Thinking Of Buying A Chris Craft Barrel Back? One Rule, Buy The Best.

Chris Craft barrel Back low2

1941 19′ Chris Craft

Are you in the market for a Barrel Back? If so you have picked one of the most iconic boats of all time. There is not a part on these boats that isnt a work of art on its own. But, and I can speak from experience, buy the best restored one you can find. Spend the extra money on quality, and information, and don’t try and save a little on the unknown. These boats are so stunning they can make you do things you would never do. Barrel Back restoration can be more to restore because of the many design features that are all pre war hand made stuff. There are several out there now for sale on various non broker places that we STRONGLY advise you to be informed and aware of what you’re looking at, so we thought this story might help you understand what your getting into and what to expect what to pay and or pay for a restoration.

Sylvia nude

It looked good until we took it apart. YEEEEOUCH!

Barrel Backs come in several sizes and each size rides and performs completely different than the others. There are small 16 footers, Hydros, on up to the 17, 19, 23 and rare 27 footers. The most common are the 17 and 19 ft models. The 19 is a wonderful boat and delivers ride, style and ease of use. The triples are magnificent riders, the smaller boats are for smaller water. And the little Hydros are insane cool to run.  One of our top boats of all time is Miss Step the little Hydro. You can see more on Value in the Hagerty Price Guide. But be aware, they range from $140K to $20K depending on who and how they were restored, or not. So its a real crap shoot depending on the specific boat. Each boat is a unique craft.

Katzs Hydro low

Miss Step doing her thing and is for sale at Katzs Marina

With restoration costs of over $100K, it makes sense to buy one already done, BUT, done by a reputable restorer, Dan Nelson, is considered by many as one of the top in the world. Katzs has done some of the finest as well. Each detail is critical on one of these, Everything must be correct. These are our Corvettes, accuracy is critical. We can go into detail of all the special things, but honestly there is a website on that and considered the go to for it.

1941 Chris Craft Barrel Back Catalog

1941 Chris Craft Barrel Back Catalog

But the absolute most critical part of buying one, is buy from a known broker. DO NOT ATTEMPT to do this on your own. The brokers here on Woody Boater are all world class and very reputable. ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS DO your research and go touch feel, smell, and run the boat. NEVER EVER EVER buy one without doing these things. There are small details that can cost you 10’s of thousands of bucks to correct. The good news is that great ones are out there. .

One of the top ones out there is Satin Doll a stunning very rare 19′ with orange stripes and pigskin interior available at the Antique Boat Center. HERE


Satin Doll

And this perfect one at Katz;s Marina.  CLICK HERE


Amazing Barrel at Katz’s

Or this beauty at Sierra Boat Co on lake Tahoe. CLICK HERE

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At least you know when to use it.

And of course one of the most well known Barrel, Mary Sunshine at Lake Owsego Boat Co.


Mary Sunshine is one of the worlds finest Barrel Backs.

These brokers have more and worth the search and research. Buying one right can make classic boating a lifetime passion so its important to buy right.

32 replies
  1. Troy in ANE
    Troy in ANE says:

    Electra is a 1940 BB.

    After posting some pictures on WB last year Alden Reed was kind enough to give me a call and tell me some her history. She has spent most of her life in the ocean waters where I run AB but is now in the care of my friends on Cobbossee.

    It’s a small world.

  2. Dennis Mykols
    Dennis Mykols says:

    Way too rich for this retiree… But like any gorgeous lady, I have permission to LOOK, just ask Ronnie…

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Mike K – The basic definition of a barrelback (from the Lake Tahoe Concours site) is one curved, unbroken line (as viewed looking stern, forming the sides and deck drawn from waterline to waterline along the transom). Barrel stern designs were used by John Hacker in the early 1900s and then by some boat designers other than Chris-Craft – such as Century, Rochester, Mercury. Primarily a pre-war design.

