Burn Notice – 20′ Riviera Sent To The Burn Pile

Exactly two weeks ago, Woody Boater ran a story about a rare 1950’s 20′ Chris-Craft Riviera that was listed for sale on eBay by our friend Jim Staib at Fine Wood Boats. (You can see that story by clicking here)

The next day, when the auction ended, the Riviera was sold – the winning bid was 2,425.00. One of the conditions of the sale was that the boat had to picked up and off the property by December 10th or it would go to the burn pile on December 11th.

I have had the pleasure of knowing and doing business with Jim Staib at Fine Wood Boats for over 8 years now, and one thing about Jim – He always does what he says he’s going to do…

On December 10th there were some last minute complications with the successful bidder and as a result the deal fell through. On December 11th (today) as Jim stated, the old lifeless Riviera went to the burn pile. Although it’s sad to see any old Chris-Craft get chopped up and destroyed, according to Jim, “It was a pattern boat at best” and they salvaged what they could from the boat. And we all what a bottom-up restoration can cost these days…

Chopped up and loaded on the trailer for the trip to the burn pile.

But wait… If you are still looking for a restoration project, how about a 22′ Chris-Craft Sportsman (U-22) that Fine Wood Boats also has listed for sale on eBay. Click here to view.


23 replies
  1. P...'d-off
    P...'d-off says:

    Not personally knowing this seller, but seeing many of his offerings on ebay, I feel compelled to respond. It would appear he always expects top dollar for mostly…crap. There are many options he could have taken. He could have sold (for small $$) this boat to one of the note worthy restoration places, or sold for less $$ to someone willing to take on the challenge, or perhap donated it to the one of the clubs such as the Clayton Antique Boat Society. MAYBE Jim thought of these suggesions, maybe not. I just think he is greedy!!!!

    • DonD
      DonD says:

      You just might be less experienced at this, than Jim.

      Indoor Storage is the best (and most expensive) immediate response to such a ‘project’.

      He gave you (and the rest of us) a warning, an update, an option; To save this “investment”.

      I, for one, am extremely happy that Jim Staib made such a decision, decades ago, that led to a perfect example of the original exhaust manifold-elbow that I needed for a 1931 Chrysler engine!

      Jim knows the difference between storage and humidity expenses for a “wreck” and an entire menangerie of exactly the hardware that his client’s NEED!

      Do You?

      I mean; Is he expected to library this rare find for you, or any of us?

  2. DonD
    DonD says:


    I hope you took photos of original installations, plumbing, wiring, etc.?

    Otherwise, this “P…’d-off” kid should get the rant!

  3. JFunk
    JFunk says:

    It always saddens me when I see this happen, but not every boat can be saved. I’ve had to burn one myself when the reality of space, lack of interest, cost of restoration, etc. finally hits you. Sometimes it’s the quick end with a fire where we stand around and remember what it once was… or an even worse fate where it’s left to wither beyond any recongition whatsoever. Jim’s a stand up guy, I belive he hated doing this, but was also faced with the real world. It happens, move on.

  4. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    Hopefully he had the decency to roast some Woodyboater Weeny’s over the fire.

    It takes a while in the hobby to accept that this is an acceptable end to the life of a boat. I’ve bought and sold a lot of firewood over the last 20+ years and I haven’t made a penny yet. I would have been way better off letting them burn before I stepped in to save the day.

    Having said that, I do hate to see them burn.

  5. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    If Jim said this boat was a pattern boat at best, that is the cold truth. We can’t save them all and what is left after we save what we can…we can’t afford to store…
    Tough call, right call, and sadly not unusual for Ebay sale.

    John in Va.

  6. MikeM
    MikeM says:

    I guess I spoke too soon. Now that I think of it, I did just “burn” a very nice 1970 XK-19!!


  7. Philip Andrew
    Philip Andrew says:

    Jim I think theres an opportunity for you to create a new price fighter brand in this somewhere.
    ” Hello Jim Staib of Fire Wood Boats. Have we got a smokin hot boat for you.”
    If only I had had the foresight to burn my Lancia Fulvia before I started the restoration….ouch. Ten years on and its killin me.

  8. chad
    chad says:

    JIM, WAIT!

    Don’t light that fire yet! I’ll be over in 30 minutes with a case of beer and some pork ribs. I also need to buy some more over-priced crap. …you greedy bastard.

  9. Paul H.
    Paul H. says:

    I am sure that if this boat was worth saving, Jim would not have burned it. Come on – use your head p—d off.. A bottom for $20-$25k, engine for $10k, and how much room remaining to do the rest of everything it needed. It would be worth perhaps $50k tops if restored perfectly, and how much do you think that would cost? $75k minimum would be my guess and that is probably light. The line up of people willing to submit to that kind of economic suicide is notably short. Most pattern or grey boats are actually worth nothing, or close to it.

