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1951 Chris-Craft 22' Sportsman (U22)


As most of you already know, the 22’ Sportsman is the model Chris-Craft used in the movie ‘On Golden Pond’, which can take much of the credit for re-igniting the interest in these classic mahogany powerboats. I can still remember the scene where Henry Fonda takes his future grandson for his first ride in the U-22. The grandson, sitting on the engine cover, made some sarcastic comment like ‘can you get this tub of lard to even move?’ That’s when Henry hit the throttle and nearly threw the boy to the floor with its acceleration. After that little initiation the boy wanted nothing more than to take Thayer IV out for a spin. I just loved that part of the movie and have probably seen it at least five or six times.

This quintessential Chris-Craft came to us from Chattanooga and was used on the Tennessee River as a family boat. It’s perfect for that…large, beamy, and keeps passengers dry. Like most boats of this vintage, however, the bottom was taking on a lot of water…to the point where two bilge pumps were working overtime to keep up. The rest of the boat is actually in very sound shape, a testament to the diligent care of her owners. The only rot was a very small section about the size of a banana in the stem underneath the cutwater. She also needs some attention in the area of chrome, engine, upholstery, windshield repair, and overall finish. A new custom trailer is also on order and should be in any time. The client has some specific requests, as a custom color for the bottom to match his new towing vehicle, and more convenient and utilitarian flooring (i.e. Marmoleum). We’re also going to repair the Temp gauge, install electronic ignition and do a 12v conversion to the original 6v MBL.

 





Again, we start with the bottom. After stripping the interior, pulling the engine, making sure the hull is straight, and bracing her up, we rolled her over to begin removing the million (ok, probably not that many) brass screws. We immediately noticed the seams exceeded 1/8” and approached 1/4” in many spots…which had then been caulked with some type of silicone sealer. After some urging, it mostly pulled off like rope. Once the bottom was removed it was standard procedure. No broken frames, but we did replace some worn bolts and tightened all the others. It’s always amazing how loose some of those become. We also replaced the two aft chine planks and bottom transom plank due to severe cracks.

Ninety percent of the stem was perfectly sound. So, as that particular part of the stem was hidden by the cutwater, we cut out the rot and shaped a new piece of mahogany and WESTed it in. After fairing it was a perfect match and as it’s hidden by the cutwater there will be no visible seams. After fairing the bottom it was two coats of CPES, two coats of 2000e sealer, and then two coats of the custom color bottom paint. She turned out beautiful and will give the bilge pump a vacation. (We still recommend a bilge pump just in case you hit something or get caught in a downpour in the middle of the lake or while towing.) Next, we’ll do the hullside fairing forward while upside down…then roll her back over to finish sanding in preparation for staining.










Meanwhile…the gauges, upholstery, and chrome are out being done. Stay tuned…

********* UPDATE 1-6-09 *********

We’re making good progress on this U22. Once rolled back over we removed all the planks and refastened them with stainless fasteners and glued to the frames to prevent plank movement. This has always been a little controversial to the pure traditionalists, but I’ve used this method now on several boats (including my own) and have had much success. We used 5200 below the waterline and WEST above. The boat retains it’s very tight seams and if done properly should improve the overall maintenance by reducing the amount of time between re-varnishing. During our re-planking two planks had to be replaced due to prior cracking that could not be repaired. All three transom planks were also in pretty bad shape due to weathering and those were replaced as well. The coaming board was severely cracked as we replaced that too.

After much fairing and block sanding she was ready for bleaching, Pettit’s Chris-Craft ‘Red’ stain, and two coats of sealer prior to varnishing. We always allow two full days to dry before sealing with Pettit’s sealer; otherwise you can get some stain movement. She turned out beautiful and will only get better with each coat. Meanwhile the engine is getting some attention and the upholstery is being redone. Flooring is on order (Marmoleum), and the stainless rub rails are being polished.








Completing the project - June 2009

Admittedly this U22 project has taken longer than we planned.  Some changes were made along the way but we encountered some delays with upholstery, missing hardware, etc.  In the end, however, she turned out just as we hoped.  The owner made some very attractive changes with upholstery, flooring, and bottom paint color to match their own personal style.  At first I was skeptical and even tried talking them out of it, but their decisions proved to be very prudent and the combinations turned out to be quite attractive…and ones I would not hesitate to use again on other projects.  You’ll note from the last few photos the custom bottom and trailer paint matches the bottom paint of his Ford towing vehicle…very clever and attractive.

I told the owner in my opinion the Coronados and U22s are some of the most complex boats to put back together due to the many (and I do mean many) pieces that go into these boats.  Sometimes I wonder how the factories engineered and then kept track of all the individual pieces…and then keep them all in inventory.  Whew!  What a job they must have had.  That being said, they surely knew what they were doing.

The owner and his father who came for their fresh and beautiful Chris-Craft were very pleased with the result…and so were we.  I swear I saw the U22 grinning as she left the shop on her way back home to Georgia.  This is by far the best part of being a restorer of classic boats…seeing the grins on both owners and their boats. 








 
   
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