With a founding date of 1881, Chris Craft has a long history in the American maritime scene.
Some of their classic models are the epitome of pleasure craft.
But after all those years, and after being sold several times, are they still any good?
Here’s how Good Chris Craft Boats Are:
Even today, Chris Craft is a premium luxury brand that manufactures high-quality pleasure boats. There have been dips in manufacturing and perception over the years as the company changed hands multiple times, but despite all that, they are a brand synonymous with top quality.
A Brief History of Chris Craft
Christopher Columbus Smith teamed with his brother in 1881 to begin manufacturing pleasure boats.
They expanded several times, as in 1910 when they acquired several partners. The name Chris-Craft was adopted in 1924.
By this time, they were located in Detroit and were well-known for producing beautiful and fast racing boats, as well as high-end pleasure craft. They expanded into the middle class in the 1920s by opening a different plant and lowering their own costs through mass production.
After the Great Depression and WWII, they rebounded in the early 1950s with their lines of pleasure craft being produced as the American economic expansion took place.
This was the time of their highest prestige, with their most iconic models. They used the best and most beautiful woods, like mahogany, and their boats were well-built and easy to operate.
They built their first fiberglass boats in 1955, and a couple of years later, opened a metal boat division.
In 1960, the company was sold to the NAFI corporation; in 1981, it was sold to Murray Industries. This began a complicated series of acquisitions and even a bankruptcy in 2000. In 2018, Winnebago Industries acquired it and now is the current producer of Chris Craft.
The company currently traces its founding to 1874, when Chris Smith made his first boat at age 13. They are now based in Sarasota, Florida.
How Reliable Are Chris Craft Boats?
One of the hallmarks of Chris Craft as a premium brand was their simplicity to operate.
This was due not just to the time and quality materials used in their construction but the straightforward design. The visual appeal of the brand was not the bells and whistles but the simple beauty of the construction. This mindset continues today.
Because of this, there has traditionally been little that can go wrong on these boats.
The wiring, for example, is run through plastic tubes at any area where there might chafe against it, and the harnesses are neatly bundled and easy to access. They use waterproof Deutsche connectors.
Double-clamped stainless steel worm gear hose clamps reduce the possibility of hose clamp failure more common with pinch-on or plastic hose clamps.
There are occasional reports of problems in these areas on marine forums, but far fewer than more common brands of boats.
How Durable Are Chris Craft Boats?
All Chris Craft models are now made of fiberglass, though some deckings are made of wood.
The stringer system’s bonding to the hull using Weld-On adhesive is superior to the more common tabbed-in construction. This results in less flex to the hull when pounding through waves.
Stainless steel is used throughout, and significant backing plates at cleats to spread out the load and prevent fiberglass cracking.
The “vinylester” resin in the gel coat resists blistering and cracking better than the more commonly used polyester resin.
The paint job on most of the Chris Craft boats is a five-step DuPont Chromobase process, being sealed with UV-resistant polyurethane. This is a tough finish that stands up to oxidation and chipping.
Again, it is not too difficult to find some complaints on the durability of Chris Craft on forums, but they are isolated examples.
What About Older Chris Craft Boats?
The older, wooden Chris craft boats were some of the most durable of their time, but they required extraordinary upkeep as all wooden boats do.
There are still quite a few classic wooden boats to be seen on the water, though they are generally owned by those who can dedicate the resources to their extensive care.
The primary problem with the older models is wood rot. Some of this cannot be seen on a casual inspection, as it is inside the hull planking.
Of the fiberglass models from the mid-1950s to around 1980, many of the problems common to this period are evident. Some of the boats are very heavy with overbuilt hulls; others can suffer from delamination problems.
For the period of the 1980s through the mid-1990s, the company re-focused on sport boats. Several problems showed up in this era. These included longitudinal cracks in the stringers, the deck going soft, and ventilation problems.
Most of these problems had disappeared by the turn of the millennium.
Do They Still Make Parts For Older Models?
For the oldest models, from before World War 2, it is nearly impossible to find a source for replacement parts.
Wealthy owners can find people who can machine parts close to the original, but this is a costly process. This is likewise the situation for the 1950s and 1960s models.
There are some parts used in the 1970s-era and later Chris Crafts that are still being made by their original manufacturers, though they are not sold by the Chris Craft company.
In addition, there are active communities online that can help you find an obscure part. There is also an active Facebook page for Chris Craft parts.
What Are Typical Problems With Chris Craft Boats?
Of the earliest models, wood rot is the major factor.
With the switch to fiberglass construction, as mentioned above, delamination is not uncommon in the earliest such models.
The 1980s saw problems with soft decks and stringer cracks. Two other problems common to that era were in the transoms (with the fiberglass going soft or delaminating) and blisters in the gel coat.
While many boat manufacturers had these problems, they seem to be common in Chris Crafts of that time.
How Long Do Chris Craft Boats Last Compared To Similar Brands?
Chris Craft boats from almost every era are still on the water, even wooden hulls.
Except for a few points in their manufacturing history, their top-quality construction standards ensured their longevity compared to almost every brand.
It needs to be understood here that the primary determinant in any boat’s longevity is the care the owner takes of it. If properly maintained or sparingly used, just about any boat will last.
But Chris Crafts, in particular, may be considered to be long-lasting. It is a premium brand employing NMMA’s highest standards.
Do Chris Craft Boats Hold Their Value?
This is a tricky question for older models.
If you get a classic wooden 1937 Chris Craft for $30,000, you can reasonably expect to sell it for the same price, but it may cost you another $30,000 or more to maintain it.
This is simply the nature of older, wooden boats, even those built to the highest standards. There is always something that needs to be maintained or refurbished, and it takes both time and money.
Even if you keep it covered in your garage, you will still be having to run and check the engine to keep it in working order.
Boat Trader states that Chris Craft boats from the Classic Era (1943-1975) have generally increased about 5% in value over the last two decades.
As far as more recent boats by Chris Craft, the jury is still out. Except for some of the models made in the 1980s and 1990s, it seems fair to say that modern Chris Craft boats hold their value as well as any other comparable premium brand.
Are Chris Craft Boats Still Being Made?
Chris craft has seen a bit of a resurgence since it was acquired by Winnebago.
Currently, they make 16 models spread out over five different lines.
The Launch and Corsair series is stern-drive and ranges from 23 to 34 feet in length.
The Launch GT, Catalina, and Calypso series have outboard engines ranging from 24 to 35 feet.
Today Chris Craft uses modern techniques while maintaining their classic visual appeal.
While they still produce premium models, they do have some affordable models hearkening back to their early mass production for the masses concept from the 1920s.
They are both good and reliable.