Chris-crafts are magnificent boats, and always a privilege to work on.
Chris-crafts are magnificent boats, says Alan, and always a privilege to work on. “On the face of it, this one didn’t pose any major problems. Fortunately, she came with most of her original fittings. So we were mainly looking – or so we thought – at a rebuild of the interior, repairing a bit of rot, and repainting.
“But the owner’s brief was a little unusual. He’s also a classic car enthusiast and his vision for the boat is best described by a term commonly used by car-buffs – ‘Resto-mod’. While keeping the boat as original as possible, incorporate modern technology into the refit – but keep it all hidden, out of sight.” Uh...sure. The first hurdle Alan’s team encountered was power – the boat arrived without an engine. Originally, these Chris-crafts were usually equipped with a 110hp Hercules straight-six engine. Its replacement would be a 5.7-litre, 330hp Crusader V8 with a ZF63A 1.5:1 gearbox.
“Modifying and strengthening the engine bed was relatively straight-forward – though we did have to fit a new stern tube for the altered prop shaft angle. But the real problem was the Crusader’s height – the only way we could accommodate it was by raising the cockpit sole 100mm.”
The new sole is a work of art – a glossy study in mahogany with ash inlay, and
it wears multiple coats of Awlwood varnish. It’s seamlessly integrated into the vessel’s existing structure and, along with the interior panelling and floors, absorbed most of the project’s new timber.
Also missing from the boat was the strut, shoe, shaft and rudder – new versions were sourced locally – as well as a prop. “We settled on a four-blade Bri-ski – 14-inch by 14-inch – and after initial test runs had the pitch altered slightly, adding a little cupping to the blades.”
It’s unclear what sort of speed the boat did with her original engine, but the Crusader drives her to a stately 28 knots, and a healthy measure of sound-proofing keeps the V8’s enthusiasm to a muted roar. Adrenalin-spiking stuff!
Some recaulking also ensured the team’s heritage skills were put to good use. “The hull’s Oregon planking over oak frames,” says Alan, “and while the boatyard in the US had repaired the hull to the waterline – and glassed over it – the topsides needed work as the planks had opened up. It involved digging out the tired caulking and replacing it with new.”
Many of the sliding windows – still carrying the original glass – leaked and needed new frames and tracks. The curved mahogany frames, in particular, required delicate laminations of 1.5mm layers.
RIGHT A beautiful addition to Lake Rotoiti’s fleet of classic launches. LEFT Then named Angel Baby, the boat featured in a copy of the popular US magazine, Classic Boating.
LEFT The original chromed spotlight and horn, and the new strut, prop and rudder.
RIGHTThe raised cockpit sole is a work of art.
RIGHTNow where are all those elusive little trout...?.
ABOVEThe new Crusader V8 required the cockpit sole to be raised by 100mm.