  3. Jim Staib
    Jim Staib says:

    A classic example is the insurance company (NOT Haggerty) selling the barrelback on EBAY right now. The listing talks about a 27′ and how rare they are. Then describes the boat as a 19′ with a 130hp M. If you look close or run the hull number it is actually a 17′ with a K. If you are going to pony up for a done boat buy from someone that knows what they have AND have it surveyed.
    If you buy from Seth get a photo of him when he takes his hands out of his pockets long enough to sign the papers.

    • Matt
      Matt says:

      Yes the boat on ebay is sadly not being represented correctly. But that’s ebay I suppose. And a wonderful example of what to be careful of. Even the seller says so in the legal copy at the bottom.
      “This vehicle is being sold as is, where is with no warranty, expressed written or implied. The seller shall not be responsible for the correct description, authenticity, genuineness, or defects herein, and makes no warranty in connection therewith. No allowance or set aside will be made on account of any incorrectness, imperfection, defect or damage. Any descriptions or representations are for identification purposes only and are not to be construed as a warranty of any type. It is the responsibility of the buyer to have thoroughly inspected the vehicle and to have satisfied him or her self as to the condition and value and to bid based upon that judgment solely. “

    • Jimmy
      Jimmy says:

      Correct DO NOT BUY that 17′ barrel back! It’s not in excellent shape like they say it is and actually that boat went up for auction yesterday on copart .com they sell insurance cars that have been wrecked you can also consign your vehicle too. But, that boat was most likely totaled when it SUNK! They probably didn’t pickle the engine right which wouldn’t be surprising Copart had about 20 photos and the varnish is peeling in some places so to make it look nice it would need to be striped and refinished. It’s also the 9th 17′ barrel built too. It’s also still located in one of the Copart yards which this one is in Cedar, MN which means it hasn’t moved since the auction. Here’s a screen shot of the copart listing.

      • Paul H.
        Paul H. says:

        These sigmoid sausage-sacks don’t even know what they are trying to sell. I hope they vastly over-paid for it, thinking it was something it is not – a 19′ instead of a 17′. They hijacked a listing from Antique Boat Center yesterday, as an example of a “comparable” boat – not even the same length. The morons took the pictures, watermarks and all, without a thought to the trademark and rights of ABC.

        I had a go-round or two with them via e-mail, and it was great fun to stick pins in their vacant, greedy eyes. However, it did little but amuse me and expose the depth of their indifference towards the facts about what they were trying to sell. Just the kind of reputable, trustworthy folks you’d like to buy a boat from, right? The shameless jackasses still have text from the hijacked ABC ad on the E-Bay listing, describing features of the ABC listed boat which are not present on their boat- the trailer being the most obvious, and the engine another – among other things.

        While it is a shame to see a boat waste away, it will be immensely satisfying to see this boat languishing and deteriorating through improper care for years, as it won’t sell at a fraction of the asking price in a geological epoch. The satisfaction will only be derived from not seeing a newby deceived into buying this boat from a clack of distasteful charlatans and having an awful introductory experience to classic boats. If a boat is sacrificed in furtherance of that, so be it I suppose.

        The greaseball E-bay listing is here, and it is worth a good laugh…thanks to Matt for exposing the putrid practices of this pathetic claque of rogues.

        • Flash
          Flash says:

          While I understand this boat has been sunk! needs work! and is very misrepresented, would it be worth $8000?

          Just for fun, I offered $800. See the reply. He says add 1 zero to the end and “we’re good.”

          I’m not really in the market for a BB, but I thought I couldn’t go wrong for $800.

          So if you are interested in this project, it can probably be bought for 10% of the asking price.

          • Paul H.
            Paul H. says:

            In between the several excoriations I was administering to them, and rather than apologizing for their unauthorized appropriation of facts and images from the ABC listing, they actually tried to sell ME the boat for $67,500!

            I would suggest it rather more likely that these arithmetically challenged mountebanks meant to add two zero’s!

