1940 Chris Craft Deluxe Runabout
Year of manufacture1940
Number of seats2
1940 Chris-Craft 19ft Custom Barrel Back Runabout
When you're born with a name like Christopher Columbus Smith it's pretty clear that destiny has got plans for you. At the age of 13 in 1874 the Michigan-born blacksmith's son made his first boat. By 1881 he was building boats full time, and went on to pioneer petrol internal combustion for leisure craft. From 1913, for 11 consecutive years, Smith-built boats won every America Power Boat Association Gold Cup race, including five consecutive victories for legendary sportsman Gar Wood.
Smith was in just as much of a hurry when it came to building his business, and by 1927 Chris-Craft was the world's largest manufacturer of mahogany boats. In a final flourish before devoting itself to the war effort Chris-Craft produced what for many is the culmination of the "vintage" sports runabout.
It is simply beyond question that the 17, 19 and 23ft runabouts produced from 1939 to 1942, and nicknamed barrel backs, were an abiding influence on the swish craft Carlo Riva would later produce. Most popular of the Chris-Craft barrel back line-up was the 19ft twin-cockpit Custom model, of which 433 were produced, although it's thought that less than 50 are extant.
Early Times, hull no: 48690, was delivered to California in January 1940, and features that year model's elegantly raked screen, which was not only more modern and stylish than the earlier rather perpendicular separate aero-screens, but gave considerably improved weather protection. After spending 30 years in Florida the runabout was restored in 2003 by Biscayne Boat Works and acquired by its British vendor the following year. Indeed, if not the only '39-42 19ft Custom in the UK, it is certainly one of a very few indeed.
In 2011 the owner replaced the original 130hp 6-clyinder M series engine with a new GM Corvette-derived Indmar marine 5.7-litre V8, which delivers a lusty 40mph on flat water. Recently serviced, the Indmar V8 has covered just 30 hours approximately. At the same time as installing the new power plant, a new synthetic fuel tank was installed. The original engine is available by separate negotiation. Early Times comes complete with a purpose-built four-wheel trailer.
The twin cockpits retain a full complement of glittering dials and banjo steering wheel to contribute to a sense of well-being so enjoyed by a long roll-call of classic Chris-Craft owners that has included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Katherine Hepburn, Elvis Presley Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy .