For Racing Only! Rare 1941 Chris-Craft Hydroplane

The Chris-Craft name is pretty familiar to most as it represents a preeminent American pleasure-craft builder. They have a storied past as a builder of mahogany hulled boats and in 1941-42, they undertook a project to build racing hydroplanes and this 1941 example is one of only nineteen ever produced. It is located in Guntersville, Alabama, and is available, here on eBay for a current bid of $10,300 with two bids tendered as of this writing.

By the start of World War II, Chris-Craft, the Michigan boat builder that traces its roots back to 1874, became, like many American manufacturers, a military contractor. But before the war-effort switchover, they engaged in the design and construction of nineteen hydroplane speed boats that were sold with a warning that proclaimed, “For Racing Only”.  At only 16′ in length and powered by a 121 HP, triple carbureted “KB”, in-line, six-cylinder engine, the C-C hydroplane could reach speeds of about 48 MPH, fast stuff for 1941! Other notable items are the 3/8″ Mahogany planks and lightweight #6 Reed and Prince attaching screws, strictly a racing item.

Our subject boat is hull #7 and was originally shipped to Tennessee where it resided until found in a barn in 1995. There was a restoration performed but it was poorly done and lead to leakage. There is obvious water damage to the transom and the Mahagoney hull and decking are well worn with what appears to be some loose planks and non-sealed screws. There is also evidence of planks that have been replaced somewhere in this hydroplane’s 80 year past. The seller adds, “but the boat does not appear to need major repairs“. All of the hardware and chrome bits have been removed but the seller believes that he has all, or most, of them.

One place where this boat obviously needs major repairs is in the engine room. The aforementioned Chris-Craft “KB” engine is gone and there is a Chrysler Crown, in-line, six-cylinder unit that has replaced it. Unfortunately, it is not installed and there are no included images of it in the listing. Furthermore, its operational capability is not stated. Interestingly, the KB engine was triple carbureted and the carbs and air cleaners would have protruded through the rectangular opening in the deck, right behind the cockpit.

Other than the instrument panel, there is no view of the cockpit and what would have been a red leather seat and matching steering wheel – the wheel is still in place, just no longer finished in red. There would have also been a cut-down windscreen but that’s now missing too. The seller advises that some of the gauges are not original.

This is a fantastic artifact from the past, though a view of the builder’s plate would have been a nice inclusion for authentication. The real issue is whether this hydroplane is too far gone to be successfully restored. Sure, this boat looks like it has possibility, but the more one digs, in the case of rotted wood and missing parts, the more one finds of the same. And then there’s the entire matter of the missing original engine. More information on this rarity is available here. It’s always good to see a significant motoring object, be it a car, boat, or motorcycle, brought back to life but at what cost and with how much effort?

Fast Finds


  1. Frank Sumatra

    Wondering what the seller’s definition of “major” repairs is?

    Like 14
  2. John U

    Fiberglass the bottom, put a BBC in it and go nuts. Until the dry rot falls apart while you are hitting waves at full throttle.

    Like 8
  3. gaspumpchas

    yes Frank, once you dig into that transom rot you will be in a world of hurt0. Plus no mill, loooks like it was stripped for parts. I think you would be way under water (lame pun intended)n in no time. Dont forget a boat is a hole in the water that you throw massive sums of dollars into. Good luck and stay safe.

    Like 14
    • Frank Sumatra

      Lived on two Great Lakes and now the Finger Lakes and still can’t see the point of having a boat where you have to put it up at least six months a year. Each to his own, as I park a Corvette at least six months a year. But I just wash it, fill the gas tank, pump the tires and cover it up. Winter prep takes about two hours.

      Like 6
      • Patrick Daly

        if you live on canandaigua there are quite a few restored ols criscrafts including danny wegmans

      • BR

        @Patrick Daly
        Huh? Wegmans is a food store chain, not a boat.

  4. Daniel Wright

    Of 19 built I wonder how many are left?

    Like 6
    • ChingaTrailer

      This is not one of them, . . .

      Like 6
  5. Woody Boater

    These little beasts are a blast, but scary. Rough ride and at high speed, you better know how to drive one. Will do mid to high 40’s If you like the look of these and dont want to dump 100K into the correct restoration, look up 16 special racing runabouts. The pedestrian version. Think M series race car vs M3 on the showroom floor. If you want to see one done right google Miss Step CC Hydro. This restored is about 100-150K DO NOT fiberglass it, or you will have a tub of crap worth nothing. This is a collector boat. No shortcuts restoring it. And every thin piece of wood needs to be replaced. Not to mention, find the correct KBL triple carb engine.

    Like 26
  6. Rodney - GSM

    With only nineteen built it would seem that this rarity by a respected maker would be worth saving. Somewhere out there is a “boat head” whose heart rate would go up just looking at this. Perhaps a different venue would uncover that person and this “water sports car” will find the right savior.
    Let’s hope.

