Chris-Craft speedboat a work of art

Riley Riley

Imagine yourself behind the wheel of this classic 1940s speedboat.

It’s a 1948 Chris-Craft 20′ Custom, fully restored and imported from the United States.

Number 312 of less than 400 built (the exact number is in dispute), it is said to have only ever been used on fresh water.

And it’s up grabs as part of Shannons timed Autumn auction which gets underway on May 23, with a price range of $70,000-$90,000 (which includes a dual axle trailer).

Chris-Craft hand-built high-end wooden mahogany powerboats in the style of the glamorous Italian brand Riva, selling them to wealthy patrons such as Henry Ford and William Randolph Hearst — and later celebrities including Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley.

In some circles, owning a Chris-Craft speedboat was expected.

Company founder Christopher Columbus Smith joined his brother Hank to begin making boats commercially in 1881, having built his first boat in 1874 at the age of just 13 years.

In 1910, the brothers joined with other partners to form the Smith Ryan Boat Company, before the company’s name changed to Chris Smith & Sons Boat Company in 1922, and then to the familiar Chris-Craft in 1924.

During World War II, the company produced small patrol boats and launches for the US Navy.

After the war Chris-Craft launched a new range of runabouts and its name quickly became synonymous with pleasure boating.

The company offered 159 different models, among them the Chris Craft 20’ Custom Runabout, which succeeded the pre-war 19’ Custom Runabout.

Expensive and luxurious in its day, the 20’ Custom was made from the finest mahogany, teak and brass, with genuine leather upholstery and a substantial four-piece folding windshield.

The 20’ Custom runabout was Chris-Craft’s top of the line runabout and built in limited numbers.

Records suggest either 377 or 396 were made, over just four years, from 1946 to 1949.

Chris-Craft was sold by the Smith family to NAFI Corporation in 1960, which changed its name to Chris-Craft Industries in 1962.

Its current successor is Chris-Craft Corporation which produces boats today under the Chris-Craft name

Rare anywhere, but especially here, this Chris-Craft was fully restored in the USA in 2011 and has since made Australia home.

During this Chris-Craft’s refurbishment 12 years ago the wooden hull of the 20’ Custom was sanded, stained, and varnished, and a no-soak bottom was also added.

Likewise, the blonde mahogany upper decking was refurbished, along with the two-row cockpit which is trimmed in leather-look red vinyl, while the chrome-trimmed four-piece windscreen, and chrome deck hardware were also refurbished.

It all presents beautifully, including the Chris-Craft’s two-spoke steering wheel which houses a central throttle and frames a reverse-sweep tachometer, an ammeter and gauges for fuel level, oil pressure, and temperature.

Black floor matting and chrome-rimmed rear storage compartments complete the interior.

Powering the Chris-Craft 20’ Custom runabout is a 339ci Chris-Craft/Hercules MBL in-line six-cylinder engine, overhauled in 2011, and since run 80 hours.

A forward-reverse transmission takes the power to a single prop drive.

The 20’ Custom sits on a black-finished Magic Tilt tandem-axle steel trailer equipped with diamond-plate steps and chromed wheels, which is also in excellent condition.

A fitted cover also accompanies the boat, along with a large envelope containing a copy of the Chris-Craft 20’ Custom manual and a parts guide, plus assorted history, paperwork from its participation in the Lake Tahoe Concours, and photocopies of images from its restoration.

Called “Material Girl”, this superb 1948 Chris-Craft 20’ Custom runabout recalls a glamorous bygone era of leisure and pleasure boating.

Even Madonna would be impressed. Previously both boat and trailer were registered, however the 1948 Chris-Craft 20’ Custom runabout and Magic Tilt trailer are being offered for sale here unregistered.


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