Real boats have rudders!

  13. don vogt
    don vogt says:

    I agree with Paul H. It was just that there is very little coverage about the early racing runabouts so that caught my eye. We love ’em all — including Matt’s off beat stories that don’t seem to connect to much of anything!! Ha. I think a little variety keeps the site interesting.

  14. Don Ayers
    Don Ayers says:

    We never had so much fun as when we were battleing it out with the Donzi folks on the Miss Boating Mag contest. Remember that?

  15. Allen
    Allen says:

    Ok I give in…….let them all in…….seems we are running out of good woodie stuff anyway……and afterall its Christmas……..maybe the New Year will bring us back to woodie stuff with Spring just 12 weeks away at that point…….check out the fiberglassics site though guys….it a great one to smell the fresh epoxy and feel the glass cloth from……..

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Hi Allen – We hear you loud and clear and will always respect our roots and core viewers.

      On the other hand, for us, this segment of the hobby is fun to learn more about and (in our opinion) will represent a portion of the future growth of the hobby as time marches on.

      If we ever get this live “Classic Fiberglass Shootout” organized for next summer, there’s a possibilty that it may happen in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

      So if you wake up one morning to the sound of two V-8 powered boats screaming across the lake at first light, it’s just those pesky fiberglass guys doing a story for Woody Boater. Oh, and we might need a good old reliable wooden photo boat like a U-22 that day if your interested…

      All in good fun!

  16. 72 Hornet
    72 Hornet says:

    Having never ridden or driven and Chris Comander, I cannot comment on ride quality verses the Donzi. Beauty is in the beholder and I personally think all three of the above mentioned models are all very cool. In my opinion it is like comparing a 69 Eldorado, a 69 Continental Mark 3 and a Chrysler 300 of that vintage. The Donzi has a very soft entry in rough water and a very solid feel in the water. It is a blast to run in heavy chop. I like to think that one needs a boat for each occasion….LOL

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      During the shootout, it would be fun to switch drivers and give the owners the opportunity to experience (and comment later that night in the Tavern) each others classic ride and performance.

  17. Dennis J. Mykols
    Dennis J. Mykols says:

    You guys hit a nerve with me. Before I bought “Old School”, I owned a Donzi 18ft Classic, 350Mercruise i/o 1988. Looks the same as it did in 1964. What a great ride in 2 foot waves out in Lake Michigan! Solid as hell, and a soft ride on my bad back. I switched to my Woodie, more because, being 65 yrs old, I like to criuse a little slower these days and enjoy the Classic boat shows, to the Donzi Poker Runs going balls out all day.
    That said, I think the Donzi /XK19 shoot out will be very cool to see. I also vote for the Hessell site.

  18. Allen
    Allen says:

    Kool Texx, let me know I can either bring out my 18′ Mirro Rally Cruiser (with its original yellow and white retro seats or the U-22 and meet you guys or you may just meet me, seeing that I am usually on the lake at the crack of dawn for my morning coffee run with my Springer Charlie scarying the loons and ducks around Red Pine Point……if you go to Hessel we’ll trailor over perhaps and watch the excitement…….

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Allen, I knew we could count on you for some support.

      Hey, maybe you should bring your Mirro Rally Cruiser with its original yellow and white retro seats to the party on Friday so everyone can see it… We can tie it up beside Rick’s virtual 26′ Liberty powered Triple…

      (in other words, send me a pic)

  19. Alex
    Alex says:

    I realized after agreeing to the comparo, that the Hornet here is an I/O, whereas my XK-19 is a V-drive. Not sure how that will sort out.

    An XK-19 I/O would be a better direct comparo, same length, drive, and hp.

    But nuts to that. I want in! My 405 hp V-drive vs. a more efficient (since trim can be adjusted) 330 hp I/O should make it close, I believe.

  20. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    Sorry. You can keep them, the balls to the wall speed boats. They are just too dam loud. Give that speed to me in a quite boat you’ll have my attention. They are pretty at the dock till you turn them on. After this I may have to drink alone at the party.

  21. Alex
    Alex says:

    Bob’s above comment got me thinking, especially after seeing the hull shape on the 19′ Hornet.

    So I dabbled online about Hornets just now…

    I learned Jim Wynne is the man behind the original 1966 Hornet 17’s hull design. Since he did the 17′ Hornet, he must have been behind — directly or by extension — the 19 Hornet’s.