            I tried to tell them is was worth at most $20k, thinking it was a decent project 19′. It might be worth $8k at most now that it has been exposed for what it is, but it has no trailer and needs a full resto. If it sunk the gauges and upholstery will be shot, as will the engine if it was not immediately attended to. I wouldn’t pay a cent for it without seeing it.

          • Matt
            Matt says:

            If we change our perspective on this and think of it this way. They are auctioneers. One always starts out the bidding at an insane high number. Fully not expecting it. That I can understand. Also all this is helping them get exposure, and in the end, that’s far far better than being invisible. Good or bad. You all spelled there name right. What is not good, is the poor research and taking copy from others. But they do tell you in the legal that its really up to you to make sure its what it is. Which none of it is accurate. Not even close. For $5-$10K which is likely the price. A no risk purchase. just know you’ll need to shower after you do the deal. Google the company, find out on line from others who your dealing with. Thats the new world we live in. but, regardless of the style of the seller. What is the boat, and is it priced right? That in the end will sell the boat. Right now they threw this out to get exactly what we all just provided them with. Information and value.

          • Paul H.
            Paul H. says:

            The fact that they have so far refused to clean up the add and correct the glaring misrepresentations (boat length, engine, trailer) that have been made clear establishes them as rectal apertures of the highest order…..they are trying to flim flam people and hide behind the tangled boilerplate BS that is their indemnity clause. Rectal apertures indeed….

    • Doug P
      Doug P says:

      Jim. The ebay seller is not an insurance company but a deceitful broker buying their dregs.
      The seller is very upset because people have been calling him for what he is….a charlatan.

  4. Tim robinson
    Tim robinson says:

    A word of advise: hire an expert on C C B B to look the boat over before buying. You can find an expert by asking the lead Judge at a high end boat show for a recommendation. I know people who have spent upwards of 50k to make the boat as correct as possible after paying market value for one. You can use this information to determine a fair price, money well spent.

  5. Al Benton
    Al Benton says:

    m-fine, have I got a deal for you! For the very low price of just $1,000.00 you can be riding in a fine post-war 17′ Deluxe Runabout. Exactly the same (but completely different) as the pre-war Barrelback model. Just needs a few finishing touches (like decking, interior, chrome plating of hardware, instruments restored, transom wood, installing engine and drive train, and a few other minor things) and you have yourself a fine Chris-Craft 17′ Deluxe Runabout, almost the same as a 1942 model (only newer). Barrelback??? Weeelllll….sort-of…

  6. Texx
    Texx says:

    The unique barrel stern design on “Evangeline” a 1924 33′ Hacker ordered by and built for Henry Ford. Liberty V-12 power still today.

  7. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    My neighbor was spotted in a beautiful barrelback last summer. Apparently his grandmother bought it new in 1940, if I recall. It’s been in the boathouse up in northern Michigan it’s whole life. He was driving it around on the lake and it looked beautiful. I need to get some details on it this summer if I spy it again.

    • Texx
      Texx says:

      Please do Steve… If you like we can put you on the Woody Boater Special Investigations Unit for your area.

  8. Jake from State Farm
    Jake from State Farm says:

    “Killer” is a 1942 BB owned and restored by Steve Zwarg from Spokane. Killer won the last 2 ACBS International shows in Coeur d’Alene.

  9. Rich Marschner
    Rich Marschner says:

    Matt’s got it right. We bought his Sylvia after he did a perfect restoration over three years. We’ve shown her (now Talaria) in OH , NY and Canada over five years and have enjoyed every minute.

    He’s right: buy restored, and buy only excellent work.

    Here she is before the boat went into storage in Wisconsin, probably in the ’80’s:

  10. jim g
    jim g says:

    A 1939 19′ that a customer bought out of canada from the original family. He used it fro several years then we restored it. One of the more original 19 barrelbacks I’ve worked on. A little dust but coming out of the shop for its bath and delivery.

  11. craig
    craig says:

    I am a publisher of a regional boating magazine in the North East—-looking for a picture that I can use on my cover—i saw a shot of a chris craft barrel back–SYLVIA—interested in something like that—

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