    Like 16
    • Woody Boater

      There is for sure. This is a holy grail boat, as is a Century Thunderbolt. Old race boats were not designed to last longer than a year or so. So its rare rare rare. But they are out there. Miss Step is one, and the other one I have seen has a flathead v8 in it. Folks back in the day drop caddy duel quads in them. 60mph plus. If you lived to tell.. INSANE!

      Like 13
  7. Derek

    A friend-of-a-friend in the south of England had a Chris Craft with a pair of Firepower engines fitted. It was quite a thing.

    Like 5
  8. 370zpp

    Think rusty mopar type project..

    Like 8
    • Howard A Member

      Good one, I love wooden boats, but I don’t care to get wet, and save for dipping it in fiberglass, which will double it’s weight, this thing will leak like a sieve. My old man had wooden sailboats, and there was always a puddle in the bottom. This was before we knew about mold. I think anything more than a flathead 6 would sink this boat like a stone.

      Like 2
    • Melton Mooney

      Don’t have to, unfortunately. I’m waste deep in one.

      Like 3
  9. Nash Bridges

    I used to have a model PT boat I used as a kid while in the tub..

    Like 2
  10. Todd Bishop

    Unfortunately that boat belongs in a fireplace

    Like 2
    • Woody Boater

      HA! many have. Back yard BBQ’s.. Most of the original wood will find it to that point. But the hull number is the value. Just like an older corvette. The wood boat universe is different than the car world. Original is not a good thing sometimes, since wood rots.

      Like 9
  11. Woody Boater

    PT boats are the best. Plywood and huge packard engines. You can take a ride on a restored one at the WW2 museum in New Orleans. Also, just to keep the geek thing going, you can get a Higgins speed boat, they made the PT boats. The Wooden speed boat world is fantastic.

    Like 7
    • BR

      Elco, Higgins, Huckins, Vosper, NEVER built PT boats from laminated plywood. They were double-diagonal planked. Perhaps you’re thinking of the Higgins LCVP’s?

      Like 2
    • Alford Member

      Back in the 50s or 60s a father used to take his son down to Atlantic City, NJ and get him a ride on a “civilianized” PT Boat owned by guy that ran a restaurant on the boardwalk. Crazy kid kept screaming and yelling faster faster to the boat’s Captain as he ran over wakes. Don’t know what happened to that boat but when the casinos came the restaurants and a lot of things vanished. The kid’s still around but he’s slowed down doesn’t drift tanks anymore, pretty much stays within speed limits and day dreams of past times on water land and in the air.

      Like 2
  12. John Member

    We lived on a biglake in Michigan and back inthe day had a ‘Higgins” boat dealer, these lite boats could fly W/the Greymarine 6 in them. make a hard turn and they would skid the stern across the water…until they put fins under them. Think inpoerted plywood killed them partially.

    Like 1
  13. RichardinMaine

    Here on the coast of Maine there’s literally dozens of boat yards more than capable of restoring this to new. All the new owner will need is the will, and the bank account.

    Like 7
  14. Bunky

    Amazing boat! Truly a piece of history. I hope someone with deep pockets does it proud. My last and final boat was an 18’ ‘74 Thompson Fiberglas lapstrake with a dual carb Chevy 4 cylinder. Great boat. It went away when the cost of repairs exceeded the purchase price.
    Many people don’t realize that the word “boat” is actually an acronym- Bust Out Another Thousand.

    Like 5
  15. rancher

    Not a ‘hydroplane’ hull. I’d call it a ‘flat bottom’.

    Like 2
    • Jim ODonnell Staff

      Take it up with Chris-Craft, they denoted it as a hydroplane. Besides, if you examine the hull, it’s not flat, there is a decided step-down, bow to stern, at about mid-ships.


      Like 3
      • Derek

        It’s certainly not what later became known as a hydroplane, which was sort of a spearhead with a slight keel crossed with a skimming dish! The hull looks like it would rise and plane, though, which I presume is what they were referring to.

        (I almost bought a spearhead hydroplane at a garage clearance sale, but was outbid. It had an Imp engine.)

      • Jim ODonnell Staff

        I wasn’t writing about “what later became known as a hydroplane”, this article is about what Chris-Craft called a hydroplane 81 years ago.


        Like 5
    • buford

      it is a step hydroplane.

      Like 2
  16. roger

    blow the horn jack up the sound and drive a new boat under it

  17. ed casala

    It would make a great wall art project somewhere in the mansion, now off to buy those lottery tickets!

    Like 2
  18. Melton Mooney

    It has two bids, hopefully the buyer will have the intention and bank to bring it back.

    Like 1
  19. Killarney Park Garage

    Oddly enough I have a !9″ foot Higgins boat at Higgins Lake in Michigan and as my wife often points out I have spent around 65K to make it about a 20K value boat but I love every minute on a calm morning ride across the lake. There is a classic restoration north of there that has restored lots of Chris boats to concour levels and for about twice what this boat is worth and only two or three years waiting you would be good to go !!

    Like 6
  20. BR

    Chris Craft must have had the corner of the market on those silicone bronze washer-head Reed & Prince wood screws that were used extensively throughout the inside of the hulls. I still have my click-on, click-off Black & Decker power screwdriver with #2, #3, #4 R & P bitts.

    Also, the Hercules QXL engine (CC KL) shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to source, but the exclusive triple carb manifold and flywheel forward configuration is another story. The included Chrysler engine is a very poor substitute for the Hercules unless it is the 265 cu in Super Crown with twin updraft carbs et al.

    Words escape me for people that want to glass it and dump a modern V8 engine in it. They wouldn’t ride in it anyway.

    It is a great find and worthy of a solid restoration. You cannot compare the ride from a wooden inboard speed boat to that of a Tupperware boat.

    Like 8
  21. Foster Busby Member

    Cudos to all the “plus” responses–the wooden boat restoration business will tell you that as long as several “original ” pieces of wood are retained, you can rebuild that boat as “new” and have a beautiful thing–most woodie owners will tell you they put a lot more money than they shoud’ve in a restoration, but so do a lot of classic car owners!!

    Like 4
  22. Foster Busby Member

    oh, by the way, I’ve got 5 Chris Crafts and one homemade all woodies!!

    Like 4
  23. Steve

    Not a Hydroplane!!! Big difference between a runabout getting up on plane and a Hydroplane!

    Like 1
  24. Bob Mck Member

    I love the looks of an old wooden boat. But they rot and cost a fortune to restore.

  25. Rustytech Member

    They say that a boat is “a hole in the water into which someone pours money”, and this one’s going to take lots and lots of it. These wood boats in concourse condition can bring six figures though and with the rarity of this it would likely get there with a complete restoration, so it may be worth the investment. The biggest problem might be sourcing the correct engine, probably unobtainiam. Good luck to the buyer. I’d like to see it done.

    Like 2
  26. Foster Busby Member

    Actually, it’s called a “stepped’ hull, Steve

  27. Charles Phillips

    The Chris-Craft hull shown here is definitely a stepped hull hydroplane

    Like 1
  28. Bo Muller

    I restored one of these for a prominent collector. Yes it is fast but it is absolutely the worst riding Chris Craft ever!

    Like 3
    • Woodyboater

      Bo and Kathy are one of the best in the world in the classic boat universe. Their attention to the detail of history and craftsmanship is like no other.

      Like 2
  29. Woody Boater

    Yes, a Stepped Hull, many race boats of the era had similar bottoms. In regards to sourcing the engine and 3 carbs. Easy! Expect to pay around 15K all in done. VanNess Engineering in NJ is a fantastic source for vintage marine engines. KBL’s pop up on ebay from time to time. The trick on this one is to make sure it has all the details of a early KBL. I just spoke with the owner, and it’s the real deal and has been in the family for years. As to who would and can restore it? Its not just about wood work like most wood boats. This requires a ton of research and detail. Think Corvette restoration, numbers, stitch count on seat cushion type details. All part of the fun.

    Like 3
    • ALFA69

      It came with a KB. The prewar version of the KBL. The KB’s were 120hp. KBL’s are 131. There are a few differences between to 2.

      Like 1
      • Woody Boater

        100% correct. My bad. I will go beat myself now.

        Like 2
  30. Kenn

    I, too, appreciate all the positive comments here, and feel the negative ones are from folks who either don’t like boating at all or think the plastic boats today are just wonderful. Nothing beats the sound of an inboard engine’s thru hull exhaust in a mahogany speedboat. Restoration takes more time than skill, actually, if the restorer is patient. And well worth the effort. Varnished mahogany is beautiful.

    Like 4
  31. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Wow…..about as many posts as a Rustang or a Camerdone or a Challengemet….

    Like 1
  32. Darwin becker

    This boat is called a special race boat . We foolishly scrapped one in these in the 80’s. We saved all the parts from steering wheel to fuel tank. Contact me if you are looking for parts to this boat

    Like 2
  33. Woody Boater

    Special Race boats had a normal hull, Same look, just the step hull and weight is different. You can buy a restored Special Racer easy. This is extremly rare because of the pure race element.

    Like 1
  34. V12MECH

    Yard art.

    Like 1
  35. Woody Boater

    SOLD for $49,100 That was fun to watch.

    Like 1
    • leiniedude leiniedude Member

      Wow Woody, I looked about an hour ago and it was at $17,000 !

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