    Let it go, the parts from it that were actually usable can now be distributed to other, far more worthwhile and/or realistic projects. This thing was an absolute derelict and nobody knows these things better than Jim Staib. With 288 built it is not as though it was a one off or last of it’s kind. Not all of these can be saved or even shold be. In my opinion this was too far gone for any sane restoration effort.

    • apba07
      apba07 says:

      Wow 25k for a bottom? Guess we need to start charging alot more. It is sad that instead of charging less or even offering the boat for free he decided to burn it. C’mon there is alot of people out there that would of loved to gotton ahold of that boat.

  10. brian
    brian says:

    This boat should not have ended up in such a state, but we humans are great at not taking care of our stuff. I have seen it time and again with classic cars which have been my passion for years, and now that I have drifted over to wood boats, I sadly am beginning to see the same things – boats headed to the burn pile, boats left outside to rot away, people who have a decent yet neglected wood boat and have the cash to take care of their possession, yet for some reason don’t, etc.

    Sadly, it must just be a part of our genetic makeup. Much survives and is cherished, and much is lost.

    I do not know Jim, but he is not the bad guy here – the previous owners of this boat are the real bad guys.

  11. WoodyGal
    WoodyGal says:

    Darn it Brian, you just made my point. Whomever let this boat fade into a pattern boat is the villain here. Or maybe not. The owner dies, the family has no clue what it is or what to do with it. They need space in the garage, barn whatever. They park it outside, covered with it’s tarp or custom cover, time passes, the cover rots or blows away. By now it is out of sight and forgotten.
    Giving it to a restorer sounds good. What restorer can afford to put more time & money in it than he can sell it for? If he can find a buyer.
    Museum, club, school? It’s not rare enough to warrant the effort & expense.
    And yes, the current economy is a villain too. Nuf said.

  12. Scott
    Scott says:

    “Mean what you say and say what you mean” – George S. Patton. An admirable trait. Although, I do wish he would have called me first.

  13. Alex
    Alex says:

    Here’s another fact. Were it not for shrinkage (not THAT kind) in the number of boats left of a desirable model, prices would not be what they are today. It’s just supply and demand.

    By example, if all 208, 1946-1950 25′ Sportsmans were still around and running, the value per survivor would be less than today’s, which is driven by the fact that there are only an estimated 10-15% of them left.

    Oh, and Mike, this isn’t over.

  14. redbeardsraven
    redbeardsraven says:

    There are going to be a lot more boats sent to the burn pile
    in the near future if we don’t all do something to get the next generation more involved with our love of wooden boats….

  15. brian
    brian says:

    Alex, that price/value issue is a double edged sword.

    High values due to a model being rare can be used to justify an expensive restoration when the time comes or at the least, spending enough money on a boat in order to save it from the burn pile.

    It also keeps over 1500 boats in the Antique Boat Center’s inventory which means that the boats are too costly for a younger family to purchase, so the enthusiasts tend to be rich older folks. The result is a shrinking enthusiast pool which we all see at the club level – in boats and in classic cars.

    The balance is very delicate and extreme as we see crafts which end up as firewood on one side and beauties like Barnwood on the other.

    Boats like ours are thrust into an even more precarious position as to others, our craft is worth very little, but to me, she is worth saving right now. What happens though in 10-15 years when I am paying for two kids to go to college and she ends up needing a new bottom?

    Hopefully there will be a few doubloons laying about and if not, well, it will be little ol me and a bottle of Wild Turkey as she sends her embers into the night sky.

    • Paul H.
      Paul H. says:

      Your point about a boat like BW is interesting and can be used to lillustrate a point. It was acquired for what was a VERY reasonable price, given the model, condition and original engine it had. It had no structural issues whatsoever and did not need a bottom or interior. However, even given how sound it was and the value that 25′ SP’s carry, the restoration was still very expensive. It was likely a break-even proposition and that was with an exceptionally sound and desirable boat. If that was the best outcome from such a great starting point, what rationale is there for a lesser-value pattern boat in terrible condition? There is no economic reason for boats like that to be saved – it is suicide. A young person starting out in classic mahogany boats is better off to go and buy a decent user boat in the $15-$25k range. There is no way to get into the hobby cheaper, and the worst thing to do is attempt to restore something as deteriorated as that 20′ Riv.

  16. Alex
    Alex says:

    Hey Brian, your comment “high values due to a model being rare can be used to justify an expensive restoration when the time comes” was exactly the approach I took with my wife when we restored The Majestic this year.

    And you know, she bought it! Ha.

    Seriously though, I agree. For some models it sets the “underwater” level higher than others. However, those more valuable models almost always require costlier restorations…

    SO, the level is higher, the costs are higher and, unfortunately, one still manages to go underwater with an extensive/expensive restoration. Ah, but the boat one ends up with!

  17. ARRRGH!
    ARRRGH! says:

    I am a late responder here. There are situations in life where the right thing to do is “pull the plug”. Kudos to Jim for having the courage to do so!

Comments are closed.