    SO, we have learned the same man did the hull on the Hornet as well as the 19′ Commander SS / 19 XK. That’s cool, and makes he comparo even more interesting, no? Yes!

  22. Alex
    Alex says:

    RiverRat, I agree re loud boats. But mine are really not that loud. Nothing like the contemporary through hull jobbies. No louder really than a V-8 Skiff. Just a bit more authoritative and frenetic.

  23. Texx
    Texx says:

    All the more reason to make this first ever on-the-water shootout happen next summer.

    So Alex, the ice should be cleared off the water ways in the UP by what… late June or early July, depending on weather?

  24. Alex
    Alex says:

    Texx, just for that, I won’t tell you or anyone who calls you friend where the remaining June and July ‘bergs are!

  25. Brian Robinson
    Brian Robinson says:

    I think I met Royce with Mike Hagen last year. Mike has a 1980 Glastron-Carlson Scimitar also on Okoboji. That would make a good shootout.

  26. Alex
    Alex says:

    Brian, wasn’t the Scimitar the boat Roger Moore drove in one of those Bond-lite movies? If so, then what we’d have would be a Moore versus Connery shoot out.

    I’m on for that one too!

    I get P _ _ _ y Galore riding shotgun with me.

    Your friend can have Jaws.

  27. tommy holmes
    tommy holmes says:

    I’m bringing my Arabian to the Donzi and the other boat shootout this summer. You name the place, Hessel, Lake of the Ozarks, Chicago River, Lake Michigan, Mackinac Isle, you name it. I’ll be there at high NOON.
    and Mike M will be riding Shotgun, loaded.

    Giddy UP

    • MikeM
      MikeM says:

      Giddy UP Tommy…..I’m right here for you! See you Friday at the Party. The first bottle of scotch is on you! Bring your iPad!

  28. 72 Hornet
    72 Hornet says:

    Hessel sounds like a fun day and it would be so interesting to feel the difference in each boat. The Hornet has the Volvo 270 drive and that did not come with trim. That would make the boat really come alive. Brian, I think Mike and I have an ARGHH Hat hanging in our shop! I must admit that the XK/Commander is on my list of boats that I would like to own. I did own a 1969 Monza a few years back that I was the third owner. Holman Moody 351, 290 hp, 270 Volvo drive powered Donzi wanna be! That was hull 17 and is still on our lake. I can’t wait for summer now!

  29. brian
    brian says:


    Moore Bond’s boat was a Glastron but not that model. The one used to fly over Sheriff J W Pepper was an outboard with a wrap around windscreen. Not sure of the exact model. Nothing like the Scimitar.

    Nothing could compete with Connery though in the Fairey boats used in From Russia With Love. The boat and Sean both are just pure class.

  30. 72 Hornet
    72 Hornet says:

    In all seriousness, I would love to meet over in Michigan with Tommy Holmes, (Mr. Century) and yourself with the Chris. It would be fun to run them, let each other experience what they are all about and a chance to have some fun.
    Allen, I can understand your thoughts on this site being strictly dedicated to wooden boats, but it seems as though the younger generation is slow to become excited to antique and classic boats. At 46 years of age, I am one of the youngest in our ACBS chapter. We have two college age gentlemen whose granfather has a nice collection and they are active members. I enjoy classic boats and have strong connection to what I experienced when I was a kid spending summers at the lake. That youthful connection has somewhat defined what boats I have collected over the years. I think a large part of the fun, is the history, stories and related research of these boats. Note that my intent was not to highjack this great website but to share in the fun.
    Brian Robinson, we were excited for you to join us at Lake Okoboji this past summer, sorry that the weather and heavy rains forced us to cancel our show. Your Chris would have been a very welcome addition to our annual show. I hope to see you in Mount Dora this Spring. Join us in Hessel!
    Shootout at Hessel this summer here we come!

  31. mike p.
    mike p. says:

    All Right ! When do we start talking about where an Elite Craft Riveria fits in the classic runnabout picture. You have to admit it has style.

  32. Mattyboy
    Mattyboy says:

    As the historian for the Lake George Donzi Classic Club,
    I can give a totally unbiased objective opinion. Yeah right go Royce! Go Donzi!
    All kidding aside if the club can be of any help in the shoot out drop us a line. Great to see all of the classic boats of this era getting the attention they deserve 🙂

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Thanks Mattyboy – We have received a great deal of positive feedback about this story and look forward to the big “Donzi vs XK Shootout” next summer.

      We were thinking about including a celebrity judge and now it looks like we have found one….

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