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1942 17' Chris Craft Runabout (Barrel Back)

The Deluxe and Custom Runabouts from 1939-1942 gained the name(s) of ‘Barrel Back’ or ‘Barrel Stern’ due to the extreme tumblehome and barrel-like appearance of the rear deck and transom.  They are indeed unique and quite beautiful, and if you are at all familiar with the antique and classic boat marketplace then you already know how valuable these mahogany water toys are.  This particular Deluxe is one of the last models manufactured before Chris-Craft went full time into war production for Uncle Sam.  The owner had traced the HIN and discovered it was most likely one of the last pleasure boats coming off of the company’s line.

The boat came to us upside down on a $50 trailer and all the bottom planks strapped to the top (or I guess that would be bottom as it was upside down).  Obviously some work had been done to the framework, but there were still the chines, keel, gripe, and other bottom framework that needed to be completed prior to starting with the bottom.  Oh, the transom had been completely removed as well, which we’ve never seen before.  Fortunately it was still intact, helping us with the fabrication of a completely new transom structure and then planking.  The owner is going to do the strip, refinish, and all the other items necessary to put this broken lady back together.  Our job (should we decide to accept it…sorry about the Mission Impossible slant) is to complete the bottom and transom structure and then install a new 5200 bottom and then new transom planking.  That’s it.  Should have it done in a few days. Yea, right!

Ok, so now you know what I’m talking about.  After we clear the top (bottom) of all that’s strapped down we roll the boat over.  Right, it’s already over…so we get her level on one of our movable dollies and just take some time to assest what we really have.  The work that had been done earlier was not all the bad with the exception of one of the rear bottom frames was not cut out properly and would not allow room for the shaft log to attach to the keel.  We removed that and made new ones from another deluxe that was at the shop.

We always run plumb lines to make sure the boat is level and straight, otherwise you will run into problems later, not to mention listing in the water is most unattractive.

Generally the shorter the boat the sharper the angle near the bow for both chines and planks…sometimes requiring steaming, which is what we did.  Soak the wood first to bring up the moisture content, and then steam for at least one full hour before attempting to bend, and then work fast.  Be sure to have all your clamps, jigs, and especially patience ready and in place in advance.  If you can’t get it the way you want it within a couple of minutes, steam again.

Cutting new holes for the shaft and rudder stuffing box can be quite stressful if you’ve not done it before…ok, even if you have done it before.  Fortunately we had the rear section of the keel that gave us the exact distances for both holes.  We marked where the strut holes were, and then temporarily screwed down the strut to use as a guide for drilling the hole.  You MUST use a stop block to start the forstner bit; otherwise it will just veer off course and really make a mess of things.  We simply cut a pine 2x4 with an angle cut to match the angle of the bit.  Take your time and back the bit out often to clear the hole of shavings, it just makes life easier.  Then take the correct size hole saw and do the rudder stuffing box hole.  Very important to have it absolutely perpendicular to the keel, otherwise your rudder will be crooked.  We like to cut the holes after the bottom is all sanded and just before we seal with CPES.


As always, two coats of CPES, two coats of 2000e Interlux Epoxy Primer, and then two coats of Racing Bronze bottom paint.  There, now she’s even better than new.

Almost forgot the transom.  She turned out quite nice.  As the owner will be striping the sides and most likely making some hullside plank repairs, we only sealed and primed the sides up to the waterline.  This was the first time we saw the boat right side up.  They really are very cool.  Now she’s heading to Austin, TX and her back feels much better.

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